EVO:RAIL LogoFor those not familiar with EVO:RAIL, this is a great solution from VMware that offers a hyperconverged infrastructure with easy management by leveraging software solutions such as vSphere, vCenter, VSAN and log insight. This solution seems to have the attention of many customers as deployment, and administration are greatly simplified and does not require a high level engineer to maintain the environment.

Although the announcement that NetApp would be launching a hyperconverged EVO:RAIL solution was made late last year, the product has not yet been released to the public (as far as I know). So there are a lot of questions out there. Is it FAS? Is it EVO:RAIL? or a combination? Well, the answer is both and more.

This is a NetApp integrated EVO:RAIL solution that includes both EVO and the NetApp C-DOT we currently know. This offering allows low level admins to administer VMware and NetApp from the same console via VSC. More on VSC, VASA and VAAI here. So in essence, when you get the NetApp 4RU appliance, you use a simple GUI wizard that automatically configures NetApp C-DOT and presents the storage to VMware. So this solution not only virtualizes the compute side but also the storage side.

Being that you have NetApp integrated into this solution, you are still able to use different protocols as well as SAN and NAS offerings, just like we do now with other FAS systems. This solution also includes automated back-up and recovery features, QoS, and Cloud integration by leveraging NetApp Data Fabric.



So, Why did NetApp decide to jump on the EVO:RAIL bandwagon???

Well, I believe that NetApp recognizes the competition with new storage vendors such as SolidFire, Tintri, and Simplivity among others, that offer all flash, high performance, easy to use hyperconverged solutions. Also NetApp recognizes the need for a solution for small and medium size businesses that do not have the luxury of hiring several IT staff to manage different areas of IT. Lastly, I believe NetApp is recognizing that in order to survive, they need diversify, as the days of shared enterprise storage may be coming to an end by the introduction of new technologies that drive costs down and simplifies administration while reducing overhead.


Uses Cases:

NetApp seems to be targeting departments and business areas for this specific solution. In my opinion EVO:RAIL (not just NetApp’s) has many other uses cases such as VDI deployments, production loads for remote offices in different geo-locations, test/dev, as well as DR source/target when combined with a Cloud offering.

I’m curious to see what the final product would be like, and how it would stand against other EVO:RAIL offerings.


VVols: All Systems Go

After a long wait and development/marketing effort from VMware, VVols are finally ready to take over your datacenter(s).

VVols are the next generation, integration between vSphere and storage arrays. VVols leverage a new set of APIs (VASA) that allows vSphere to communicate with the array and provide additional features at the VM level. VVols are based on storage policies, which in turn allows for further automation between products.

This storage abstraction provided by VVols, allows for the control of storage, not only at the VM level but also at the VDMK level. This is a great feature, as now you can control VMDKs as separate entities. The connections between the hosts and VVols are done through an abstraction layer known as Protocol Endpoints, which provides the user the freedom to use several protocols at once such as FC, iSCSI, or NFS.

There are a few requirements for VVols. One of them is that the array vendor can support VVols. The APIs from the vendor (VASA), as well as other vendor requirements. In the case of a storage array vendor such as NetApp, VSC is also required.

The Policy-Based Provisioning provided by VVols brings us even closer to the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC)



VMware vROps: Monitoring Solutions for NetApp Storage

VMware’s vRealize Operations Manager is a great tool for monitoring not only your VMware environment but also the underlying components utilized by this virtualization solution. vROps has the ability to incorporate many other solutions, in order to provide what most IT departments search for; a single point to monitor the environment.

As the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) begins to take over, it is more evident that the main components that comprise IT infrastructures include virtualization of servers and network, as well as storage. Monitoring such technologies can be cumbersome and may require many tools, unless we leverage vROps management packs. I have utilized other tools such as native vendor tools, tools that offer management packs as well, but I have not been able to find the granularity that I need to monitor a large environment, specially when it comes to graphical representation. A picture is worth a thousand words.

After installing vROps 6.0, I started to leverage its new features, but I wanted more. I searched for storage integration and luckily came across Blue Medora’s NetApp management pack for vROps. This management pack provides not only granular visibility to the storage arrays, but more importantly how those arrays, volumes, and LUNs are associated with the VMware environment. This solution also allows for the familiar vROps drill down of information in order to aid in the troubleshooting process. This and many other solutions can be found at VSX site (VMware Solutions Exchange)

The installation of the Blue Medora pack is very simple and straight forward, as long as you meet all the requirements. The most obvious requirements include VMware’s vROps and NetApp’s OnCommand Unified Manager Core (DFM), which acts as a proxy between vROps and the NetApp arrays to obtain information. As previously mentioned, you can obtain the management pack from VSX or Blue Medora’s site for a 30 day free trial. After obtaining the pack, add this to your vROpS solutions and configure.



You can also tune what and how much to collect depending on the entity, by expanding the advanced settings during configuration. These settings can be changed after deployment as well.



That is pretty much it. After a successful deployment, you will notice about a dozen new dashboards on vROps’ home page.




Deploying NetApp NFS Plug-in for VMware VAAI

NetApp’s NFS plug-in for VMware VAAI (VMware vStorage API for Array Integration) is an API that allows for the offload of certain tasks from the physical hosts to the storage array. Tasks such as thin-provisioning and hardware acceleration can be done at the array level to reduce the workload on the ESXi hosts.

The steps necessary to deploy VAAI on ESXi hosts as well as the NetApp storage can be accomplished using VSC or ESXi CLI, as well as NetApp’s CLI/Shell. The nice thing about VSC is that it is capable of enabling VMware vStorage for NFS on the storage and also enables VAAI on the VMware hosts if not already done.

Prior to installing NetApp’s NFS plugin for VMware VAAI, NFS datastores cannot take advantage of offloading activities such as Hardware Acceleration.


In order to install and configure NetApp NFS Plug-in for VMware VAAI, the following steps are necessary:

  • Enable NFSv3 on the storage system. NFSv4 is necessary for C-Mode on the export policy for VAAI to work.
    • Different methods to enable vStorage between 7-Mode and C-Mode
  • Have vSphere 5.0 or later
  • Download VAAI plug-in from NetApp site
  • Copy/Install bundle on ESXi host

Enabling VMware vStorage for NFS

VMware vStorage needs to be enabled on the NetApp storage controller. Since NetApp ONTAP 7-Mode and C-Mode commands are different, you will need to use the one for your array version.


Log in to the CLI and run the following command on both nodes of the HA pair.

“options nfs.vstorage.enable on



In 7-mode, the option is enabled “globally” at the controller level. In C-Mode, this option is enabled at the SVM (Storage Virtual Machine) aka vServer.

Log in to the cluster shell and enable vStorage on the desired vServer.

“vserver nfs modify –vserver <your SVM name> -vstorage enabled”



Verify that VAAI is enabled on the VMware hosts

By default, VAAI is enabled on vSphere 5.0 or later, but you can verify using the following commands from the host CLI.

“esxcfg-advcfg -g /DataMover/HardwareAcceleratedMove”
 “esxcfg-advcfg -g /DataMover/HardwareAcceleratedInit”

 If VAAI is enabled, the commands will return a 1 instead of 0.


If for some reason VAAI is not enabled on the ESXi host, you can enable them by using these commands:

“esxcfg-advcfg -s 1 /DataMover/HardwareAcceleratedInit’
“esxcfg-advcfg -s 1 /DataMover/HardwareAcceleratedMove”

You can also check these settings by using the Web GUI by selecting the host>Manage>Advanced System Settings.



Installing Plug-in via CLI

You can install the plug-in via VSC or CLI. When using CLI, you can choose to use the online bundle (.vib) or offline bundle (.zip). I will show the offline bundle installation.

After you have downloaded the offline bundle, copy the .zip file to a datastore available to your ESXi hosts.

You can verify the contents of the bundle by running “esxcli software sources vib list –d <path of your .zip file>”. In this example, the offline bundle is located in the root of a datastore available to this host.


From the ESXi CLI, run the following command to install the plug-in

“esxcli software vib install –n NetAppNasPlugin –d <path of your offline bundle>”

At this point, the NFS plug-in for VMware VAAI is installed. Remember that the host MUST be rebooted after installation, so either use vMotion to move you VMs, or schedule some down time after hours to complete the reboot.



Installing Plug-in via VSC

VSC simplifies this installation. Before you can install the plugin on an ESXi host, you will need to copy the .vib file from the offline bundle to the install directory of the VSC server. The default location is C:\Program Files\NetApp\Virtual Storage Console\etc\vsc\web. Also make sure that the name of the .vib file is NetAppNasPlugin.vib, if not, rename it so you don’t have to restart VSC or NVPF service. Don’t forget to reboot the ESXi host after installing the plugin.

VSC>TOOLS>NFS VAAI Tools >Install on Host>Select host and reboot.


After installing the NFS VAAI plug-in, NFS is now supported for Hardware Acceleration as well as other enhancements.


Deploying NetApp VASA Provider for VMware vSphere

As I mentioned in previous posts, NetApp’s VASA Provider for VMware vSphere allows for the management of storage through profiles, and gears towards the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) approach.

In order to deploy VASA provider, you will need to download the NetApp VASA provider for vSphere from NetApp’s support site. There is an ONTAP 7-Mode flavor and also an ONTAP C-Mode flavor, so choose the one that matches your environment. Deploy the virtual appliance (OVA) using VMware’s client and provide the necessary information for the virtual appliance. You will also need VSC already installed in order to register the VASA provider after installation and configuration.


During the first boot, VMware Tools installation prompt appears. Mount the VMware Tools and hit enter to install VMware tools and continue installation. Change the CD/DVD configuration on the virtual appliance to “Client Device”. Provide passwords for maintenance account (maint) and vpserver account when prompted. Use the vpserver account to register VASA with VSC from the VSC configuration page by providing the IP address of the VASA provider.

VASA_Tools   VASA_Tools2

Configuration settings will appear after installation. Use the Web UI for normal use and the maintenance console (CLI) when the Web UI is not accessible. Note that the Web Console utilizes port 9083, so make sure to enter the correct TCP/IP socket when using the WEB UI.


At this point, VASA has been deployed and configured. All that is left to do is register the VASA Provider with vSphere via VSC, and enjoy the benefits of NetApp and VMware integration.