Running VMware on ONTAP? Why you should consider upgrading to ONTAP 9.2.


VMworld is right around the corner, so it’s a good time to remind folks about the goodness that is ONTAP + VMware.

ONTAP already has enterprise class storage for VMware, with support for both NFS and FCP/iSCSI on the same cluster to host VMware datastores. ONTAP also has robust support for VMware friendly features, such as VVols 1.0, VAAI, inline deduplication/compaction/compression, vSphere integration via the Virtual Storage Console, backing up VMs with SnapCenter, FlexClones, SRA plugins and much more!

For more information on VMware with ONTAP see:

ONTAP 9.2 went GA a couple weeks ago and included some nice new features that fit very well into virtualization workloads. When you upgrade ONTAP, you are able to do it non-disruptively, especially for VMware environments. Plus, NetApp’s internal predictive analysis points to ONTAP 9.2 having the highest quality of the available ONTAP releases out there, so there’s not a lot of reason *not* to upgrade to ONTAP 9.2.

Now, for those features…

Aggregate Inline Deduplication

If you’re not familiar with deduplication, it’s a storage feature that allows blocks that are identical to rely on pointers to a single block instead of having multiple copies of the same blocks.

This is all currently done inline (as data is ingested) only, and currently  on All Flash FAS systems by default. The space savings come in handy in workloads such as ESXi datastores, where you may be applying OS patches across multiple VMs in multiple datastores hosted in multiple FlexVol volumes. Aggregate inline deduplication brings an average additional ~1.32:1 ratio of space savings for VMware workloads. Who doesn’t want to save some space?

At a high level, this animation shows how it works:


Quality of Service (QoS) Minimums/Guaranteed QoS

In ONTAP 8.2, NetApp introduced Quality of Service maximums to allow storage administrators to apply policies to volumes – and even files like luns or VMs – to prevent bully workloads from affecting other workloads in a cluster.

Last year, NetApp acquired SolidFire, which has a pretty mean QoS of its own where it actually approaches QoS from the other end of the spectrum – guaranteeing a performance floor for workloads that require a specific service level.


I’m not 100% sure, but I’m guessing NetApp saw that and said “that’s pretty sweet. Let’s do that.”

So, they have. Now, ONTAP 9.2 has a maximum and a minimum/guaranteed QoS for storage administrators and service providers. (Guarantees only for SAN currently) For VMware environments, storage administrators can now easily apply floors and ceilings to VMs to maximize their SLAs for their end users and customers.

Check out a video on it here:

We also did a podcast on it here:

ONTAP Select enhancements

ONTAP Select is NetApp’s software-defined version of ONTAP software. Select allows you to “select” whatever server hardware platform you want to run your storage system on (see what they did there?).

ONTAP Select has been around for a while, first in the form of ONTAP Edge. In ONTAP 9.0, it was re-branded to Select and NetApp started adding additional functionality to extend the use case for the solution outside of “edge” cases, such as remote offices.

Select runs on a hypervisor, usually ESXi. ONTAP 9.2 added some functionality that could be appealing to storage administrators.

These include:

  • 2-node HA support
  • FlexGroup volume support
  • Improved performance
  • Easier deployment
  • ESX Robo license
  • Single node ONTAP Select vNAS with VSAN and iSCSI LUN support
  • Inline deduplication support

Three of the more compelling bullets above (to me, at least) for VMware environments are 2-node HA, the ability to use ESX ROBO licenses and the vNAS support with vSAN.

If you’re already using vSAN in your environments, you’ll know that they don’t do file protocols like CIFS/SMB or NFS. Instead, they use a proprietary protocol that is intended to speak only to VMs. While that’s great for datastores, it limits what sort of tasks the vSAN can be used for.

With ONTAP Select running on top of a vSAN, you can present NAS shares to clients, host NFS datastores, etc, without having to buy new hardware. Not only that, but you can also present datastores via vSAN on the same ONTAP Select instance.


Pretty nifty, eh?

From the NetApp vNAS Solution Brief:

Starting with ONTAP Select 9.2, the ONTAP Select vNAS solution also supports
VMware HA, vMotion, and Distributed Resources Scheduler (DRS). After deployment
of a single-node cluster that uses external storage or consumes a vSAN datastore,
the node can be moved through VMware vMotion, HA, or DRS actions. The ONTAP
Select Deploy utility can detect these movements, and updates its internal database
to continue normal management of the node.

For more information on ONTAP select, see:

Got questions or feedback? Insert them in the comments below!

vSphere 6.5: The NFS edition

A while back, I wrote up a blog about the release of vSphere 6.0, with an NFS slant to it. Why? Because NFS!

With VMworld 2016 Barcelona, vSphere 6.5 (where’d .1, .2, .3, .4 go?) has been announced, so I can discuss the NFS impact. If you’d like a more general look at the release, check out Cormac Hogan’s blog on it.

Whither VMFS?

Before I get into the new NFS feature/functionality of the release, let’s talk about the changes to VMFS. One of the reasons people use NFS with VMware (other than its awesomeness) is that VMFS had some… limitations.

With the announcement of VMFS-6, some of those limitations have been removed. For example, VMFS-6 includes something called UNMAP, which essentially is a garbage collector for unused whitespace inside the VMFS datastore. This provides better space efficiency than previous iterations.

Additionally, VMware has added some performance enhancements to VMFS, so it may outperform NFS, especially if using fiber channel.

Other than that, you still can’t shrink the datastore, it’s not that easy to expand, etc. So, minor improvements that shouldn’t impact NFS too terribly. People who love NFS will likely stay on NFS. People who love VMFS will be happy with the improvements. Life goes on…

What’s new in vSphere 6.5 from the NFS perspective?

In vSphere 6.0, NFS 4.1 support was added.

However, it was a pretty minimal stack – no pNFS, no delegations, no referrals, etc. They basically added session trunking/multipath, which is cool – but there was still a lot to be desired. On the downside, that feature isn’t even supported in ONTAP yet. So close, yet so far…

In vSphere 6.5, the NFS 4.1 stack has been expanded a bit to include hardware acceleration for NFSv4.1. This is actually a pretty compelling addition, as it can help the overall NFSv4.1 performance of the datastore.

NFSv4.1 also fully supports IPv6. Your level of excitement is solely based on how many people you think use IPv6 right now.


Perhaps the most compelling NFS changs in vSphere 6.5 is how we secure our mounts.

In 6.0, Kerberos support was added, but you could only do DES. Blah.

Now, Kerberos support in vSphere 6.5 includes:

  • AES-128
  • AES-256
  • REMOVAL of DES encryption
  • Kerberos with integrity checking  (krb5i – prevents “man in the middle” attacks)

Now, while it’s pretty cool that they removed support for the insecure DES enctype, that *is* going to be a disruptive change for people using Kerberos. The machine account/principal will need to be destroyed and re-created, clients will need to re-mount, etc. But, it’s an improvement!

How vSphere 6.5 personally impacts me

The downside of these changes means that I have to adjust my Insight presentation a bit. If you’re going to Insight in Berlin, check out 60831-2: How Customers and Partners use NFS for Virtualization.

Still looking forward to pNFS in vSphere, though…