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NetApp and VMware Cloud Foundation made easy Part 1: Getting started

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Josh Powell
Josh Powell
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In today’s changing world, you need to modernize your applications while maintaining your traditional virtual machine (VM) environments. To manage infrastructure both on premises and in the cloud, you need solutions that extend infrastructure and operations to both private and public cloud spaces. NetApp partners with leading technology companies that want to solve the challenges facing our mutual customers. Join us in this new NetApp blog series as we cover the ways we can partner with you.

VMware Cloud Foundation overview

One solution we can help you use is VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF). VCF is a set of technologies that give you a simple path to a hybrid cloud experience. The VCF solution supports both native Kubernetes and VM-based workloads. Services such as VMware vSphere, VMware vSAN, VMware NSX-T Data Center, and VMware vRealize Cloud Management come with VCF. Together they give you a software-defined infrastructure that handles compute, storage, networking, security, and cloud management. You get a truly hybrid experience: VCF infrastructure extends your environment from your local data center to Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, and Google Cloud.

NetApp storage overview

Thanks to NetApp’s long-term partnership with VMware that has included joint innovations and validations, NetApp knows how to provide the enterprise-grade storage you need for VCF.
Here is our history together:

VMware timeline

Using a storage system (decoupled from a hypervisor) that runs NetApp ONTAP® or Element® software, you get advanced storage features, centralized management, and host resources. You can focus on your application workloads rather than on back-end storage processing. NetApp is an industry leader with product offerings that give you the following advantages in VMware environments:

  • ONTAP unified storage software lets you run SAN, NAS, and object storage protocols all on one storage system both with all-flash offerings and with non-SSD configurations that optimize storage capacity. This capability allows you to provision datastores in any way that is supported through VMware.
  • NetApp SolidFire® all-flash arrays, powered by Element software, serve block data in an easy-to-consume and scalable architecture.
  • Storage efficiency technologies such as inline data deduplication, compression, compaction, and space-saving NetApp Snapshot™ copies allow you to store more and do more with your data.
  • Hybrid cloud capabilities allow you to move workloads smoothly to the cloud to provide storage tiering and data protection.
  • ONTAP tools for VMware vSphere for VMware and the NetApp Element Plug-in for VMware vCenter Server allow you to easily manage your VMware environment. The ONTAP tools for VMware vSphere include the Virtual Storage Console (VSC), vSphere API for Storage Awareness (VASA) Provider, and VMware Storage Replication Adapter.
  • Support for VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes and storage policy-based management, including VMs and containers, give you granular control of data in your infrastructure.

VMware Cloud Foundation domains

At the core of VCF are domains—logical groupings of physical resources that serve a particular role or workload. VCF has two types of domains: management domains and virtual infrastructure workload domains.

The management domain handles the control functions for VCF. Deployment of the management domain is handled by the VMware Cloud Builder appliance OVA, which uses VMware Validated Designs as its input. The management domain is deployed with a minimum of four ESXi hosts and includes the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) Manager software. SDDC acts as the brains of the operation—providing deployment automation, monitoring, and lifecycle management functions.

The following components are installed as part of VCF:

  • VMware vSphere, the hypervisor for management and workload domains
  • VMware vSAN
  • VMware NSX-T Data Center
  • VMware vRealize Cloud Management

The virtual infrastructure workload domains include VMware vSphere clusters, networking, and storage deployed for the operation of business-critical workloads. These domains are provisioned by SDDC (software-defined data center) Manager and are managed from an assigned VMware vCenter Server running in the management domain. Workload domains require a minimum of three ESXi hosts and are provisioned with principal storage during deployment. Supplemental storage can be added to any workload domain after deployment.

Here’s how the domains work:

VCF workload chart

Storage support for VMware Cloud Foundation

VCF uses both principal storage, which is designated during domain creation, and supplemental storage, which can be added after domain creation to specify primary workloads, migration, backup, and archiving.

Principal storage for the management domain is provided by VMware vSAN upon initial deployment. Currently, with VCF 4.2, administrators can deploy workload domains using VMware vSAN, NFS, VMFS with Fibre Channel (FC), or VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes (vVols). With vVol-backed datastores, you can take advantage of Storage Policy Based Management (SPBM) with NFS, iSCSI, or FC as the underlying storage protocol. Supplemental storage supports all of these protocols and provides additional support for iSCSI.

Here’s how principal and supplemental storage work with domains:

VCF flow chart

With ONTAP unified storage software, all storage protocols supported by VCF are available for both principal and supplemental storage. NetApp storage systems provide flexible and highly available storage solutions that integrate seamlessly into your VCF environment. VMware-specific ONTAP tools allow easy post-deployment options for both provisioning and data protection.

Now that we’ve introduced foundational VCF concepts, check out our next blogs, where we discuss how ONTAP and Element storage systems can be used to satisfy your most demanding workloads: 

  • NetApp and VCF made easy—Part 2: VCF and ONTAP principal storage
  • NetApp and VCF made easy—Part 3: VCF and Element principal storage
  • NetApp and VCF made easy—Part 4: ONTAP tools for VMware and supplemental storage 


Come see us at VMworld 2021. We are presenting multiple sessions and will be hosting a virtual booth to answer your questions. 

Josh Powell

Josh is a Technical Marketing Engineer at NetApp designing Hybrid Cloud solutions . His focus areas include VMware, Data Protection and Software Defined Storage. Over his 20 year career in the storage industry he has held numerous roles related to driving customer satisfaction and product improvement. Prior to joining NetApp Josh worked as a Senior Storage Consultant at HPE.

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