NetApp’s Integration with VMware’s Ecosystem

As I have transitioned from being a customer to being an employee with NetApp I have become aware of the breadth of integration between VMware and NetApp. I have realized that as a customer, I was only using a small amount of what is available. There are a lot of software bits-and-pieces, and documentation, that make life much easier for admins, and I have struggled to find a consolidated listing (maybe I haven’t looked hard enough…or asked the right people…?). This blog post is my attempt to provide a starting place for information regarding NetApp integration with VMware.

As I go through the process of learning, I hope to document as much as possible, and I invite you to follow along…hopefully we can all gain some insight into the resources available.

Firstly, always begin with TR-3749 and TR-4068. These are the primary references from NetApp regarding VMware integration…I highly recommend that if you have not already read them you do so now.

Direct VMware Integration

Virtual Storage Console
VSC is the cornerstone of integration between NetApp and VMware. It provides an administrative and reporting interface to NetApp storage from the VI Client (and soon to be web client with version 5). From VSC you can perform nearly all of the common (and many not-so-common) tasks if you are both the storage and virtualization admin, and if you are not the storage admin, then you can view the capacity utilization, deduplication savings, and much more pertinent information. Performing provisioning and cloning operations from VSC will automatically apply best practices, eliminating the need to apply additional command line options on multiple volumes/LUNs.

The Installation and Administration Guide (available from the support site) is the reference for all things VSC. Additionally, they have a very robust presence at the NetApp Communities site here.

NFS VAAI Plugin
VAAI enhances storage functionality and performance using hardware offload APIs between the vSphere hosts and the storage controller. NFS support for VAAI was not available from VMware until vSphere 5.0, and from NetApp until OnTAP 8.1. The plugin (distributed as a VIB package for vSphere hosts) is available from the software download portal using the title “NetApp NFS Plug-in for VMware VAAI”. You can quickly get and install the VIB using VSC.

TR-4068 and the Installation Guide contain documentation on how to install and use the plugin.

NetApp VASA Provider
VASA is a VMware API which allows storage providers to surface capabilities to the VMware administrator. This also means that you can create profiles for storage requirements and use them to filter your available storage to ensure you place VMs on storage that meets their needs.

The NetApp VASA provider is available from the software download portal with the title “NetApp FAS/V-Series VASA Provider”.

Storage Replication Adapter for Site Recovery Manager
VMware’s Site Recovery Manager is well known for providing the capability to failover from the primary to disaster recovery site quickly, and with minimal disruption. NetApp also gives you the ability to non-disruptively test your disaster recovery plan, while maintaining protection of the primary site, using FlexClones.

There are two Replication Adapters available from NetApp, one for clustered Data ONTAP, the other for 7-Mode and Data ONTAP 7. These adapters automatically manage the SnapMirror relationships for the SRM datastores, and create FlexClones when doing testing.

SRM 5 integration is documented in TR-4064, SRM 4 integration is documented in TR-3671. The adapters are available from the software download portal with the title “FAS/V-Series Storage Replication Adapter”.

Additional Features / Value-Add

These are the primary admin interfaces for NetApp storage. While they don’t provide direct integration with VMware, they are still important.

OnCommand System Manager
System Manager provides a GUI for managing NetApp storage…it is the replacement for Filer View and so much better. If GUIs are your thing, you can’t go wrong with this one…it provides the ability to manage 7-Mode and C-Mode systems, along with the ability to configure, manage, and report on all aspects of storage.

The OnCommand System Manager Communities site is here.

OnCommand Workflow Automation
WFA is an incredibly powerful tool that integrates and automates “workflows”. Workflows are simply a series of tasks to be performed…create a volume, create a new LUN, mount a VMware datastore, etc. Yes…that’s correct…it works with any system that has an API, including VMware. From WFA you can string together workflows to provision storage on the NetApp and integrate it with your VMware environment…all from an easy to use GUI.

Workflows can be created in PowerShell, Perl, Python, and pretty much any other language that can be instantiated from a Windows Server. The NetApp Communities Space for WFA is here. The communities site has a lot of great information, and other members have contributed workflows which are available as Pirate Packs to get you started quickly. TR-4156 (ask your sales team) provides additional information on workflow development for when you want to create your own.

Additionally, WFA surfaces a RESTful web interface for consuming workflows so that they can then be utilized by other applications…such as vCenter Orchestrator and vCloud Automation Center.

NetApp Powershell Toolkit
The Powershell toolkit is quickly gaining popularity as a quick, convenient, and powerful interface to manage NetApp storage. They have a dedicated space on the NetApp Communities here, and TR-3896 provides a good introduction.

Technical Reports

NetApp publishes Technical Reports (usually called “TRs”) about pretty much everything. I will attempt to put a list of them here, but please keep in mind that there are always new ones, so I can’t guarantee this list is exhaustive. Some of the TRs haven’t been updated recently, but the information is still very useful…check the NetApp Library or ask your sales team to ensure you get the most up-to-date versions.

As always, the two primary TRs for VMware are TR-3749 (ONTAP 7, 7-Mode) and TR-4068 (clustered Data ONTAP).  The others are generally product specific.  Here is a completely incomplete list of TRs that relate to VMware:

  • TR-3671 – Deploying VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager 4 with NetApp FAS/V-Series Storage Systems
  • TR-3705 – NetApp and VMware View
  • TR-3737 – SMVI Best Practices
  • TR-3747 – Best Practices for File System Alignment in Virtual Environments
  • TR-3770 – VMware View on NetApp Deployment Guide Using NFS
  • TR-3788 – A Continuous Availability Solution for Virtual Infrastructure
  • TR-3808 – VMware vSphere and ESX3.5 Multiprotocol Performance Comparison Using FC, iSCSI, and NFS
  • TR-3856 – Quantifying the Value of Running VMware on NetApp
  • TR-3866 – ITaaS Solution Guide VMware vCloud Director and NetApp Unified Storage
  • TR-3880 – CLI Configuration Processes for NetApp and VMware vSphere Storage Arrays Running Data ONTAP and ESX/ESXi Server
  • TR-3886 – Understanding and Using vStorage APIs for Array Integration and NetApp Storage
  • TR-3916 – VMware vSphere 4.1 Storage Performance: Measuring FCoE, FC, iSCSI, and NFS Protocols
  • TR-3949 – NetApp and VMware View 5000 Seat Performance Report
  • TR-4064 – Deploying VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager 5 with NetApp FAS/V-Series Storage Systems
  • TR-4107 – FlexPod Express with VMware vSphere Implementation Guide
  • TR-4128 – vSphere 5 on NetApp MetroCluster Solution
  • TR-4181 – VMware Horizon View 5 Solutions Guide
  • TR-4203 – VMware vCloud Director on NetApp Clustered Data ONTAP Deployment Guide
  • TR-4217 – Automating and Orchestrating the Software Defined Data Center with NetApp and VMware to Build Your Cloud

Hopefully this provides a good starting point for information about NetApp’s integration with VMware. Questions and comments are always welcome below. If you have any suggestions for, or need help with, NetApp/VMware integration and solutions, please let me know as well!

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