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Element Software
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Virtual volumes (vVols)

Contributors netapp-pcarriga netapp-dbagwell

vSphere Virtual Volumes is a storage paradigm for VMware that moves much of the storage management for vSphere from the storage system to VMware vCenter. With Virtual Volumes (vVols), you can allocate storage according to the requirements of individual virtual machines.


The NetApp Element cluster chooses an optimal protocol endpoint, creates a binding that associates the ESXi host and virtual volume with the protocol endpoint, and returns the binding to the ESXi host. After it is bound, the ESXi host can perform I/O operations with the bound virtual volume.

Protocol endpoints

VMware ESXi hosts use logical I/O proxies known as protocol endpoints to communicate with virtual volumes. ESXi hosts bind virtual volumes to protocol endpoints to perform I/O operations. When a virtual machine on the host performs an I/O operation, the associated protocol endpoint directs I/O to the virtual volume with which it is paired.

Protocol endpoints in a NetApp Element cluster function as SCSI administrative logical units. Each protocol endpoint is created automatically by the cluster. For every node in a cluster, a corresponding protocol endpoint is created. For example, a four-node cluster will have four protocol endpoints.

iSCSI is the only supported protocol for NetApp Element software. Fibre Channel protocol is not supported. Protocol endpoints cannot be deleted or modified by a user, are not associated with an account, and cannot be added to a volume access group.

Storage containers

Storage containers are logical constructs that map to NetApp Element accounts and are used for reporting and resource allocation. They pool raw storage capacity or aggregate storage capabilities that the storage system can provide to virtual volumes. A VVol datastore that is created in vSphere is mapped to an individual storage container. A single storage container has all available resources from the NetApp Element cluster by default. If more granular governance for multi-tenancy is required, multiple storage containers can be created.

Storage containers function like traditional accounts and can contain both virtual volumes and traditional volumes. A maximum of four storage containers per cluster is supported. A minimum of one storage container is required to use VVols functionality. You can discover storage containers in vCenter during VVols creation.

VASA provider

To make vSphere aware of the vVol feature on the NetApp Element cluster, the vSphere admin must register the NetApp Element VASA Provider with vCenter. The VASA provider is the out-of-band control path between vSphere and the Element cluster. It is responsible for executing requests on the Element cluster on behalf of vSphere, such as creating VMs, making VMs available to vSphere, and advertising storage capabilities to vSphere.

The VASA provider runs as part of the cluster master in Element software. The cluster master is a highly available service that fails over to any node in the cluster as needed. If the cluster master fails over, the VASA provider moves with it, ensuring high availability for the VASA provider. All provisioning and storage management tasks use the VASA provider, which handles any changes needed on the Element cluster.

Note Do not register more than one NetApp Element VASA provider to a single vCenter instance. Where a second NetApp Element VASA provider is added, this renders all VVOL datastores inaccessible.
Note VASA support for up to 10 vCenters is available as an upgrade patch if you have already registered a VASA provider with your vCenter. To install, follow the directions in the VASA39 manifest and download the .tar.gz file from the NetApp Software Downloads site. The NetApp Element VASA provider uses a NetApp certificate. With this patch, the certificate is used unmodified by vCenter to support multiple vCenters for VASA and VVols use. Do not modify the certificate. Custom SSL certificates are not supported by VASA.

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