I’ve seen a few blogposts recently about storage features in vSphere5 and plenty of forum discussions about the level of support from various vendors but none that specifically address the Netapp world. As some of these features require your vendor to provide plugins and integration I’m going to cover the Netapp offerings and point out what works today and what’s promised for the future.
Many of the vSphere5 storage features work regardless of your underlying storage array, including StorageDRS, storage clusters, VMFS5 enhancements (provided you have block protocols) and the VMware Storage Appliance (vSA). The following vSphere features however are dependent on array integration;
- VAAI (the VMware Storage API for Array Integration). If you need a refresher on VAAI and what’s new in vSphere v5 check out these great blogposts by Dave Henry - part one covers block protocols (FC and iSCSI), part two covers NFS. The inimitable Chad Sakac from EMC also has a great post on the new vSphere5 primitives.
- VASA (the VMware Storage API for Storage Awareness). Introduced in vSphere5 this allows your storage array to send underlying implementation details of the datastore back to the ESXi host such as RAID levels, replication, dedupe, compression, number of spindles etc. These details can be used by other features such as Storage Profiles and StorageDRS to make more informed decisions.
The main point of administration (and integration) when using Netapp storage is the Virtual Storage Console (VSC), a vCenter plugin created by Netapp. If you haven’t already got this installed (the latest version is v4, released March 16th 2012) then go download it (NOW account required). As well as the vCenter plugin you must ensure your version of ONTAP also supports the vSphere functionality – as of April 19th 2012 the latest release is ONTAP 8.1. You can find out more about its featureset from Netapp’s Nick Howell. As well as the core vSphere storage features the VSC enables some extra features;
- Simplified administration
- Monitor and fix storage alignment
- Space reclamation
- Datastore replication. Luke Reed from Netapp has done a good blogpost on using this to duplicate templates between sites.
These features are all covered in Netapp’s popular TR3749 (best practices for vSphere, now updated for vSphere5) and the VSC release notes.
Poor old NFS – no VAAI for you…
It all sounds great! You’ve upgraded to vSphere5 (with Enterprise or Enterprise Plus licensing), installed the VSC vCenter plugin and upgraded ONTAP to the shiny new 8.1 release. Your Netapp arrays are in place and churning out 1’s and 0’s at a blinding rate and you’re looking forward to giving vSphere some time off for good behaviour and letting your Netapp do the heavy lifting…..