Tech ONTAP Blogs

NetApp and VMware – Better than ever




As a nod to Independence Day in the United States, let’s take a look at the freedoms realized when customers invest in solutions powered by NetApp and VMware – a partnership that is better than ever. We all know customers are on their own journey and many choose to adopt software releases as major updates are delivered. That time is now with the latest version of vSphere and ONTAP.


When you partner with NetApp and VMware you get the freedom to choose your management methodology, platform, scale, and storage.



When talking about management and automation, it comes down to what can be done out of the box, with plug-ins and product integrations and through customization. With VMware and NetApp, we get excited talking about these components: 


  • BlueXP 
  • ONTAP Tools for VMware (OTV)


BlueXP is a SaaS delivered, unified control plane for the management of your storage and data. BlueXP brings together many capabilities for storing and protecting your data across your environments, whether on-premises, in the cloud or some combination.


Some of the common tasks that BlueXP allows for with your ONTAP-based storage include:


  • Provision and operate cloud-native offerings for VMware to use, via NFS datastores or guest-connected storage.
  • Provision and manage Cloud Volumes ONTAP for guest-connected storage.
  • Discover and manage on-premises ONTAP clusters running VMware workloads.
  • Build replication relationships; helping you to move VMware datastores, VMs and shared applications.
  • Build data-protection strategies.

Learn more about BlueXP and VMware solutions.



You may remember, VMware deprecated the use of local plug-ins in previous releases requiring storage vendors to move to a remote plug-in architecture. Around this time, NetApp moved our 3 core VMware integrations into ONTAP Tools for VMware. They include:


  • Virtual Storage Console
  • Storage Replication Adapter
  • VASA Provider

With OTV, customers can accomplish end-to-end lifecycle management of their virtual machines in VMware environments using NetApp storage.


Learn more about ONTAP Tools for VMware.



ONTAP includes an expansive REST API that sets the foundation for automating the deployment, provisioning, and monitoring of your storage systems. Additional capabilities are added with every ONTAP release, ensuring that as new features are made available, you can take advantage of the corresponding automation.


As you build an environment with VMware and NetApp, the available REST APIs help you scale your environment using common structures administrators are familiar with.


Learn more about ONTAP automation with the product documentation.



ONTAP implementations run on a variety of platforms including NetApp-engineered appliances, commodity hardware and the public cloud. ONTAP offers unified storage whether you access over SAN or NAS protocols and in configurations ranging from high-speed flash to lower-cost media to cloud-based storage.


Far from a legacy option, ONTAP is the only modern, cloud-connected data storage available for your VMware environment. Whether you require guest-connected storage or native datastores,  we have guidance to help you accomplish your VMware vSphere and ONTAP goals.  Simply put, if you need an on-premises or cloud-based solution with VMware, NetApp has you covered.



Customers have been familiar with our Fabric-Attached-Storage (FAS) and All-Flash FAS (AFF) platforms with ONTAP for many years now. Innovation has continued from the first launch of the AFF platform, around the ONTAP 8.3 timeframe, to today with ONTAP 9.13.1. Continuously updated, NetApp appliances are all new for 2023. Let’s talk about 2 platforms targeted for specific use cases, the AFF C-Series and ASA A-Series.  


Like all AFF platforms, the AFF C-Series is a unified storage system capable of serving SAN and NAS protocols. This offering uses QLC NAND flash storage and helps customers lower their VMware costs when they do not have the most intensive performance requirements while still getting the ONTAP features they love. 


Meanwhile, the ASA A-Series provides simple, dedicated SAN storage for the most demanding workloads, databases, and VMware virtual infrastructure. As internal policies sometimes dictate separating SAN and NAS workloads, the ASA A-Series is just the answer for those customers in a block optimized system.


Rounding out our on-premises portfolio are the remaining offerings within the AFF line, FAS and ONTAP Select. Furthermore, we have introduced ONTAP One, our new easy to consume licensing model for AFF, ASA, and FAS systems. ONTAP One provides you access to all the core functionality of our storage systems including replication software, the ability to backup to the cloud and protect your workloads.



If you thought we have been busy on-premises, let’s review our integrations with VMware in the public cloud. For many organizations, the quickest path to cloud adoption is with VMware through the hyperscalers with VMware Cloud on AWS, Azure VMware Solution and Google Cloud VMware Engine.


Over the past year we have announced external NFS datastore integration, with the respective clouds, by way of Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP, Azure NetApp Files and Cloud Volume Service on Google.  We have built solutionson these topics to augment the detailed configuration details provided by the cloud providers and VMware:


NetApp is the only storage partner to offer so many options. Given our long-standing support for guest connected storage, including Cloud Volumes ONTAP (CVO), you can see we are excited to help customers, on any cloud.



The use of tightly coupled compute and storage within a hypervisor isn’t a new concept. For many customers these hyperconverged solutions provide decent value while satisfying their requirements. However, by decoupling storage from compute, you can scale resources independently – buying what you need when you need it where you need it. You are not bound by limits of any one part of the architecture.


Naturally, NetApp delivers on-premises but also in public cloud. Let’s talk about how FlexPod can serve as a foundation of your on-premises VMware environment while external NFS datastores can satisfy your needs in the public cloud with VMware.



FlexPod is an integrated and validated architecture; designed by NetApp and Cisco. This architecture combines Cisco UCS servers, Nexus networking and NetApp storage into a single platform that is the perfect foundation for a virtualized infrastructure running VMware. By choosing the compute, network and storage type that best suit your needs, you can scale the architecture as demands change and can avoid being over-provisioned in any one layer.


Learn more about FlexPod.



Much as FlexPod allows you to choose the best storage to compliment your compute needs, the previously mentioned external NFS datastore integration can help you achieve the same in the cloud. By decoupling your storage from your compute, we can decrease TCO of running VMware in the public clouds.


Review our TCO calculators to learn more:



VMware has long offered great flexibility to customers as they choose how hosts and VMs access data. Similarly, ONTAP supports all the major storage protocols used for VMware in production. Customers make storage decisions based on availability requirements, performance needs, cost considerations and the skills of their people. Customers are free to pick what works best for their needs, even combining protocols on a single ONTAP system, as supported.

In addition to the typical feature enhancements and bug fixes with each release, we are excited to talk about a few of the areas of recent engineering development with the latest versions of ONTAP and vSphere. These efforts have centered around NVMe, VMware virtual volumes (vVols), and NFS connection improvements.



NVMe is a storage access and transport protocol for flash and next-generation solid-state drives (SSDs) that delivers high throughput and fast response times. Several years ago, NetApp was the first major vendor to release end-to-end NVMe for our primary storage appliances and we have continued to innovate and invest in this area. With vSphere 8.0U1, VMware completed their own journey to provide an end-to-end NVMe storage stack.


What is exciting in this area is the development of NVMe / TCP as it combines the benefits of NVMe-FC with the pervasiveness of Ethernet and TCP. Now with NetApp and VMware, customers can achieve the benefits of NVMe, but over Ethernet. The configuration flow is very similar to another familiar block protocol – iSCSI.


Take a look at how easy it is to configure NVMe for VMFS datastores with vSphere 8U1 and ONTAP 9.13.1.




As previously mentioned, the NetApp VASA provider runs in the ONTAP Tools for VMware appliance. Now customers have all their most important VMware integrations in one place. The use of vVols results in true storage policy-based management (SPBM) helping achieve more granular VM control.


Learn more about the latest with vVols and NetApp ONTAP in TR-4400.


NFS connection improvements

With vSphere 8U1, VMware increased the maximum number of NFSv3 connections that can be configured per NFS datastore. In previous releases, the limit was 1 per host and with this release, VMware has increased this to up to 8 connections to an NFSv3 datastore on a given ESXi host.  


This new capability is based on the familiar Linux feature of nConnect and has been supported by default since ONTAP 9.8. From the storage side, a single TCP connection can become a bottleneck as performance demands increase. However, with an nConnect-enabled host, like vSphere 8U1, multiple TCP connections can be associated with a single NFS mount. This single software feature, enabled on the storage and on the client side, can greatly increase performance.


VMware has offered preliminary support for this new feature in vSphere 8U1, laying the foundation for future functionality.


Review how to configure the nConnect feature in the ESXi NFS client.



We hope this gives you an overview of many of the technical and business reasons for choosing a VMware based design, powered by ONTAP. The freedoms realized when you partner with VMware and NetApp really can’t be matched and we hope you agree.