Developer Network Articles and Resources

Building and Customizing NetApp Simulators


Think of this as a quick install guide.  It will not go into configuring or using the hypervisor, or how to complete the NetApp setup script.  Instead it will focus on the steps that are important to building/customizing the simulator itself.  For everything else,  see the Simulate ONTAP 8.2.1 Installation and Setup Guide, which covers the simulator basics as well as detailed instructions for loading it into inventory on the various supported hypervisors, and how to complete the setup scripts to configure Data ONTAP.


This procedure will get one or more NetApp simulators (vSims) up and running quickly, in either 7mode or cluster mode.  Both the serial number and simdisk inventory can be customized as part of this process.  This guide is written specifically for 8.2.1 but should work on older releases as well.  With recent versions of the simulator, simulated disk capacities approaching 220gb can be configured with minimal effort.  Larger capacities are possible, but outside the scope of this guide.


Before you begin, you should have the following:

  • A supported VMware hypervisor (ESXi, VMWare Workstation, VMware Fusion, or VMware player)
  • A copy of the NetApp simulator for your chosen hypervisor
  • The corresponding simulator license files


There are 3 choices to make when building a vsim. The best time to make these choices is before you boot the sim for the first time.

  • Boot mode: 7 mode or cluster mode
  • Serial Number: which serial number to use
  • Simdisk Inventory: which sizes & quantities of simulated disks to use


Here is the procedure:

  1. Extract the vSim files.
  2. Open the vmx file (fusion, player, or workstation) or upload the files to ESX and add the vmx to the inventory.
  3. Open the vmware console for the vSim VM.
  4. Power on the VM and press space during boot to stop at the VLOADER> prompt. 
    IMPORTANT: Do not miss the first boot.  If you do, start over at step 1 with clean files.  Otherwise changing the serial number and simdisk inventory will not work.

  5. Pick a Boot Mode - 7mode or cluster mode

    If this will be a 7 mode simulator, enter these commands at the VLOADER> prompt:
    setenv bootarg.init.boot_clustered false

    if this will be a cluster mode simulator, enter these commands:

    setenv bootarg.init.boot_clustered true

    setenv bootarg.bsdportname e0c

  6. Pick a serial number.  

    If you only plan to run 1 instance of the simulator, skip this step.

    Pick one of the following serial numbers and enter the corresponding commands at the VLOADER prompt:

    #Serial Number 4082368507

    setenv SYS_SERIAL_NO 4082368507 

    setenv bootarg.nvram.sysid 4082368507

    #Serial Number 4082368508

    setenv SYS_SERIAL_NO 4082368508

    setenv bootarg.nvram.sysid 4082368508


    This is not an exhaustive list.  The licenses are locked to the serial number, not the boot mode.  The feature keys from the cluster mode sheet will work in 7mode, and 7mode feature keys will work in cluster mode.  There are plenty of serial numbers and key sets to choose from.  For current valid choices, see the Simulator license files published on the simulator download page. 

  7. Pick a simdisk inventory.  

    If you want to use the default disk inventory, skip this step.

    Pick a simdisk inventory and enter the corresponding setenv commands at the VLOADER> prompt.

    The default simdisk inventory is 28x1gb 15k:

    setenv bootarg.vm.sim.vdevinit “23:14:0,23:14:1”

    setenv bootarg.sim.vdevinit “23:14:0,23:14:1”

    This inventory enables the simulation of multiple disk tiers and/or flash pools:  (28x1gb 15k+14x2gb 7.2k+14x100mb SSD)
    setenv bootarg.vm.sim.vdevinit “23:14:0,23:14:1,32:14:2,34:14:3”
    setenv bootarg.sim.vdevinit “23:14:0,23:14:1,32:14:2,34:14:3”

    This one maximizes the usable capacity of the DataONTAP-sim.vmdk
:  (54x4gb 15k)

    setenv bootarg.vm.sim.vdevinit “31:14:0,31:14:1,31:14:2,31:12:3”

    setenv bootarg.sim.vdevinit “31:14:0,31:14:1,31:14:2,31:12:3”


    The simdisks are created at first boot according to two bootargs:



    In a default vsim, they are set to “23:14:0,23:14:1”, which is equivalent to running the following in the systemshell:

    vsim_makedisks -t 23 -n 14 -a 0

    vsim_makedisks -t 23 -n 14 -a 1

    Custom disk inventories can be constructed by adjusting the type and number of simdisks on each of the 4 adapters.
    For a complete list of disk types, run vsim_makedisks -h from the systemshell.
  8. type boot
  9. Press CTRL-C when prompted to enter the boot menu
  10. Use option 4 to initialize the disks and install Data ONTAP.
    To control which disks the root aggregate is created on, use option 5 to enter maintenance mode and disk assign the desired disks before running option 4.
  11. Complete the setup script as prompted
  12. Install the licenses that correspond to the serial number you picked in step 6.  See the license files on the simulator download page.



  • Do not clone an existing sim once it has been powered on, start over with clean files. 
  • Give each vSim a different serial number.

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Thank you sir, I've never seen this process.  I will give it a try and let you know how it works.


The only thing I'd add is that if your'e going to deply this in ESXi or Workstation you should give the Vmware vCenter Standalone converter tool as it will allow you to thin provision, add addional IP interfaces and change CPU/Mem. Handy little tool.


Epic post btw...


I like OVFTool for that as well. Needs a few --extraconfig parameters but once you have a good ovf it's easy to spin up a bunch of sims, they aren't as target platform dependent, and they deploy a lot faster. 


Thanks btw. 


Would you mind sharing what the --extraconfig parameters are?


Sure.  Here are the ones you need:



This one is optional, but makes the sim aware of the host its running on:



I also use --SkipManifestGeneration because powercli and ovftool disagree over the particulars of the manifest format.




What is the benefit of making the simulator aware of the host it's running on?


There is a way to give ontap credentials to its host, which enables sysconfig to give you information on the physical host its running under.  More useful in the VSA, but ontap is ontap so it also works in the sim.



Hey, do you know if we are able to create a duel cluster setup using the simulators and/or can we have more than 2 nodes in the cluster?


Sure.  You can make another cluster using the same cluster base key, or you can add additional nodes to one cluster by using unique node serial numbers & sysids as long as you are running 8.2 or later. The 8.1 cluster mode license keys were limited to 2 nodes.




Should have posted my question sooner.... the next search i did i found the keys i was looking for!!  Thanks!


I was looking for license keys for the following serial in case anyone else needs them.  The keys on the simulator site did not match the serial in the post.


4082368508 (Non-esx 8.2.1 version default)

Just as Sean posted.....

Thank you Sean!!




For anyone else who goes looking, those are in the 7mode license file for 8.2.1 and later.






This is a very useful and working solution to expand the SIM storage.

Thank you!


Best regards,




Hello @shatfield , is there an updated version of this for 9.9.1? Docs don't indicate vCenter is supported but I'm giving it a shot as I'd prefer to use our vCenter environment if possible. After deploying the OVA and booting, I get the following errors:

Illegal instruction

Unexpected mlogd termination:

=mlogd starting at <date>

=mlogd exited at <date>

ERROR: Please communicate the above information to support.


This is following by repeats of these messages:


Illegal instruction

server/db/sqlite3/00x_create.sql: Failed to create dir 'server'

cd /cfcard/kmip/server: no such file or directory


Then it repeats trying to start_managed_app for ktlsd over and over, never succeeding. I never get to the point where I can punch a key to go to the boot menu. Any ideas?


The CPU architecture requirements changed in ONTAP 9.9.1.  Starting from ONTAP version 9.9.1, CPU models earlier than Sandy Bridge are not supported.  I've seen a VERY similar set of errors with ONTAP Select when attempting to start a node on older CPU architectures in ESXi.  



Thank you very much @JohnChampion ! I am not as well-versed in the CPU models within vCenter as I should be. I will do some digging on how to change the CPU model to one that's later than Sandy Bridge. Any suggestions or additional thoughts?


If anywhere - it'd be the VMware EVC mode - a vSphere cluster configuration setting.  This is usually used when you have ESXi hosts with different CPU architectures - applying the lowest common CPU arch between them.  If you have mixed ESXi hosts this might be set.  You cannot however select a CPU arch newer than what the host(s) can support.


@JohnChampion thank you for the tip! I was able to right click and choose Compatibility / Upgrade VM Compatibility to get past this issue! Thank you very much. It is at least booting now. Still have some more issues to work out but at least I've gotten past a big one!


For some reason, this thread won't let me "Mark as Answered", not sure why. I was going to mark your Saturday reply as the answer.


I think that's because the original post is already marked as answered and the remaining are additional comments to the post.