Get your NetApp – VVols while they are HOT

pistonToday, the long awaited NetApp VASA Provider (VP) and the new shiny VSC console have been released to general availability.

So what does VASA and VSC have to do with VVols? Everything. In previous posts I talked about both NetApp’s VSC and VASA provider for VMware here. These offerings along with VAAI provide a tight integration between VMware and NetApp. Given the transition from VMware’s C# Client (fat) to Web Client, it resulted in the need of updated versions, and this is how VSC 6.0 and VASA Provider 6.0 were born.

Now to VVols. In order to be able to deploy VVols with NetApp there are a few requirements.

  • vSphere 6.0 (or later)
  • NetApp Clustered Data ONTAP 8.2.1 or later (thanks Nick for the clarification)
  • VSC 6.0
  • NetApp VASA Provider 6.0

You can see now why this announcement is such a big deal, both VSC and VP make up the engine that powers up the VVols machine. Both vSphere and cDOT 8.2.1 have been out for a while, but those that wanted to test drive VVols with GA code could not do that until today except by using beta code.

VSC brings and additional enhancement with its new version and that is the addition of PowerShell cmdlets for most VSC features. These cmdlets along with PowerCLI and NetApp’s PowerShell Tool Kit can provide tighter integration and automation between NetApp and VMware.

 

You can download VSC and VP from the links below:

VSC_6.0_Download

NetApp_cDOT_VASA_Provider_6.0

NetApp EVO:RAIL

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.

 

NetApp EVO:RAIL
NetApp EVO:RAIL

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.

 

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.

VAAI_NFS_notSupported

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.

7-Mode

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

“options nfs.vstorage.enable on

7M_vStorage_ON

C-Mode

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”

CM_vStorage_ON

 

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.

ESXi_vStorage_on

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.

WebUI_vStorage_on

 

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.

VIB_List

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.

VIB_Install

 

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.

VAAI_Install_VSC

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

VAAI_NFS_Supported

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.

VASA_Settings

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.

VASA_Config

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.

VASA_Registration

 

NetApp VSC, VASA, VAAI for VMware vSphere: Why do I need this?

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

 VSC Main Page

 

VSC_Align

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_Logo

VSC_HostOptions

 VSC ESXi Host Options

 

VSC_VM_Options

VSC VM Options