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Overview of NetApp Hybrid Multicloud with VMware

Contributors kevin-hoke

Most IT organizations follow the hybrid cloud-first approach. These organizations are in a transformation phase and customers are evaluating their current IT landscape and then migrating their workloads to the cloud based on the assessment and discovery exercise.

The factors for customers migrating to the cloud can include elasticity and burst, data center exit, data center consolidation, end-of-life scenarios, mergers, acquisitions, and so on. The reason for this migration can vary based on each organization and their respective business priorities. When moving to the hybrid cloud, choosing the right storage in the cloud is very important in order to unleash the power of cloud deployment and elasticity.

VMware Cloud options in Public Cloud

This section describes how each of the cloud providers support a VMware Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) and/or VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) stack within their respective public cloud offerings.

Azure VMware Solution


Azure VMware Solution is a hybrid cloud service that allows for fully functioning VMware SDDCs within the Microsoft Azure public cloud. Azure VMware Solution is a first-party solution fully managed and supported by Microsoft, verified by VMware leveraging Azure infrastructure. This means that when Azure VMware Solution is deployed, customer's get VMware's ESXi for compute virtualization, vSAN for hyper-converged storage, and NSX for networking and security, all while taking advantage of Microsoft Azure's global presence, class-leading data center facilities and proximity to the rich ecosystem of native Azure services and solutions.

VMware Cloud on AWS


VMware Cloud on AWS brings VMware’s enterprise-class SDDC software to the AWS Cloud with optimized access to native AWS services. Powered by VMware Cloud Foundation, VMware Cloud on AWS integrates VMware's compute, storage, and network virtualization products (VMware vSphere, VMware vSAN, and VMware NSX) along with VMware vCenter Server management, optimized to run on dedicated, elastic, bare-metal AWS infrastructure.

Google Cloud VMware Engine


Google Cloud VMware Engine is an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering built on Google Cloud’s highly performant scalable infrastructure and VMware Cloud Foundation stack – VMware vSphere, vCenter, vSAN, and NSX-T. This service enables a fast path to the cloud, seamlessly migrating or extending existing VMware workloads from on-premises environments to Google Cloud Platform without the cost, effort ,or risk of rearchitecting applications or retooling operations. It is a service sold and supported by Google, working closely with VMware.

Note SDDC private cloud and NetApp Cloud Volumes colocation provides the best performance with minimal network latency.

Did you know?

Regardless of the cloud used, when a VMware SDDC is deployed, the initial cluster includes the following products:

  • VMware ESXi hosts for compute virtualization with a vCenter Server appliance for management

  • VMware vSAN hyper-converged storage incorporating the physical storage assets of each ESXi host

  • VMware NSX for virtual networking and security with an NSX Manager cluster for management

Storage configuration

For customers planning to host storage-intensive workloads and scale out on any cloud-hosted VMware solution, the default hyper-converged infrastructure dictates that the expansion should be on both the compute and storage resources.

By integrating with NetApp Cloud Volumes, such as Azure NetApp Files, Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP, Cloud Volumes ONTAP (available in all three major hyperscalers), and Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud, customers now have options to independently scale their storage separately, and only add compute nodes to the SDDC cluster as needed.


  • VMware does not recommend unbalanced cluster configurations, hence expanding storage means adding more hosts, which implies more TCO.

  • Only one vSAN environment is possible. Therefore, all storage traffic will compete directly with production workloads.

  • There is no option to provide multiple performance tiers to align application requirements, performance, and cost.

  • It is very easy to reach the limits of storage capacity of vSAN built on top of the cluster hosts. Use NetApp Cloud Volumes to scale storage to either host active datasets or tier cooler data to persistent storage.

Azure NetApp Files, Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP, Cloud Volumes ONTAP (available in all three major hyperscalers), and Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud can be used in conjunction with guest VMs. This hybrid storage architecture consists of a vSAN datastore that holds the guest operating system and application binary data. The application data is attached to the VM through a guest-based iSCSI initiator or the NFS/SMB mounts that communicate directly with Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP, Cloud Volume ONTAP, Azure NetApp Files and Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud respectively. This configuration allows you to easily overcome challenges with storage capacity as with vSAN, the available free space depends on the slack space and storage policies used.

Let’s consider a three-node SDDC cluster on VMware Cloud on AWS:

  • The total raw capacity for a three-node SDDC = 31.1TB (roughly 10TB for each node).

  • The slack space to be maintained before additional hosts are added = 25% = (.25 x 31.1TB) = 7.7TB.

  • The usable raw capacity after slack space deduction = 23.4TB

  • The effective free space available depends on the storage policy applied.

    For example:

    • RAID 0 = effective free space = 23.4TB (usable raw capacity/1)

    • RAID 1 = effective free space = 11.7TB (usable raw capacity/2)

    • RAID 5 = effective free space = 17.5TB (usable raw capacity/1.33)

Thus, using NetApp Cloud Volumes as guest-connected storage would help in expanding the storage and optimizing the TCO while meeting the performance and data protection requirements.

Note In-guest storage was the only available option at the time this document was written. As supplemental NFS datastore support becomes available, additional documentation will be available here.

Points to Remember

  • In hybrid storage models, place tier 1 or high priority workloads on vSAN datastore to address any specific latency requirements because they are part of the host itself and within proximity. Use in-guest mechanisms for any workload VMs for which transactional latencies are acceptable.

  • Use NetApp SnapMirror® technology to replicate the workload data from the on-premises ONTAP system to Cloud Volumes ONTAP or Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP to ease migration using block-level mechanisms. This does not apply to Azure NetApp Files and Cloud Volumes Services. For migrating data to Azure NetApp Files or Cloud Volumes Services, use NetApp XCP, BlueXP Copy and Sync, rysnc or robocopy depending on the file protocol used.

  • Testing shows 2-4ms additional latency while accessing storage from the respective SDDCs. Factor this additional latency into the application requirements when mapping the storage.

  • For mounting guest-connected storage during test failover and actual failover, make sure iSCSI initiators are reconfigured, DNS is updated for SMB shares, and NFS mount points are updated in fstab.

  • Make sure that in-guest Microsoft Multipath I/O (MPIO), firewall, and disk timeout registry settings are configured properly inside the VM.

Note This applies to guest connected storage only.

Benefits of NetApp cloud storage

NetApp cloud storage offers the following benefits:

  • Improves compute-to-storage density by scaling storage independently of compute.

  • Allows you to reduce the host count, thus reducing the overall TCO.

  • Compute node failure does not impact storage performance.

  • The volume reshaping and dynamic service-level capability of Azure NetApp Files allows you to optimize cost by sizing for steady-state workloads, and thus preventing over provisioning.

  • The storage efficiencies, cloud tiering, and instance-type modification capabilities of Cloud Volumes ONTAP allow optimal ways of adding and scaling storage.

  • Prevents over provisioning storage resources are added only when needed.

  • Efficient Snapshot copies and clones allow you to rapidly create copies without any performance impact.

  • Helps address ransomware attacks by using quick recovery from Snapshot copies.

  • Provides efficient incremental block transfer-based regional disaster recovery and integrated backup block level across regions provides better RPO and RTOs.


  • SnapMirror technology or other relevant data migration mechanisms are enabled. There are many connectivity options, from on-premises to any hyperscaler cloud. Use the appropriate path and work with the relevant networking teams.

  • In-guest storage was the only available option at the time this document was written. As supplemental NFS datastore support becomes available, additional documentation will be available here.

Note Engage NetApp solution architects and respective hyperscaler cloud architects for planning and sizing of storage and the required number of hosts. NetApp recommends identifying the storage performance requirements before using the Cloud Volumes ONTAP sizer to finalize the storage instance type or the appropriate service level with the right throughput.

Detailed architecture

From a high-level perspective, this architecture (shown in the figure below) covers how to achieve hybrid Multicloud connectivity and app portability across multiple cloud providers using NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud and Azure NetApp Files as an additional in-guest storage option.

Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Architecture