TR-4597: VMware vSphere for ONTAP


Karl Konnerth, NetApp

NetApp ONTAP software has been a leading storage solution for VMware vSphere environments for almost two decades and continues to add innovative capabilities to simplify management while reducing costs. This document introduces the ONTAP solution for vSphere, including the latest product information and best practices, to streamline deployment, reduce risk, and simplify management.

Best practices supplement other documents such as guides and compatibility lists. They are developed based on lab testing and extensive field experience by NetApp engineers and customers. They might not be the only supported practices that work in every environment, but they are generally the simplest solutions that meet the needs of most customers.

This document is focused on capabilities in recent releases of ONTAP (9.x) running on vSphere 6.0 or later. See the section ONTAP and vSphere release-specific information for details related to specific releases.

Why ONTAP for vSphere?

There are many reasons why tens of thousands of customers have selected ONTAP as their storage solution for vSphere, such as a unified storage system supporting both SAN and NAS protocols, robust data protection capabilities using space-efficient NetApp Snapshot copies, and a wealth of tools to help you manage application data. Using a storage system separate from the hypervisor allows you to offload many functions and maximize your investment in vSphere host systems. This approach not only makes sure your host resources are focused on application workloads, but it also avoids random performance effects on applications from storage operations.

Using ONTAP together with vSphere is a great combination that lets you reduce host hardware and VMware software expenses. You can also protect your data at lower cost with consistent high performance. Because virtualized workloads are mobile, you can explore different approaches using Storage vMotion to move VMs across VMFS, NFS, or vVols datastores, all on the same storage system.

Here are key factors customers value today:

  • Unified storage. Systems running ONTAP software are unified in several significant ways. Originally this approach referred to both NAS and SAN protocols, and ONTAP continues to be a leading platform for SAN along with its original strength in NAS. In the vSphere world, this approach could also mean a unified system for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) together with virtual server infrastructure (VSI). Systems running ONTAP software are typically less expensive for VSI than traditional enterprise arrays and yet have advanced storage efficiency capabilities to handle VDI in the same system. ONTAP also unifies a variety of storage media, from SSDs to SATA, and can extend that easily into the cloud. There’s no need to buy one flash array for performance, a SATA array for archives, and separate systems for the cloud. ONTAP ties them all together.

  • Virtual volumes and storage policy-based management. NetApp was an early design partner with VMware in the development of vSphere Virtual Volumes (vVols), providing architectural input and early support for vVols and VMware vSphere APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA). Not only did this approach bring granular VM storage management to VMFS, it also supported automation of storage provisioning through storage policy-based management. This approach allows storage architects to design storage pools with different capabilities that can be easily consumed by VM administrators. ONTAP leads the storage industry in vVol scale, supporting hundreds of thousands of vVols in a single cluster, whereas enterprise array and smaller flash array vendors support as few as several thousand vVols per array. NetApp is also driving the evolution of granular VM management with upcoming capabilities in support of vVols 3.0.

  • Storage efficiency. Although NetApp was the first to deliver deduplication for production workloads, this innovation wasn’t the first or last one in this area. It started with ONTAP Snapshot copies, a space-efficient data protection mechanism with no performance effect, along with FlexClone technology to instantly make read/write copies of VMs for production and backup use. NetApp went on to deliver inline capabilities, including deduplication, compression, and zero-block deduplication, to squeeze out the most storage from expensive SSDs. Most recently, ONTAP added the ability to pack smaller I/O operations and files into a disk block using compaction. The combination of these capabilities has resulted in customers seeing savings of up to 5:1 for VSI and up to 30:1 for VDI.

  • Hybrid cloud. Whether used for on-premises private cloud, public cloud infrastructure, or a hybrid cloud that combines the best of both, ONTAP solutions help you build your data fabric to streamline and optimize data management. Start with high-performance all-flash systems, then couple them with either disk or cloud storage systems for data protection and cloud compute. Choose from Azure, AWS, IBM, or Google clouds to optimize costs and avoid lock-in. Leverage advanced support for OpenStack and container technologies as needed. NetApp also offers cloud-based backup (SnapMirror Cloud, Cloud Backup Service, and Cloud Sync) and storage tiering and archiving tools (FabricPool) for ONTAP to help reduce operating expenses and leverage the broad reach of the cloud.

  • And more. Take advantage of the extreme performance of NetApp AFF A-Series arrays to accelerate your virtualized infrastructure while managing costs. Enjoy completely nondisruptive operations, from maintenance to upgrades to complete replacement of your storage system, using scale-out ONTAP clusters. Protect data at rest with NetApp encryption capabilities at no additional cost. Make sure performance meets business service levels through fine-grained quality of service capabilities. They are all part of the broad range of capabilities that come with ONTAP, the industry’s leading enterprise data management software.