VMware and NetApp Integrations Speed Customers to the Cloud

By Bhumik Patel, Partner Architect at VMware


NetApp recently outlined its cloud strategy highlighting solutions and integrations built on Clustered Data ONTAP to provide a solid data management foundation allowing customers to bridge public and private clouds. These solutions and integrations address data control challenges managing discrete cloud resources; offer new technologies for dynamic data portability across cloud resources; and continue to deliver solutions that support extensive customer choice. As a VMware partner architect, I would like to expand on how we are jointly delivering solutions with NetApp that support over 40,000 of our joint customers and help them make the transition to a public, private or a hybrid cloud leveraging our joint stack.


Our joint customers are leading with virtualization, on all fronts, in building their private and hybrid cloud driven data centers leveraging VMware’s Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution. Customers want a highly automated and on-demand self service IT environment – be it compute, storage, networking and security resources. With NetApp, we provide integrations at all levels of our SDDC stack as shown below:



All of this starts with building the core SDDC Infrastructure through leveraging VMware vSphere platform. In terms of integrations with NetApp, this includes multiple solutions covering critical use cases for customers. Let’s look at a few of these solutions in detail:


VMware vSphere Storage APIs – Array Integration (VAAI) support for NetApp (both block level support and NFS plugin) to offload certain processor intensive virtual machine and storage management operations from the hosts to the VAAI enabled NetApp array. This allows your host to perform these operations faster and consumes less CPU, memory and storage fabric bandwidth. This includes support for VAAI primitives such as Full copy, Block Zeroing; Hardware assisted locking, Thin Space Reclamation, Space Reservation and extended statistics for NFS. These integrations address multiple use cases for customers - for example, in a scenario where a virtual machine in VMFS is deleted by the admin. In this case, VAAI-enabled space reclamation within vSphere will instruct NetApp controllers to begin to reclaim that space for other purposes. Another use case is of leveraging the extended statistics for NFS API to gain insight into thin provisioning status, levels of VMDK files stored on NFS mounts etc.


As virtualized environments scale and data grows, having one standardized backup, recovery and disaster recovery solution becomes a necessity. NetApp Snap Creator Plugin for vSphere performs backup and restore operations leveraging the Snap Creator framework and ONTAP efficiencies. 


Talking about leveraging ONTAP efficiencies, the NetApp Virtual Storage Console (VSC) vCenter plug-in allows an administrator to perform monitoring & host configuration, provisioning & cloning, backup & recovery and optimization for the NetApp controllers within the vCenter console. So you can apply NetApp optimization best practices for ESXi without any manual steps. With provisioning & cloning, you achieve a variety of data store managing capabilities well described here.


In addition to making the infrastructure more efficient and optimized, a major use case is to have an integrated disaster recovery plan with the goals of achieving low RTO and RPOs. For this, vSphere Site Recovery Manager (SRM) integrates with NetApp SnapMirror providing an architecture that reduces one of the most time-consuming parts of a DR Failover process – to connect, register, reconfigure and power up virtual machines at the DR site. As an example, in the figure below, in order to failover a critical application such as SQL server, SRM allows automated setup and management of recovery plans centrally from vCenter Server while SnapMirror provides extremely efficient data replication as it only replicates the 4KB blocks changed from previous updates. Additional efficiencies are gained by leveraging deduplication and FlexClone solutions.



Now let’s look at core integrations at the SDDC Management and Orchestration layer. As shown in the figure below VMware vCloud suite components – vCloud Automation Center & vCenter Orchestrator integrates with NetApp OnCommand Workflow Automation (WFA) for storage orchestration leveraging automated workflows. These integrations allows customers to achieve the required storage service levels as we define application based storage requirements – such as thin provisioning, deduplication, replication, snapshots – and push these down to the storage layer for an policy driven provisioning of the storage resources. This is achieved by leveraging integrations with Data ONTAP open APIs with VMware’s vCloud Suite. At a high level, an end user (or admin) can self-service an application using the vCAC user portal. This triggers calls to vCO workflows necessary to setup the required resources, and in the context of storage, calls to WFA are made for getting the required storage resources provisioned. This allows for a complete automated software defined provisioning of resources to bring up an application for an end user. (Refer here for setup details)




Hopefully this gives you a deeper insight in to how our joint solutions are allowing customers to leverage integrations at all levels of a SDDC stack. As we continue to deliver on our SDDC strategies with NetApp, we will continue to provide tighter integrations to allow our customers to leverage more data center efficiencies.