Tech OnTap Articles

NetApp OnCommand: An Integrated Approach to Storage Management

NetApp has a long history of innovation with management tools that deliver power and flexibility while simplifying complex operations. Tech OnTap® has previously featured many articles on tools such as NetApp Operations ManagerProtection Manager, SANscreen®, and Virtual Storage Console (VSC).  Each of these tools was designed to address a particular aspect of managing storage.

With the move to advanced virtualization and cloud deployment, however, we see a need for additional enhancements to our management approach, including:

  • Greater integration

  • Ability to serve the needs of diverse users, including storage, application, and virtual server admins and cloud tenants

In many cases, roles and responsibilities within IT teams are changing to adapt to new ways of operating, and requiring broader integration and the ability to access storage management functions through a variety of interfaces.

This is why we continue to innovate in the area of storage management. NetApp is making all its tools for automating, analyzing, and controlling management functions part of its OnCommand™ Management Portfolio. This suite of tools is designed to be accessible through familiar interfaces and encompasses all aspects of management.

Figure 1) The NetApp OnCommand Management Portfolio showing how the old product names map to the new names.

This article discusses the NetApp approach to management, covers the details of the newly released OnCommand 5.0 Unified Manager that integrates the capabilities of five NetApp® tools, and explains how you can create Storage Service Catalogs and integrate them into your advanced virtualization or cloud environment.

A companion article in this issue of Tech OnTap discusses four management elements that are necessary for cloud success.

An Integrated Approach to Management

The NetApp goal is to integrate and simplify the entire management experience while serving the needs of diverse users. We achieve this with:

  • A unified policy infrastructure

  • Uniform management across physical and virtual workloads

  • A single configuration repository for reporting and event and audit logs

  • Flexible UI choices

We're working to make advanced NetApp features accessible not only through native tools but also through partner plug-ins, and programmatically via our management APIs. VSC, which allows VMware administrators to access NetApp management functions from VMware® vCenter™, was one of the first steps down this path.

The same set of APIs that were used to create NetApp native tools is available to anyone who wants to develop tools that leverage NetApp features. Partners use the NetApp OnCommand SDK to develop integrated tools that incorporate the capabilities of the NetApp Storage Service Catalog into broader cloud management.

A New, Integrated Tool

As part of the OnCommand family, NetApp released a new management tool—the OnCommand 5.0 Unified Manager—that integrates the capabilities of five existing tools:

  • NetApp Operations Manager

  • Protection Manager

  • Provisioning Manager

  • VSC

  • SnapManager® for Hyper-V™

OnCommand 5.0 is a unified platform designed to let you create or modify policies and apply those policies to specific physical (for example, aggregates, volumes, LUNs) and virtual (VMs, datastores) storage objects. It centralizes provisioning, cloning, backup/recovery, and DR policies. Integrating all these capabilities makes it possible to perform many management functions from a single tool. OnCommand 5.0 is included as part of Data ONTAP® Essentials, which ships with every new storage system at no additional charge.

Key Concepts

NetApp OnCommand 5.0 is built around three key concepts that simplify automation and make it possible to initiate broad changes with just a few clicks:

  • Datasets. A dataset is a collection of data objects (such as volumes or LUNs) with similar management requirements.

  • Policies. A policy is a set of rules to automate management procedures and/or schedules.

  • Resource pools. A resource pool is a group of storage resources used during provisioning, backup, and other tasks.

OnCommand removes the need to manage storage systems individually and allows the same number of administrators to effectively manage more data. For instance, if you want to provide a tier of service that offers data replication to a secondary site, you define a dataset containing the volumes or LUNs you want to be replicated and apply a replication policy. To give the same protection to new volumes, you only have to add them to the dataset.

The back end has been integrated into a single configuration repository for reporting and event and audit logs.

Role-Based Access Control

Ideally, you would like each person operating on your storage to be able to carry out the specific tasks he or she needs to perform without giving everyone broad access. OnCommand 5.0 uses role-based access control (RBAC) and delegated management to allow you to grant the ability to perform particular tasks on a particular set of assets to particular people. For instance, a backup operator might be able to kick off jobs in the local data center, but not define or change what those jobs consist of or perform any other tasks for which he or she is not authorized. This provides protection from both mistakes and malfeasance. It also makes it possible to delegate particular, well-defined tasks to application or server admins so that they can perform limited storage tasks without always involving a storage admin.

Roles are assigned to users or groups based on defined responsibilities. Each role is defined by access to specific features and resources that align with particular jobs, such as storage architect, backup administrator, and virtual server administrator.

New Features

In the past, each NetApp management tool provided capabilities targeted at a specific function.  However, in dynamic virtual environments, all administrators need to have cross-domain visibility. OnCommand is designed for use by all administrators responsible for managing NetApp storage in physical and virtual environments.

OnCommand has two downloadable components:

  • OnCommand Core, which encompasses the functions of Operations Manager, Protection Manager, and Provisioning Manager

  • OnCommand Host, which incorporates the functions of VSC and SMHV

OnCommand Host includes several new capabilities, such as policy-based local and remote backup and restore with fully integrated SnapMirror® and SnapVault® support.

OnCommand Core also includes several important new features:

  • New user interface

  • Server virtualization awareness

  • Improvements for DataMotion™ for vFiler®

  • Flexible naming for Snapshot™ copies and volumes

New graphical user interface (GUI). OnCommand 5.0 includes a completely redesigned interface that provides visibility across your environment by continuously monitoring and analyzing its health. You get a view of what is deployed and how it is being utilized, enabling you to improve capacity utilization and increase administrator productivity and efficiency. The new interface is designed to be easy to navigate based on common user workflows.

A high-level dashboard has multiple panels to provide cumulative information about various aspects of your environment:

  • Availability panel. Storage controllers and vFiler units discovered and monitored by OnCommand including those in a down state

  • Events panel. The top five events based on severity for all storage and server objects

  • Full Soon Storage panel. Aggregates and volumes reaching capacity thresholds

  • Fastest Growing Storage panel. Aggregates and volumes for which space usage is increasing rapidly; also displays growth rate and trend for a specific aggregate or volume

  • Dataset Overall Status panel. Overall status of the environment

  • Resource Pools panel. Resource pools facing potential space shortages based on current usage levels

  • External Relationship Lags panel. Relative percentages of external SnapVault, qtree SnapMirror, and volume SnapMirror relationships with lag times in error, warning, and normal status

  • Unprotected Data panel. Number of unprotected storage and virtual server objects being monitored

Figure 2) The NetApp OnCommand 5.0 dashboard.

You can drill down from the dashboard panels for more complete information. You can also configure custom views for your specific needs using filters for metrics that include availability, performance, and capacity.

Virtualization awareness. OnCommand 5.0 has been enhanced to provide an end-to-end view of both VMware and Hyper-V virtual server environments. The tool is able to map virtual objects such as VMs and datastores to physical objects such as volumes and LUNs. This lets you quickly see which VMs are using a particular storage system, check the health of a storage system being used by particular VMs, and identify VMs that aren’t being backed up. This intuitive physical-to-virtual relationship mapping allows your IT team to understand the implications of any operation they execute on storage used in a virtual environment. Alerts are automatically generated when policies are violated or critical thresholds are exceeded to help you keep your storage environment running smoothly.

OnCommand provides policy-based local and remote data protection for VMware and Hyper-V environments, greatly simplifying backup, recovery, and replication operations involving virtual machines.

Improvements for DataMotion for vFiler. NetApp DataMotion for vFiler allows you to move MultiStore® vFiler units and all associated data between storage systems in multi-tenant environments. Support for DataMotion for vFiler in OnCommand 5.0 has been enhanced to simplify migration between different types of NetApp storage systems and different classes of disk without disruption. You can now initiate data movement from faster to slower platforms (for example, from FAS6200 series to FAS3200 series) or from faster to slower disk types (for example, from FC to SATA). DataMotion prechecks have also been enhanced to detect and replicate FlexClone® hierarchies on the destination storage system after migration without data inflation to preserve storage efficiency. (The use of FlexClone in combination with SnapMirror for replication is discussed in more detail in a previous Tech OnTap article.)

DataMotion for vFiler capabilities are only supported with Data ONTAP 8.0.1 operating in 7-Mode.

Flexible naming. In the past, NetApp management tools have had somewhat limited flexibility when it comes to naming volumes and Snapshot copies, and this has created conflicts and confusion at sites with preexisting naming conventions. These limitations have now been relaxed and conventions have been made uniform between different functions so that you can:

  • More easily locate Snapshot copies, volumes, and qtrees for quicker file restore.

  • Identify the priority, business unit, administrator, backup time, and so on for specific physical and logical containers.

  • Use your current naming conventions and not have volumes, qtrees, or Snapshot copies get renamed on secondary storage after backup or replication.

  • Refer to the most recent Snapshot copy during tape backup.

Creating and Managing a Storage Service Catalog

Traditional storage provisioning requires users to manually select from a variety of storage options and set up new data protection and replication policies every time a new application is deployed. The NetApp Storage Service Catalog makes it possible to predefine standard choices to streamline the process by allowing you to encapsulate the selection of physical storage systems, disk types, storage efficiency capabilities, backups, remote replication, and other features into a portfolio of service offerings.

The Storage Service Catalog, a component of OnCommand 5.0, is a critical part of service automation. It lets you integrate storage provisioning policies, data protection policies, and storage resource pools into a single service offering that your administrators can choose when provisioning storage. This not only automates much of the provisioning process but also automates a variety of storage management tasks associated with the policies assigned to each service offering in the catalog.

The Service Catalog provides a layer of abstraction between the storage consumer and the details of the storage configuration, in effect creating “storage as a service.” The service levels defined with the Storage Service Catalog automatically specify and map policies to the attributes of your pooled storage infrastructure. This higher level of abstraction between service levels and physical storage lets you eliminate complex, manual work.

Most vendors map SLAs directly to physical storage. Gold service equals storage system type A, Silver service equals storage system type B, and so on. The OnCommand Service Catalog provides a greater level of abstraction by mapping SLAs to specific services. Those services are then in turn flexibly mapped to the underlying physical resources automatically.

Typical levels such as Gold, Silver, and Bronze are created with specific attributes fully defined regarding storage hardware efficiency (thin provisioning, deduplication, compression), performance (disk type, aggregate size, caching attributes), availability (RAID level), protection (backup schedule, frequency, and so on), and disaster recovery. When you provision a new volume or LUN with that service level, it automatically inherits the correct settings for all those attributes. Storage is consistently configured with your preferred settings and the chance for configuration errors is eliminated.

Figure 3) How the NetApp OnCommand 5.0 Storage Service Catalog works.

A final step in the evolution of your storage services is the integration of the Storage Service Catalog you create with OnCommand 5.0 into the end-user portal of a private cloud. This can be accomplished using plug-ins that have already been developed by select cloud orchestration partners or by using the OnCommand APIs directly to integrate your Storage Service Catalog into your portal. You can read more about Storage Service Catalogs and other aspects of cloud deployment in a companion article in this issue of Tech OnTap.

Learning More

NetApp is committed to simplify the management experience by providing access to advanced NetApp storage features through native interfaces, partner integration, and the OnCommand SDK for custom development. Implementing OnCommand 5.0 and the OnCommand Management Portfolio is the next step in the evolution of storage management.

To learn more about NetApp OnCommand go to

Cindy Cui
Senior Manager, MEI Service Automation Product Management

Cindy has been at NetApp for nine years and has been responsible for various products, including SnapVault and Open Systems SnapVault. She joined the Manageability Business Unit five years ago. After initially focusing on data protection management, Cindy is now responsible for service automation. She led the product management effort for OnCommand 5.0.

Lisa Haut-Mikkelsen
Senior Product Manager, MEI VMware Manageability

Lisa has worked at NetApp for seven years. She has many years of experience in the storage industry, including in previous positions at IBM, Veritas, Rhapsody Networks, and Brocade. Lisa started her career as a software engineer, but her love of technology led her to product management.


The NetApp Community is a public and open website that is indexed by search engines such as Google. Participation in the NetApp Community is voluntary. All content posted on the NetApp Community is publicly viewable and available.

In accordance with our Code of Conduct and Community Terms of Use, DO NOT post or attach the following:

  • Software files (compressed or uncompressed)
  • Files that require an End User License Agreement (EULA)
  • Confidential information
  • Personal data you do not want publicly available
  • Another’s personally identifiable information (PII)
  • Copyrighted materials without the permission of the copyright owner

Files and content that do not abide by the Community Terms of Use or Code of Conduct will be removed. Continued non-compliance may result in NetApp Community account restrictions or termination.


Article states OnCommand integrates SMHV?  I've searched the NetApp site and have found no host agent for Hyper-V nor any integration of Hyper-V into OnCommand.  Plenty of agents and integration with VMWare, but aside from SMHV, I see no other product or management within OnCommand for Hyper-V.  When the OnCommand Host is installed, there is configuration for VCenter, but nothing for Hyper-V.  OnCommand console shows VMWare servers, VMs, datastores, etc and allows for backups and management; there there is no information on Hyper-V.  Please let me know what I am missing...

Also, VSC is still a standalone product independent of OnCommand.  What is the recommended product for protecting a VMWare environment, VSC or OnCommand?  

All Community Forums