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NetApp All-Flash SAN Array with VMware vSphere 8

Contributors kevin-hoke

For nearly two decades, NetApp ONTAP software has established itself as a premier storage solution for VMware vSphere environments, continually introducing innovative features that simplify management and decrease costs. NetApp is an established leader in the development of NAS and unified storage platforms that offer a wide range of protocol and connectivity support. Alongside this market segment, there are many customers who prefer the simplicity and cost benefits of block-based SAN storage platforms that are focused on doing one job well. NetApp’s All-Flash SAN Array (ASA) delivers on that promise with simplicity at scale and with consistent management and automation features for all applications and cloud providers.

Author: Josh Powell - NetApp Solutions Engineering

Solution Overview

Purpose of This Document

In this document we will cover the unique value of using NetApp ASA storage systems with VMware vSphere and provide a technology overview of the NetApp All-Flash SAN Array. In addition, we will look at additional tools for simplifying storage provisioning, data protection, and monitoring of your VMware and ONTAP datacenter.

Deployment sections of this document cover creating vVol datastores with ONTAP Tools for VMware vSphere, and observability for the modern datacenter with NetApp Cloud Insights.

Technology Overview

This solution includes innovative technologies from VMware and NetApp.

VMware vSphere 8.0

VMware vSphere is a virtualization platform that transforms physical resources into pools of compute, network and storage which can be used to satisfy customers’ workload and application requirements. The main components of VMware vSphere include:

  • ESXi - VMware’s hypervisor which enables the abstraction of compute processors, memory, network and other resources and makes them available to virtual machines and container workloads.

  • vCenter - VMware vCenter is a centralized management platform for interacting with compute resources, networking and storage as part of a virtual infrastructure. vCenter plays a crucial role in simplifying the administration of virtualized infrastructure.

New Improvements in vSphere 8.0

vSphere 8.0 introduces some new improvements including, but not limited to:

Scalability - vSphere 8.0 supports the latest Intel and AMD CPUs and has extended limits for vGPU devices, ESXi hosts, VMs per cluster, and VM DirectPath I/O devices.

Distributed Services Engine - Network offloading with NSX to Data Processing Units (DPUs).

Enhanced Device Efficiency - vSphere 8.0 boosts device management capabilities with features like device groups and Device Virtualization Extensions (DVX).

Improved Security - The inclusion of an SSH timeout and TPM Provision Policy strengthens the security framework.

Integration with Hybrid Cloud Services - This feature facilitates seamless transition between on-premises and cloud workloads.

Integrated Kubernetes Runtime - With the inclusion of Tanzu, vSphere 8.0 simplifies container orchestration.

For more information refer to the blog, What's New in vSphere 8?.

VMware Virtual Volumes (vVols)

vVols are a revolutionary new approach to storage management in vSphere clusters, providing simplified management and more granular control of storage resources. In a vVols datastore each virtual disk is a vVol and becomes a native LUN object on the storage system. The integration of the storage system and vSphere takes place through the VMware API’s for Storage Awareness (VASA) provider and allows the storage system to be aware of the VM data and manage it accordingly. Storage policies, defined in the vCenter Client are used to allocate and manage storage resources.

vVols are a simplified approach to storage management and are preferred in some use cases.

For more information on vVols see the vVols Getting Started Guide.

NVMe over Fabrics

With the release of vSphere 8.0, NVMe is now supported end-to-end with full support for vVols with NVMe-TCP and NVMe-FC.

For detailed information on using NVMe with vSphere refer to About VMware NVMe Storage in the vSphere Storage documentation.


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. 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 while taking advantage of native storage efficiencies.

Base ONTAP Features

NetApp Snapshot copies: Snapshot copies of a VM or datastore, ensuring no performance impact upon the creation or utilization of a Snapshot. These replicas can serve as restoration points for VMs or as a simple data safeguard. These array-based snapshots are different than VMware (consistency) snapshots. The most straightforward method to generate an ONTAP Snapshot copy is through the SnapCenter Plug-In for VMware vSphere, backing up VMs and datastores.

  • Storage Efficiency - ONTAP provides real-time and background deduplication and compression, zero-block deduplication, and data compaction.

  • Volume and LUN move - Allows non-disruptive movement of volumes and LUNs supporting vSphere datastores and vVols within the ONTAP cluster to balance performance and capacity or support non-disruptive maintenance and upgrades.

  • Relocation of Volume and LUN - ONTAP allows non-disruptive movement of volumes and LUNs that host vSphere datastores and vVols within the ONTAP cluster. This aids in balancing performance and capacity, and allows for non-disruptive upgrades.

  • Quality of Service - QoS is a feature that enables the management of performance on an individual LUN, volume, or file. It can be used to limit an aggressive VM or to ensure that a critical VM receives sufficient performance resources.

  • Encryption - NetApp Volume Encryption and NetApp Aggregate Encryption. These options provide a straightforward software-based approach to encrypting data at rest, ensuring its protection.

  • Fabric Pool - This feature tiers less frequently accessed data to a separate object store, freeing up valuable flash storage. By operating at the block level, it efficiently identifies and tiers colder data, helping to optimize storage resources and reduce costs.

  • Automation - Simplifies storage and data management tasks by utilizing ONTAP REST APIs for automation, and leveraging Ansible modules for seamless configuration management of ONTAP systems. Ansible modules offer a convenient solution for efficiently managing the configurations of ONTAP systems. The combination of these powerful tools enables the streamlining of workflows and enhancement of the overall management of storage infrastructure.

ONTAP Disaster Recovery Features

NetApp ONTAP provides robust disaster recovery solutions for VMware environments. These solutions leverage SnapMirror replication technologies between primary and secondary storage systems to allow failover and quick recovery in the case of failure.

Storage Replication Adapter:
The NetApp Storage Replication Adapter (SRA) is a software component that provides integration between NetApp storage systems and VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM). It facilitates replication of virtual machine (VM) data across NetApp storage arrays, delivering robust data protection and disaster recovery capabilities. The SRA uses SnapMirror and SnapVault to achieve the replication of VM data across disparate storage systems or geographical locations.

The adapter provides asynchronous replication at the storage virtual machine (SVM) level using SnapMirror technology and extends support for both VMFS in SAN storage environments (iSCSI and FC) and NFS in NAS storage environments.

The NetApp SRA is installed as part of ONTAP Tools for VMware vSphere.

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For information on the NetApp Storage Replication Adapter for SRM refer to VMware Site Recovery Manager with NetApp ONTAP.

SnapMirror Business Continuity:
SnapMirror is a NetApp data replication technology that provides synchronous replication of data between storage systems. It allows for the creation of multiple copies of data at different locations, providing the ability to recover data in case of a disaster or data loss event. SnapMirror provides flexibility in terms of replication frequency and allows for the creation of point-in-time copies of data for backup and recovery purposes. SM-BC replicates data at the Consistency Group level.

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For more information refer to SnapMirror Business Continuity overview.

NetApp MetroCluster:
NetApp MetroCluster is a high-availability and disaster recovery solution that provides synchronous data replication between two geographically dispersed NetApp storage systems. It is designed to ensure continuous data availability and protection in the event of a site-wide failure.

MetroCluster uses SyncMirror to synchronously replicate data just above the RAID level. SyncMirror is designed to efficiently transition between synchronous and asynchronous modes. This allows the primary storage cluster to continue operating in a non-replicated state in situations where the secondary site becomes temporarily inaccessible. SyncMirror will also replicate back to a RPO = 0 state when connectivity is restored.

MetroCluster can operate over IP based networks or using fibre channel.

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For detailed information on MetroCluster architecture and configuration refer to the MetroCluster documentation site.

ONTAP One Licensing Model

ONTAP One is a comprehensive licensing model that provides access to all features of ONTAP without requiring additional licenses. This includes data protection, disaster recovery, high availability, cloud integration, storage efficiency, performance, and security. Customers with NetApp storage systems licensed with Flash, Core plus Data Protection, or Premium are entitled to ONTAP One licensing, ensuring they can maximize the use of their storage systems.

ONTAP One licensing includes all of the following features:

NVMeoF – Enables the use of NVMe over Fabrics for front end client IO, both NVMe/FC and NVMe/TCP.

FlexClone – Enables rapid creation of space efficient cloning of data based on snapshots.

S3 – Enables the S3 protocol for front end client IO.

SnapRestore – Enables rapid recovery of data from snapshots.

Autonomous Ransomware Protection - Enables the automatic protection of NAS file shares when abnormal filesystem activity is detected.

Multi Tenant Key Manager - Enables the ability to have multiple key managers for different tenants on the system.

SnapLock – Enables the protection of data from modification, deletion or corruption on the system.

SnapMirror Cloud – Enables the replication of system volumes to object targets.

S3 SnapMirror – Enables the replication of ONTAP S3 objects to alternate S3 compatible targets.

NetApp All-Flash SAN Array

The NetApp All-Flash SAN Array (ASA) is a high-performance storage solution designed to meet the demanding requirements of modern data centers. It combines the speed and reliability of flash storage with NetApp's advanced data management features to deliver exceptional performance, scalability, and data protection.

The ASA lineup is comprised of both A-Series and C-Series models.

The NetApp A-Series all-NVMe flash arrays are designed for high-performance workloads, offering ultra-low latency and high resiliency, making them suitable for mission-critical applications.

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C-Series QLC flash arrays are aimed at higher-capacity use cases, delivering the speed of flash with the economy of hybrid flash.

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For detailed information see the NetApp ASA landing page.

NetApp ASA features

The NetApp All-Flash SAN Array includes the following features:

Performance - The All-Flash SAN Array leverages solid-state drives (SSDs), with an end-to-end NVMe architecture, to provide lightning-fast performance, significantly reducing latency and improving application response times. It delivers consistent high IOPS and low latency, making it suitable for latency-sensitive workloads such as databases, virtualization, and analytics.

Scalability - NetApp All-Flash SAN Arrays are built with a scale-out architecture, allowing organizations to seamlessly scale their storage infrastructure as their needs grow. With the ability to add additional storage nodes, organizations can expand capacity and performance without disruption, ensuring that their storage can keep up with increasing data demands.

Data Management - NetApp's Data ONTAP operating system powers the All-Flash SAN Array, providing a comprehensive suite of data management features. These include thin provisioning, deduplication, compression, and data compaction, which optimize storage utilization and reduce costs. Advanced data protection features like snapshots, replication, and encryption ensure the integrity and security of stored data.

Integration and Flexibility - The All-Flash SAN Array integrates with NetApp's broader ecosystem, enabling seamless integration with other NetApp storage solutions, such as hybrid cloud deployments with NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP. It also supports industry-standard protocols like Fibre Channel (FC) and iSCSI, enabling easy integration into existing SAN infrastructures.

Analytics and Automation - NetApp's management software, including NetApp Cloud Insights, provides comprehensive monitoring, analytics, and automation capabilities. These tools enable administrators to gain insights into their storage environment, optimize performance, and automate routine tasks, simplifying storage management and improving operational efficiency.

Data Protection and Business Continuity - The All-Flash SAN Array offers built-in data protection features such as point-in-time snapshots, replication, and disaster recovery capabilities. These features ensure data availability and facilitate rapid recovery in the event of data loss or system failures.

Protocol Support

The ASA supports all standard SAN protocols including, iSCSI, Fibre Channel (FC), Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), and NVME over fabrics.

iSCSI - NetApp ASA provides robust support for iSCSI, allowing block-level access to storage devices over IP networks. It offers seamless integration with iSCSI initiators, enabling efficient provisioning and management of iSCSI LUNs. ONTAP's advanced features, such as multi-pathing, CHAP authentication, and ALUA support.

For design guidance on iSCSI configurations refer to .

Fibre Channel - NetApp ASA offers comprehensive support for Fibre Channel (FC), a high-speed network technology commonly used in storage area networks (SANs). ONTAP seamlessly integrates with FC infrastructure, providing reliable and efficient block-level access to storage devices. It offers features like zoning, multi-pathing, and fabric login (FLOGI) to optimize performance, enhance security, and ensure seamless connectivity in FC environments.

For design guidance on Fibre Channel configurations refer to the SAN Configuration reference documentation.

NVMe over Fabrics - NetApp ONTAP and ASA support NVMe over fabrics. NVMe/FC enables the use of NVMe storage devices over Fibre Channel infrastructure, and NVMe/TCP over storage IP networks.

For design guidance on NVMe refer to NVMe configuration, support and limitations.

Active-active technology

NetApp All-Flash SAN Arrays allows for active-active paths through both controllers, eliminating the need for the host operating system to wait for an active path to fail before activating the alternative path. This means that the host can utilize all available paths on all controllers, ensuring active paths are always present regardless of whether the system is in a steady state or undergoing a controller failover operation.

Furthermore, the NetApp ASA offers a distinctive feature that greatly enhances the speed of SAN failover. Each controller continuously replicates essential LUN metadata to its partner. As a result, each controller is prepared to take over data serving responsibilities in the event of a sudden failure of its partner. This readiness is possible because the controller already possesses the necessary information to start utilizing the drives that were previously managed by the failed controller.

With active-active pathing, both planned and unplanned takeovers have IO resumption times of 2-3 seconds.

Storage guarantees

NetApp offers a unique set of storage guarantees with NetApp All-flash SAN Arrays. The unique benefits include:

Storage efficiency guarantee: Achieve high performance while minimizing storage cost with the Storage Efficiency Guarantee. 4:1 for SAN workloads.

6 Nines (99.9999%) data availability guarantee: Guarantees remediation for unplanned downtime in excess of 31.56 seconds per year.

Ransomware recovery guarantee: Guaranteed data recovery in the event of a ransomware attack.

See the NetApp ASA product portal for more information.

NetApp Plug-ins for VMware vSphere

NetApp storage services are tightly integrated with VMware vSphere through the use of the following plug-ins:

ONTAP Tools for VMware vSphere

The ONTAP Tools for VMware allows administrators to manage NetApp storage directly from within the vSphere Client. ONTAP Tools allows you to deploy and manage datastores, as well as provision vVol datastores.
ONTAP Tools allows mapping of datastores to storage capability profiles which determine a set of storage system attributes. This allows the creation of datastores with specific attributes such as storage performance and QoS.

ONTAP Tools includes the following components:

Virtual Storage Console (VSC): The VSC includes the interface integrated with the vSphere client where you can add storage controllers, provision datastores, monitor performance of datastores, and view and update ESXi host settings.

VASA Provider: The VMware vSphere APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA) Provider for ONTAP send information about storage used by VMware vSphere to the vCenter Server, enabling provisioning of VMware Virtual Volumes (vVols) datastores, creation and use of storage capability profiles, compliance verification, and performance monitoring.

Storage Replication Adapter (SRA): When enabled and used with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM), SRA facilitates the recovery of vCenter Server datastores and virtual machines in the event of a failure, allowing configuration of protected sites and recovery sites for disaster recovery.

For more information on NetApp ONTAP tools for VMware see ONTAP tools for VMware vSphere Documentation.

SnapCenter Plug-in for VMware vSphere

The SnapCenter Plug-in for VMware vSphere (SCV) is a software solution from NetApp that offers comprehensive data protection for VMware vSphere environments. It is designed to simplify and streamline the process of protecting and managing virtual machines (VMs) and datastores.

The SnapCenter Plug-in for VMware vSphere provides the following capabilities in a unified interface, integrated with the vSphere client:

Policy-Based Snapshots - SnapCenter allows you to define policies for creating and managing application-consistent snapshots of virtual machines (VMs) in VMware vSphere.

Automation - Automated snapshot creation and management based on defined policies help ensure consistent and efficient data protection.

VM-Level Protection - Granular protection at the VM level allows for efficient management and recovery of individual virtual machines.

Storage Efficiency Features - Integration with NetApp storage technologies provides storage efficiency features like deduplication and compression for snapshots, minimizing storage requirements.

The SnapCenter Plug-in orchestrates the quiescing of virtual machines in conjunction with hardware-based snapshots on NetApp storage arrays. SnapMirror technology is utilized to replicate copies of backups to secondary storage systems including in the cloud.

For more information refer to the SnapCenter Plug-in for VMware vSphere documentation.

BlueXP integration enables 3-2-1 backup strategies that extend copies of data to object storage in the cloud.

For more information on 3-2-1 backup strategies with BlueXP visit 3-2-1 Data Protection for VMware with SnapCenter Plug-in and BlueXP backup and recovery for VMs.

NetApp Cloud Insights

NetApp Cloud Insights simplifies observation of on-prem and cloud infrastructure and provides analytics and troubleshooting capabilities to help solve complex problems. Cloud Insights works by collecting data from a data center environment and sending that data to the cloud. This is done with locally installed software called an Acquisition Unit and with specific collectors enabled for the assets in the data center.

The assets in Cloud Insights can be tagged with annotations that provide a method of organizing and classifying data. Dashboard can be created using a wide variety of widgets for displaying the data and Metric Queries can be created for detailed tabular views of data.

Cloud Insights comes with a large number of ready-made dashboards that help to zero in on specific types of problem areas and categories of data.

Cloud Insights is a heterogeneous tool designed to collect data from a wide range of devices. However, there is a library of templates, called ONTAP Essentials, that makes it easy for NetApp customers to get started quickly.

For detailed information on how to get started with Cloud Insights refer to the NetApp BlueXP and Cloud Insights landing page.