The Four Fundamental Cloud Elements.

by summersj Netapp Alumni on ‎2011-06-22 11:59 AM

With its recent cloud launch, NetApp is focusing its efforts on helping you accelerate cloud deployment. NetApp has helped many industry-leading firms use our storage solutions as the foundation for their private, public, and hybrid clouds. Based on our experience, we’ve identified the following four fundamental elements that organizations should include as they make the transition from a virtualized, shared IT infrastructure to a private cloud.

Table 1) The four fundamental elements of a private cloud.

Service catalogDefine your services with well-defined policies that automatically map service levels to storage attributes.
Service analyticsOptimize your services with centralized monitoring, metering, and chargeback to enhance visibility and both cost and SLA management.
AutomationRapidly deploy your services by integrating and automating provisioning, protection, and operational processes.
Self-serviceEmpower IT and your end users by enabling service requests to be fulfilled through a self-service portal.

These elements are described in detail in a recent series of white papers (see sidebar).  These papers explore the NetApp® management software that enables policy-driven service efficiency as well as many advanced storage efficiency capabilities. They also describe how NetApp APIs integrate with third-party or customized orchestration solutions, enabling you to deliver comprehensive storage management as part of your service-fulfillment capabilities.

A separate article in this issue of Tech OnTap® describes the NetApp OnCommand Management portfolio, and focuses on the OnCommand 5.0 Unified Manager. NetApp OnCommand management capabilities are a core component of cloud deployments on NetApp.

This article provides an overview of each of the four elements. Keep in mind that there is some overlap between different elements. For instance, you can design and deploy a storage catalog without automation, or deploy and automate at the same time.

Service Catalogs

Service catalogs bring together all of your IT infrastructure pieces (servers, networks, and storage) to help you rapidly deploy end-to-end business services. End users benefit from the simplicity delivered by abstraction; high-level service requests mask the low-level commands that perform the actual operations. Service catalogs enable you to implement standard offerings that simplify management and are an essential precursor to automation and self-service.

Defining a storage service catalog is an essential first step in delivering IT services. By adopting a service catalog approach with pools of resources aligned to defined SLAs you can:

  • Expedite service design and deployment with self-service automation.

  • Improve the quality and flexibility of IT services with automated storage provisioning.

  • Manage everything from the same console and tools.

  • Enable consistent, repeatable storage provisioning processes via cloud management solutions.

  • Leverage automation technologies that simultaneously provide both storage and service efficiency while eliminating the possibility of human error.

  • Standardize the utilization of storage infrastructures with repeatable provisioning and data protection policies.

There are a number of important design considerations when planning a storage service catalog:

  • How should the storage be provisioned? Important considerations include the type of disk, RAID level, access method (NAS or SAN), and whether or not a high-availability configuration is necessary.

  • How should the storage respond to outages? Recovery time objective and recovery point objective for each service level must be considered and clearly defined.

  • How should the storage be backed up? Frequency, backup location, and data retention are key considerations.

Table 2 shows an example of a typical storage service catalog.

Table 2) Example storage service levels in a storage service catalog.

Service LevelPerformanceDisaster RecoveryBackup
GoldHighYesMirror (every 10 min) + backup (30-day retention)
SilverMedium to highNoBackup (every 24 hours, 30-day retention)
BronzeBest effortNoLocal backup only

NetApp offers a number of technologies that enhance storage efficiencies, including virtualization and thin provisioning of volumes, deduplication of redundant data, and space-efficient Snapshot-based backup, cloning, and replication. Building these efficiencies into your storage service catalog will significantly improve the efficiency of your private cloud as a whole by including your desired settings every time storage is provisioned.

NetApp OnCommand  makes it simple for you to define and use a storage service catalog that integrates NetApp storage efficiency into your provisioning processes. As your infrastructure continues to evolve, you can integrate your storage service catalog into a third-party or in-house-developed self-service portal with the NetApp Management SDK and our open APIs.

Figure 1) Self-service storage catalogs expedite the delivery of cloud services.

Service Analytics

Once you begin to operate your IT environment based on defined services, understanding exactly what is happening with each service becomes critical. The ability to measure and analyze the entire environment end to end is necessary to deliver and improve on service-level agreements (SLAs) and to continue to improve efficiency and lower costs. Analytics goes beyond simple monitoring by enabling you to:

  • Determine service paths (all VMs, servers, network devices, and storage down to disk level) and check the redundancy of those paths.

  • Set policies on service paths for accessibility, performance, and availability.

  • Intelligently analyze data to adhere to policies and provide optimal use of resources.

  • More accurately plan for capacity.

  • Report to users (business units, departments, workgroups, and so on) on their actual usage.

Virtual server and storage services are primary components of the private cloud. Storage services play a very large role, not only for application data but also as boot devices and storage for virtualized environments. This results in additional complexity that encompasses far more than the usual application data use cases. The role of monitoring and analytics is to provide the ability to correlate across these different use cases. NetApp OnCommand products deliver this capability.

NetApp OnCommand Insight (formerly NetApp SANscreen® and Akorri® BalancePoint®) is the cornerstone of the NetApp approach to service analytics. Insight provides a holistic view of virtual and storage infrastructure as a unified set of services. This view is created using analysis, discovery, correlation, service paths, simulation, and root-cause analysis. NetApp OnCommand Insight products provide:

  • Key performance indicators. Some products simply provide a lot of data, but end users and cloud IT administrators really want guidance to help them make the right decisions. OnCommand provides the intelligence to guide management decisions for private cloud deployments.

  • Optimized support for multivendor environments. There are few true greenfield (those lacking prior constraints) deployments. Even in new data centers, companies typically leverage existing investments. To be effective, any solution must be able to monitor end to end across the assortment of multivendor technologies that make up the infrastructure stack. The solution also needs to interact with the different tools and databases that exist in the management ecosystem.

  • Analytics for virtual and physical infrastructure. Private clouds are deployed on a virtual infrastructure. However, certain applications might still need to be hosted on a physical infrastructure. IT needs to enable service levels across the entire infrastructure, both physical and virtual.

NetApp OnCommand Insight can address a number of common private cloud use cases and subtasks within these use cases.

Balance and optimize virtual machines (VMs) and storage workloads. OnCommand Insight can help you perform the following tasks to keep your cloud operating within desired parameters:

  • Analyze service health.

  • Predict and resolve performance issues before problems arise.

  • Identify and quickly correct bottlenecks.

  • Optimize storage tiering.

  • Choose the best resources for new deployments.

Figure 2) Analyzing load performance with OnCommand Insight can identify issues such as disk contention, performance patterns, congestion, and topology issues.

Provide storage service availability, impact, and configuration compliance. Compliance with internal governance and external regulations is a critical activity for many businesses. OnCommand Insight helps you to accomplish the following important tasks that can enhance your ability to achieve this:

  • Define policies for service path access, availability, and performance and determine they are met.

  • Set maximum and minimum thresholds so that cloud services operate at expected levels.

  • Create smart thresholds and alerts for thin provisioning.

  • Compare real-time service-path data with established policies and post alerts for violations.

  • Validate changes before, during, and after execution to minimize risk.

  • Create detailed task lists for changes.

  • Audit and log all changes.

Figure 3) A detailed task list for implementing a change can be created automatically with OnCommand Insight. Insight can also validate the change before, during, and after (not shown).

Accurately forecast capacity with trending. Making capital expenditures before they are necessary can impact both your capital and operational budgets. OnCommand Insight helps you buy what you need when you need it and also lets you:

  • Report on costs and improve cost awareness.

  • Enable showback.


Automation is a key component of cloud infrastructure, providing end users with almost immediate access to hardware resources. It also enables you to dynamically scale services in accordance with demand while eliminating the possibility of human error during the performance of routine tasks.

As you move from infrastructure optimization to service optimization, automation enables you to provide on-demand computing and storage resources to a variety of applications and users based on well-defined policies. Policy-based management not only reduces administrative overhead, but also helps establish predictable services and reduces wasted resources. A service-driven model also improves IT efficiencies in other ways. For example, if you’re able to associate the resources that users consume with services, it becomes easier for you to assign a cost to those services and make departments or business units accountable for using them. In a storage context, automation sets the stage for faster provisioning of storage and virtual machines, better data protection, and reduced management complexity.

NetApp’s integrated storage automation capabilities can help you execute large-scale provisioning, cloning, and backup processes in minutes. NetApp OnCommand facilitates a service-based architecture by capturing the key features and functionality of NetApp storage and associating them with services that can be delivered without complex scripts, spreadsheets, or other specialized understanding of NetApp technologies. The OnCommand provisioning and protection capabilities (formerly NetApp Provisioning Manager and NetApp Protection Manager, respectively) are most applicable and essential to service automation. These capabilities make it possible for NetApp to automate the NetApp storage service catalog described earlier. Important use cases made possible by NetApp OnCommand include:

  • Automated provisioning of shared storage with data protection. Storage can be automatically provisioned from the appropriate resource pool with your preferred settings for storage efficiency (thin provisioning, deduplication, and so on) already configured. Data protection policies can accommodate backup and/or replication of the newly provisioned storage using the schedules and retention period you defined.

  • Rapid provisioning of virtualized infrastructures. NetApp provides VM datastore provisioning and rapid VM cloning and redeployment services for VMware® environments. This rapid cloning capability is described in more detail in an earlier article on the NetApp Virtual Storage Console (VSC), a plug-in that makes NetApp management functions available from VMware vCenter.

  • Backup and recovery of virtualized infrastructures. Because a virtual server is primarily a set of files on storage, virtualized infrastructures are expanding the role of VI administrators, causing them to spend a greater amount of time on storage operations such as backup and restore. NetApp OnCommand provides integration of NetApp backup and recovery capabilities with both VMware and Microsoft® Hyper-V.  Integrated workflows automatically group virtual machines into datasets and apply standard backup and replication processes to create consistent point-in-time copies of VMs, entire datastores (in VMware ESX environments), or entire physical disks (in Hyper-V environments). They also enable fast restores at multiple levels of granularity.

  • Multi-tenancy. NetApp multi-tenancy technology combines the flexibility and efficiency of shared, virtualized storage with the security and dedicated resources of a physical array. Using NetApp MultiStore® software, a single NetApp storage array can be partitioned into multiple virtual storage systems (vFiler® units) that each appear as a separate storage system. Each vFiler unit delivers policy-based services to its tenant just as a physical storage system does. Because each vFiler unit is securely isolated, one tenant can’t access storage resources and data from another. OnCommand provides a template for the creation and provisioning of virtual NetApp arrays (vFiler units) for systems partitioned with NetApp MultiStore and enables service-level selection for each vFiler unit. These capabilities can be integrated as part of your service catalog.


Self-service is the final hurdle on the path to private cloud deployment. An automated self-service environment—in which “qualified” users can request and receive IT resources with minimal manual intervention from IT—provides greater time savings and is more cost effective than virtualization alone. The use of automated policies eliminates manual provisioning processes, getting resources to users faster and enabling your IT staff to focus on higher-level objectives.

Self-service builds upon the efficiencies of virtualization and automation to deliver enhanced productivity while reducing your operating expenses. It empowers subscribers of IT services by simplifying the process for requesting and procuring resources. Key self-service requirements include:

  • On-demand service delivery

  • SLA management

  • Showback or chargeback capabilities

  • Policy-based automation (as described in the previous section)

To better manage sprawling virtualized data center environments, many of those moving toward a private cloud have deployed cloud management solutions—also known as orchestration or IT service management (ITSM) frameworks—that can deliver centralized, end-to-end deployment, monitoring, and management of the entire cloud infrastructure, including all physical and virtual resources. The orchestration solution is designed to manage the IT environment in real time to achieve desired business goals. These solutions provide centralized management of all cloud resources including the integration of storage services.

NetApp has adopted an open strategy when it comes to automation and self-service within a private cloud infrastructure. Storage is our area of concentration and expertise, so we focus on helping you optimize storage resources and service efficiencies. We then integrate our solutions with those of best-in-class virtualization and cloud management partners who can provide broader IT service management and self-service capabilities for an end-to-end cloud solution. NetApp open management interfaces offer faster integration and greater storage abstraction that let our software partners and your in-house development teams easily leverage our policy-based automation features.

Figure 4) NetApp cloud management partners.

The NetApp Management SDK and our open APIs offer third-party management solutions or your own customized tools the same access to NetApp capabilities as NetApp’s own tools have. This includes access to the NetApp OnCommand storage service catalog and all of the provisioning and protection policies and resource pools required to create storage services.

Our APIs also provide access to OnCommand data repositories that contain capacity utilization statistics, protocol usage, I/O performance, and other metrics. You can make this information available to users of self-service portals for showback or integrate it with financial applications to enable actual chargeback to users and business units for effective cost management.


Evolving your IT environment from a technology-oriented infrastructure to a service-oriented infrastructure with pooled resources and advanced automation is the only way to continue to improve efficiency and decrease cost:

  • Defining your services and policies in a storage service catalog is an essential first step in delivering IT as a service.

  • With storage services defined, adding service analytics can help you meet established SLAs and continue to boost service efficiency.

  • Automation enhances the scalability of your IT environment, increases management efficiency, and lets your IT team focus more time on strategic tasks.

  • Self-service pulls all of the pieces together, allowing consumers of your IT resources to request and receive compute, network, and storage capabilities from a self-service portal that accomplishes provisioning with minimal IT intervention.

For more information on any of these elements, refer to the NetApp white paper series (see sidebar).

NetApp has developed advanced management capabilities designed to help you with all four of the fundamental elements. NetApp OnCommand technologies  make it easy to integrate advanced NetApp storage capabilities into your provisioning workflows so that you achieve a high level of storage efficiency and so critical data is never left unprotected. Because our capabilities are accessible through our ecosystem of virtualization and cloud management partners, through open APIs and through NetApp tools, everyone working in your IT environment can access NetApp capabilities as required from the tools they know.

David Klem
Reference Architect

David is a reference architect on NetApp's Infrastructure and Cloud Enablement team, focusing on developing best practices and solutions for cloud-based architectures. He is one of the lead architects for both the FlexPod™ and the secure multi-tenancy solutions. In addition, he has spoken with numerous customers and at industry events on cloud computing and virtualization. David joined NetApp in 2005 as part of the original team that architected and built the NetApp Kilo-Client, a 1,700-node internal cloud used to increase efficiency and hardware utilization within NetApp Engineering.


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