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No pain and only the gain for your VMware workloads

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Dejan Kocic
Dejan Kocic
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NetApp has over 2 decades of leadership in integration with VMware and providing innovative solutions. Providing lightning-fast and reliable storage, comprehensive tools for managing, protecting, monitoring, and reporting for VMware workloads, or seamless site failover, NetApp is always at the forefront of VMware innovation.

The integration of NetApp® ASA (All SAN Array) technology and VMware benefits from NetApp ONTAP® tools for VMware vSphere and the NetApp SnapCenter® Plug-in for VMware vSphere, which allow you to intuitively provision, manage, and protect VMware workloads from within the familiar vCenter environment. Our solutions for VMware make it remarkably simple to automate all these common tasks by using industry-standard REST APIs, common to any automation platform.

In addition to the benefits of ASA and VMware integration, we’re adding a guarantee of six nines annual data availability for ASA storage solutions. This guarantee will provide additional peace of mind to NetApp customers running VMware and other block-based workloads.

What is NetApp ASA?

In simple terms, ASA technology is based on the same ONTAP software you’ve known for years—mature, tested, and trusted by thousands of organizations around the globe. And we took that winning formula and optimized it for block workloads. This lets us fine-tune ONTAP for the block workload I/O path to achieve greater performance at scale.

ASA systems build on NetApp AFF SAN systems, which offer the following:

  • Industry-leading >99.9999% availability
  • Massive clusters that scale both up and out
  • The best enterprise performance in the industry (based on audited SPC-1 results)
  • Industry-leading storage efficiency
  • Cost-effective, seamless data protection

And AFF SAN systems are among the most complete cloud-enabled connectivity available.

NetApp ASA systems add to these benefits by delivering continuous SAN availability. These systems provide uninterrupted access to data during a planned or unplanned storage failover and offer streamlined implementation, configuration, and management through a solution that’s dedicated only to running SAN workloads. NetApp recommends ASA configurations when you:

  • Require mission-critical workloads such as databases that must have symmetric active-active paths from hosts to storage
  • Prefer a dedicated system to isolate SAN workloads

AFF systems remain the preferred choice for customers who:

  • Need to be able to nondisruptively scale out (up to 12 nodes) or scale up SAN systems
  • Don’t require active-active SAN path management
  • Prefer a storage system that supports unified protocols for mixed object, NAS, and SAN workloads

As just mentioned, ASA adds symmetric active-active pathing, meaning that all data paths are treated equally across every node in the cluster. Not only does this give you better front-end port utilization, but by removing the path state transition during failover, ASA delivers drastic reductions in I/O resumption time (IORT).

Takeover time

With NetApp ASA systems, active-active paths through both controllers mean that the host OS doesn’t need to wait for active paths to come down before activating alternative paths. The host was already using all paths on all controllers, and the host always has active paths whether the system is in a steady state or performing a controller failover operation.

In addition, ASA includes an innovative ability that significantly accelerates the SAN failover process. Each controller constantly replicates key LUN metadata to its partner. Each controller is thus prepared to immediately begin serving data if its partner suddenly fails, even before the failover process is complete, because it already has the core information required to begin using the drives previously managed by the failed controller.

complete I/O resumption time at the operating system level

This time reflects the complete I/O resumption time at the operating system level. The failover time is quicker if you measure only the storage system’s ability to respond to I/O. But a more important number is the complete I/O resumption time as viewed from the host.

NetApp ASA symmetric active-active configuration
NetApp ASA symmetric active-active configuration

How NetApp ASA integrates with VMware

You might be surprised to know that ASA natively integrates with VMware for native block offloads by using VAAI (vSphere Storage APIs - Array Integration). This integration provides simple efficiency gains with native copy offload for rapid cloning, native block reclamation for storage efficiency by freeing unused VMware Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) data, and support for the Atomic Test and Set (ATS) primitive. All these features offer services up to the maximum size datastore supported by VMware: 64TB for VMFS or 62TB for vVols.

Provisioning and lifecycle management of your datastores is made simple through the intuitive vCenter UI plug-in from ONTAP tools for VMware vSphere. Creating a new datastore is as easy as launching the simple wizard that guides you through the process.

But integration goes much deeper when you leverage the entire portfolio of NetApp products and services. The NetApp SnapCenter Plug-in for VMware vSphere (SCV) is an outstanding way to back up these massive modern datasets. In-place NetApp Snapshot copies give you ready access to your backup data right on the primary storage, while a second copy is efficiently replicated in a deduplicated and compressed state to a secondary storage array or Amazon S3 bucket, either on premises or in the cloud. You can implement a full 3-2-1 backup solution by integrating SnapCenter with Netapp BlueXP backup and recovery, extending your primary and secondary copies with a third copy in the cloud. SCV 5.0 adds support for NetApp SnapLock® software, tamperproof Snapshot copies, and NetApp SnapMirror® technology. By combining SCV with the NetApp Ransomware Recovery Guarantee, NetApp gives you the ultimate defense, enabling you to recover your VMs and data quickly and easily if a ransomware attack occurs.

How NetApp ASA makes the VMware experience better

Obviously, our simple integration tools make life easy for the small-to-midsize environment. But what if you need more? How can ASA help improve the service-provider-style deployment that many customers are implementing today?

Well, that’s the easy part. ASA provides the same industry-leading secure multitenancy that’s intrinsic to every ONTAP system, but in a system that’s optimized for block workloads—whether using vVols for simplified management without the constraints of VMFS file systems, or traditional datastores that offer other benefits.

Furthermore, all the great features that make ASA easy to use through NetApp ONTAP, ONTAP tools, SnapCenter, BlueXP, and more, are easily automated. You can use any industry-standard automation platform or scripting language that supports REST APIs, like VMware Aria Automation, Ansible, Terraform, PowerShell, Python—you name it! Sample Ansible code is even available on GitHub for free.

Being block optimized, ASA offers another advantage: symmetric active-active pathing. This approach doesn’t just enable more evenly distributed path utilization. By eliminating the nonoptimized-to-optimized state transition during a failover event, ASA also delivers significantly reduced failover times with dramatically improved I/O resumption time if one of the controllers does suffer some kind of failure.

NetApp’s Six Nines Data Availability Guarantee

When you’re making a decision that stakes the livelihood of your business on a new storage system, you need more than a vendor’s claim of six nines availability. That’s why we sought independent validation from analyst firm IDC. With tens of thousands of systems in the field and continuous daily data collection, we were able to provide empirical proof that we deliver more than 99.9999% availability. To see for yourself, read IDC’s report.

Our Six Nines Data Availability Guarantee for newly purchased NetApp ASA A-Series and ASA C-Series systems gives you peace of mind that when you choose NetApp technology, you’re making the right decision. With this guarantee, if NetApp ASA doesn’t meet the six-nines performance level, we provide remediation. As part of this guarantee, we expect you to follow identified best practices, so be sure to talk to your NetApp representative or authorized partner for all the details. Terms and conditions will apply.

Conclusion

Simply put, ASA and NetApp’s VMware integration software make storage reliable, fast, easy, and intuitive. If you’re a VMware vCenter administrator, you completely manage your storage, from provisioning to protection, directly in the interface you already use for your day-to-day operations. For the more advanced user, all of our integration software is accessible through REST APIs. If you’re deploying VMware Cloud Foundation with Aria Automation, or using open-source tools like Ansible, you can easily automate all of these operations to deliver data services to your business.

Your data is yours. And NetApp lets you manage your data anywhere, either on premises or in the cloud—keeping it safe from attackers and giving your data a refuge from any possible security breach.

With ease of use, tight VMware integration and tools, excellent performance, integrated security, and our industry-leading 99.9999% uptime guarantee, ASA with VMware is an excellent choice for hosting your VMware workloads. The Six Nines Data Availability Guarantee offers additional peace of mind, which means no pain and only the gain for your VMware workloads.

To learn more, visit out ASA webpage.

Chance Bingen contributed to VMware portion of this blog.

Dejan Kocic

Dejan is a visionary and a leader whose innovative and out of box thinking have earned him the reputation of creative solutions wizard. Dejan is part of several SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) committees, and he is regularly invited to chair conferences and to present on the latest technologies.

Currently, Dejan is Sr. Product Manager at NetApp and is leading initiatives related to Ontap and Hybrid Cloud adoption, amongst other things. Dejan has over 25 years of industry experience in Storage, Cloud, HPC, and AI technologies, and he also holds an MBA and Masters in Information Technology degrees.

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