In most software meetings, round tables, and customer reviews and councils I have been part of, the feedback has been about a common topic the majority of the time. Customers want to have a single location/interface to manage multiple products. Fortunately, some aspects of NetApp storage can be managed through VMware’s WEB UI by leveraging Virtual Storage Console (VSC), VASA provider, and VAAI for VMware.
VSC is a vCenter plug-in that delivers VM management for environments running NetApp storage. VSC allows for storage configuration and monitoring, datastore provisioning and VM cloning, online VM optimization as well as backup and recovery of VMs and datastores. VSC is a very useful and convenient tool that will give you a glance of your storage status and also allow you to optimize your VMs that have not been properly aligned by migrating them to another storage target and aligning the VMDKs properly.
VSC Main Page
VMDK alignment using VSC
The VASA provider for NetApp ONTAP is a virtual appliance that supports VMware’s VASA (vStorage APIs for Storage Awareness). It leverages VSC as the console and provides information to the vCenter about NetApp Storage that has been associated with VSC. VASA allows for the management of storage profiles defined as Service Level Objectives (SLO) as well as alarms to monitor the NetApp environment when aggregates and volumes are nearing their storage capacity.
The last piece of the puzzle is VAAI. VMware VAAI (vSphere Storage APIs – Array Integration) allows for hardware acceleration and offload certain operations that originally occurs at the host level, to the storage system. This reduces the overhead and consumption of resources on the ESXi host and improves performance. VAAI is great for speeding up I/O operations on the VMware side.
You could pick and choose which of these components to install as you see fit, but ideally you would want to deploy all three to take advantage of these enhancements and integration. The VSC software is installed on a server and associated with a specific vCenter. The NFS plug-in for VMware VAAI is installed on each VMware host and the VASA provider is deployed as a virtual appliance. It is important to point out that VSC can also be utilized to set NetApp’s recommended values on ESXi hosts for better performance.
VSC ESXi Host Options
VSC VM Options