ONTAP 9.3RC1 is now available!

ONTAP 9.3 was announced at NetApp Insight 2017 in Las Vegas and was covered at a high level by Jeff Baxter in the following blog:

Announcing NetApp ONTAP 9.3: The Next Step in Modernizing Your Data Management

I also did a brief video summary here:

We also did a podcast with ONTAP Chief Evangelist Jeff Baxter (@baxontap) and ONTAP SVP Octavian Tanase (@octav) here:

ONTAP releases are delivered every 6 months, with the odd numbered releases landing around time for Insight. Now, the first release candidate for 9.3 is available here:


For info on what a release candidate is, see:


Also, check out the documentation center:


The general theme around ONTAP 9.3 is modernization of the data center. I cover this at Insight in session 30682-2, which is available as a recording from Las Vegas for those with a login. If you’re going to Insight in Berlin, feel free to add it to your schedule builder. Here’s a high level list of features, with more detail on some of them later in this blog.

Security enhancements

Simplicity innovations

  • MongoDB support added to application provisioning
  • Simplified data protection flows in System Manager
  • Guided cluster setup and expansion
  • Adaptive QoS

Performance and efficiency improvements

  • Up to 30% performance improvement for specific workloads via WAFL improvements, parallelization and flash optimizations
  • Automatic schedules for deduplication
  • Backgroup inline aggregate deduplication (AFF only; automatic schedule only)

NetApp FlexGroup volume features

This is covered in more detail in What’s New for NetApp FlexGroup Volumes in ONTAP 9.3?

  • Qtrees
  • Antivirus
  • Volume autogrow
  • SnapVault/Unified SnapMirror
  • SMB Change/notify
  • QoS Maximums
  • Improved automated load balancing logic

Data Fabric additions

  • SolidFire to ONTAP SnapMirror
  • MetroCluster over IP

Now, let’s look at a few of the features in a bit more detail. If you have things you want covered more, leave a comment.

Multifactor Authentication (MFA)

Traditionally, to log in to an ONTAP system as an admin, all you needed was a username and password and you’d get root-level access to all storage virtual machines in a cluster. If you’re the benevolent storage admin, that’s great! If you’re a hostile actor, great!* (*unless you’re the benevolent storage admin… then, not so great)

ONTAP 9.3 introduces the ability to configure an external Identity Provider (IdP) server to interact with OnCommand System Manager and Unified Manager to require a key to be passed in addition to a username and password. Initial support for IdP will include Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services and Shibboleth.


For the command line, the multifactor portion would be passed by way of SSH keys currently.

SnapLock Enhancements

SnapLock is a NetApp ONTAP feature that provides data compliance for businesses that need to preserve data for regulatory reasons, such as HIPAA standards (SnapLock compliance) or for internal requirements, such as needing to preserve records (SnapLock enterprise).

ONTAP 9.3 provides a few enhancements to SnapLock, including one that isn’t available from any storage provider currently.


Legal hold is useful in the event that a court has ordered specific documents to be preserved for an ongoing case or investigation. This can be applied to multiple files and remains in effect until you choose to remove it.


Event-based retention allows storage administrators to set protections on data based on defined events, such as an employee leaving the company (to avoid disgruntled deletions), or for insurance use cases (such as death of a policy holder).


Volume append mode is the SnapLock feature I alluded to, where no one else can currently accomplish this. Essentially, it’s for media workloads (audio and video) and will write-protect the portion of the files that have already been streamed and allow appending to those files after they’ve been protected. It’s kind of like having a CD-R on  your storage system.

Performance improvements


Every release of ONTAP strives to improve performance in some way. ONTAP 9.3 introduces performance enhancements (mostly for SAN)/block via the following changes:

  • Read latency reductions via WAFL optimizations for All Flash FAS SAN (block) systems
  • Better parallelization for all workloads on mid-range and high-end systems (FAS and AFF) to deliver more throughput/IOPS at lower latencies
  • Parallelization of the iSCSI layer to allow iSCSI to use more cores (best results on 20 core or higher systems)

The following graphs show some examples of that performance improvement versus ONTAP 9.2.



Adaptive Quality of Service (QoS)

Adaptive QoS is a way for storage administrators to allow ONTAP to manage the number of IOPS per TB of volume space without the need to intervene. You simply set a service level class and let ONTAP control the rest.

The graphic below shows how it works.


MetroCluster over IP

MetroCluster is a way for clusters to operate in a high availability manner over long distances. (hundreds of kilometers) Traditionally, MetroCluster has been done over fiber channel networks due to low latency requirements needed to guarantee writes can be committed to both sites.

However, now that IP networks are getting more robust, ONTAP is able to support MetroCluster over IP, which provides the following benefits:

  • Reduced CapEx and OpEx (no more dedicated fiber channel networks, cards, bridges)
  • Simplicty of management (use existing IP networks)


The ONTAP 9.3 release is going to be a limited release for this feature, with the following caveats:

  • A700, FAS9000 only
  • 100km limit
  • Dedicated ISL with extended VLAN currently required
  • 1 iWARP card per node

SolidFire to ONTAP SnapMirror

A few years back, the concept of a data fabric (where all of your data can be moved anywhere with the click of a button) was introduced.

That vision continued this year with the inclusion of SnapMirror from SolidFire (and NetApp HCI systems) to ONTAP.


ONTAP 9.3 will allow storage administrators to implement a disaster recovery plan for their SolidFire systems.

This includes the following:

  • Baseline and incremental replication using NetApp SnapMirror from SolidFire to ONTAP
  • Failover storage to ONTAP for disaster recovery
  • Failback storage from ONTAP to SolidFire
    • Only for LUNs replicated from SolidFire
    • Replication from ONTAP to SolidFire only for failback

That covers a deeper look at some of the new ONTAP 9.3 features. Feel free to comment if you want to learn more about these features, or any not listed in the overview.


Behind the Scenes: Episode 43 – ONTAP 9 Data Protection Features

Welcome to the Episode 43 version of the new series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”

This is yet another in the series of episodes for ONTAP 9 month on the podcast.


This week, we invited a couple of our TMEs to talk about Data Protection features in ONTAP 9. Siddharth Agrawal (@siddharth_145) and Mike Worthen (@worthenmichael) discuss MetroCluster, SnapMirror Enhancements and the addition of SnapLock support

We had Mike Worthen live in the studio, and he’s a bit of a loose cannon. We had to keep telling him to stop banging on the table. Sid was a bit more subdued, but he was also connecting via Skype, so who knows what he was up to over there.

Finding the Podcast

The podcast is all finished and up for listening. You can find it on iTunes or SoundCloud or by going to techontappodcast.com.

Also, if you don’t like using iTunes or SoundCloud, we just added the podcast to Stitcher.


I also recently got asked how to leverage RSS for the podcast. You can do that here:


Check out the podcast episode here:

June 2016 – ONTAP 9 Month on the Tech ONTAP Podcast!

A couple weeks ago, I hinted at some news that was coming to the Tech ONTAP Podcast in June. Now, that news is finally here – ONTAP 9 has been announced!


We kicked off the month with an interview with Lee Caswell, the VP of Product and Solutions Marketing at NetApp to talk about why NetApp decided to go with the new ONTAP 9 version rather than another 8.x release, as well as how the ONTAP software release cadences are changing.

You can listen to that here:

The entire month is listed under a playlist here:

What changed?


With the new release, there is a focus on the following:


  • New AFF deployment templates for Oracle, VDI, SQL to speed up set up (<10 minute set up)
  • Improved and re-vamped management GUIs (Dave Morera does a nice job covering this)
  • Unified data management across on-prem (flash and disk) and cloud datacenters

Maximizing Data Center Agility

Improved Performance

  • 20x faster response times
  • Up to 60% more IOPs than 8.3.1

There’s also a series of new features being offered in ONTAP 9. We discussed some of those with Lee Caswell (see his blog here), but we will also be covering them in upcoming episodes this month.

For a short list of the new features:

  • Support for 15TB SSD
  • Inline data compaction
  • SnapLock® software for data compliance
  • RAID-TEC triple-parity protection
  • Headroom for visibility of performance capacity
  • MetroCluster enhancements
  • Onboard key manager (Included for FREE)
  • FlexGroups (PVR only in 9.0)
  • Workgroup mode for CIFS/SMB

A few of the NetApp A-Team Members wrote up some blogs for the new stuff:

Upcoming schedule


The following is the tentative podcast schedule for the rest of the month, where we talk about all things ONTAP 9!

Week of June 3: Lee Caswell on “Why ONTAP 9”; ONTAP 9 overview with a special SolidFire announcement in a mini-podcast! (2.5 podcasts in one week!)
June 10: ONTAP 9 features: Data Protection
June 17: ONTAP 9 features: Flash Perf
June 24: ONTAP 9 features: ONTAP Select and SAN
June 30: ONTAP 9 features: FlexGroups
July 4: ONTAP 9 features: Manageability Tools

Stay tuned for great things!