Storage Virtualization: Yep, NetApp

Just as VMware has been the pioneer for server virtualization, NetApp seems to be the virtualization player to beat in the realm of storage at this moment. Although NetApp’s ONTAP Cluster Mode (C-Mode) is not a new release, it is taking some of the legacy, 7-mode users some time to not only understand, but also implement C-Mode given its complexity compared to 7-mode. But an easy way to think of C-Mode, is to find the similarities with VMware’s vSphere.

Cluster mode breaks apart the physical aspect of the storage into a virtualized setup where several virtual storage environments can be created to segregate the diverse logical configurations. C-Mode can be a great use case for a public cloud service provider where the segregation of storage virtual machines is necessary; but let’s keep in mind, that this kind of segregation can also be heavily utilized within a private environment for many use cases.

Having recently achieved a master’s degree in Cyber-security and Information Assurance (CIA), I learned a few things about securing not only public environments, but also making sure we are internally secure. Your company is only as strong as its weakest link. After all, a great number of the attacks are generated internally by users with lack of knowledge or even malicious users. Through storage virtualization and the segregation of storage virtual machines, we can achieve not only better security but also better management through the use of policies.



This virtualized storage environment allows for a more direct relationship with virtualized server environments such as VMware, where more granular control is needed. In my humble opinion, NetApp C-Mode and VMware vSphere are not that much different from each other. As I was preparing for my NCDA certification for NetApp (C- Mode), I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in their architectures. C-Mode acts as the Hypervisor, or in this case vSphere, and both platforms have virtual machines that act as independent identities. Such identities have their own personalities such as IP addresses, login information, mappings to a physical underlying network, etc.

While VMware uses servers for the physical platform, NetApp C-Mode uses their hardware and data ONTAP software to deliver storage virtualization; that once joined with VMware, become an extremely powerful solution for businesses of all sizes. Clearly, I am drinking the NetApp cool-aid, but I believe their technology in addition to VMware’s products make up for great SMB, and enterprise solutions. The two companies provide even better integrations and solutions through the use of VASA, VAAI, VVols, VSC, etc. More on them soon…


NetApp 7-Mode to Clustered Mode

I recently came across a new installation of NetApp Filers and discovered that they were shipped in 7-Mode instead of the requested Clustered Mode. The problem was that most of the documentation I found was pointing to old versions of ONTAP. Since new Filers are shipped with the newest versions of ONTAP (Thanks NetApp!), I figured it would be nice to document the procedure for the switch from 7-Mode to Clustered Mode.

The first step is to setup the pre-boot environment variables. In order to be able to do this, you will need to boot into loader prompt.

  1. Boot NetApp
  2. Press Ctrl-C when prompted to halt boot process
  3. This will take you to the loader prompt. If not, you missed your chance and will have to reboot again
  4. In Loader Prompt type:
    1. set-defaults
    2. setenv bootarg.init.boot_clustered true
    3. boot_ontap
  5. These commands will set clustered-mode as the default mode


Now that we have setup clustered-mode as the default, the Filer will boot up in clustered mode, but we are not done yet. You will then need to boot up into the boot menu and initialize your drives. BE CAREFUL, as this will erase all your data. So this walk-through applies if you are working on a new filer or re-purposing a filer from 7-mode to clustered mode. If you have any data that needs to be saved, or this is a production environment, do not follow these steps. Call Support.

Booting up to the Boot Menu:

  1. If you are setting the default parameters from the steps above, wait for the filer to reboot
  2. If not reboot the Filer
  3. As the Filer is rebooting, wait for the prompt to enter Boot Menu and hit Crtl-C to enter the menu.
  4. From this menu select option 4 (Clean configuration and initialize all disks)


  1. The Filer will reboot and start initializing the disks.
    1. This may take quite some time depending on the amount of drives installed.

After all disks have been initialized, the setup script will prompt for input in order to setup the “new” node.

If you have more the one node, repeat all the steps on the other node(s).


Use Cases: New Configurations. Re-purposing older controllers from 7-mode to Clustered mode.