Network Storage Protocols Discussions

Flex Clones vs. Linked Clones


In competitive situations we are finding that other storage vendors are claiming that they can provide identical functionality and performance to Flex Clones by leveraging VMwares Linked Clones.

In practice how do the 2 weigh up against eachother? How does NetApp stay competitive against this? Does A-SIS have any knock on effect to this?


Re: Flex Clones vs. Linked Clones



There are really two parts to this question.   First there is the situation where competitors are blurring the lines between what is a VMware feature and what is a feature of their storage array.   I always make it a practice to clearly articulate this to customers and help them understand what is a VMware feature vs what is a feature that is native to the storage array.   I explain to them that if they see benefit in using cloning for a virtual infrastructure then lets discuss using that same cloning feature for other applications running in the enterprise outside of the virtual infrastructure.  This is usually where the competitor has a completely new product set to try and accomplish the same technology they were using vmware's innovation to mask.   Our feature set remains the same,  it's FlexClone.

I have recently had the opportunity to present at NetApp's Dynamic Data Center series presenting jointly with Cisco and VMware. Virtual Desktops and Cloning are a popular conversation in both the NetApp and VMware presentations.   Choosing FlexClones or Linked Clones with VDI or the virtual infrastructure in general is not a competitive choice between NetApp and VMware.   Different customer situations and requirements dictate which feature is best for their environment.  In a recent storage protocol post, within the Ask the Expert series, it was stated that our Rapid Cloning Utility 2.0,  soon to be released, will initially support NFS.   A customer's situation may dictate they use a storage protocol other than NFS for clones. Doing so might lead them to use linked clones.  This is absolutely fine with NetApp as we can leverage other features to increase the customers storage efficiency with Snapshots and De-duplication.

If I am in a situation where a customer is truly appreciating the benefits of cloning yet they are simply deciding which cloning technology to use with virtualization, the technology concept has already won.   What I mean by that is few customers choose to purchase an enterprise storage array to support one technology, in this case virtualization.   There are other workloads in the environment that must be supported like Oracle, Exchange and Sharepoint.   These applications can also benefit from clones.   Customers who see the benefit from using clones in a virtual desktop can also realize similar benefits in using cloning technology in server based applications.   NetApp's broad portfolio of SnapManager products and tight integration between FlexClones and the application affords a customer the ability to improve storage efficiency beyond virtual machine clones.

In summary:  NetApp's differentiator is that we can leverage clones throughout our storage array across protocols and throughout many enterprise applications.  A customer who chooses linked clones can experience similar benefits by using FlexClones on the server applications running in their environment.   Our goal is to create products and features which enable a feature set, ubiquitously throughout the enterprise.  Partner technologies like linked clones with VMware are not viewed as competitive.  They help us with our message.


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Re: Flex Clones vs. Linked Clones


Re: Flex Clones vs. Linked Clones


Hi Chris,

Thats a great question. I blogged about this same topic a few days back here.

Taking a deeper look at VMware View Manager 3.0, there are seven ways in which virtual desktops can be provisioned and managed.

1.       Individual desktops in non-persistent access mode

2.       Manual desktop pool in persistent access mode

3.       Manual desktop pool in non-persistent access mode

4.       Automated desktop pool, leveraging VMware full clones, in persistent access mode

5.       Automated desktop pool, leveraging VMware full clones, in non-persistent access mode

6.       Automated desktop pool, leveraging VMware linked clones, in persistent access mode

7.       Automated desktop pool, leveraging VMware linked clones, in non-persistent access mode

Most businesses have a mix of user profiles (e.g. Finance, HR, Engineering, Help Desk, Call Centers, Teleworkers, Data Entry operators etc.) and each use case may require one or more of these seven ways in which the virtual desktops can be provisioned and managed. E.g. a set A of users may require virtual desktop customization (installed applications and/or user data on the C drive to be retained after reboot) and login to the same VM every day, a set B of users may require logging into same VM every day but are ok loosing any customization done to the virtual desktop when the VM has to be patched.

Based on the customer requirements and mix of user profiles, one may choose to implement one of these models or a specific mix. For example, the customer requirements may dictate that they need the following mix of desktop types:

  • 10% individual desktops (e.g. kiosks, part time workers)
  • 40% manual desktop pool in persistent access mode (e.g. management staff, human resources, analysts, R&D)
  • 20% automated desktop pool, utilizing VMware full clones in persistent access mode (e.g. software developers)
  • 30% automated desktop pool, utilizing VMware linked clones in non-persistent access mode (e.g. help desk representatives)

Have your customers decide on what what mix of desktop types they want to deploy in their environment.

Please go through the part 2, 3, 4 of the blog series (which I provided at the top) to get a detailed understanding of what value the joint NetApp/VMware solution provides for each of the seven ways in which virtual desktops can be deployed and managed. You will understand how FlexClone and Linked Clones work together to provide new levels of architecture flexibility for all the seven virtual desktop types.

I hope this helps.



Re: Flex Clones vs. Linked Clones


Thanks guys! Really appreciate the detail. Often I get wrapped up in competing against tools that have the same functionality, I forget that we can embrace these tools.

Cheers for the details, will be useful for future sizing too.

Re: Flex Clones vs. Linked Clones


One last thing, both FlexClones and Linked Clones provide scalability in terms of solution logical architectures. You have to manage very few storage objects with 100s of VMs per datastore as compared to some solutions where you require one datastore per VM.

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