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NetApp and VMware Cloud Foundation made easy Part 2: VCF and ONTAP principal storage

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Josh Powell
Josh Powell

As we mentioned in Part 1, Getting Started, domains are the logical grouping of resources within VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF). You can provision virtual infrastructure workload domains with principal storage where you want it. Domains can be on VMware vSAN, VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes (vVols), NFSv3, or Fibre Channel (FC) logical unit numbers (LUNs) formatted as Virtual Machine File System (VMware Virtual Machine File System (VMFS). You define the type of principal storage when you create a domain. For greater flexibility, define it with the Workload Domain Creation wizard in your Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) Manager. In this blog, Part 2, we describe how to create a workload domain by using NetApp® ONTAP® FlexGroup volumes shared through the NFSv3 protocol.

NetApp FlexGroup volumes

NetApp has long been a leader in virtualizing the underlying storage system to increase efficiency and improve performance. NetApp FlexVol® technology, introduced in NetApp Data ONTAP 7.0, virtualized a storage file system as flexible volumes to provide flexible storage administration in an ever-changing data center.

NetApp FlexGroup volumes are large, flexible NAS containers in ONTAP. With a FlexGroup volume, a storage administrator can easily provision a massive single namespace in a matter of seconds, aggregating the performance and networking capabilities of an entire ONTAP cluster. FlexGroup volumes have no capacity limit or file count constraints outside of the physical limits of the hardware or total volume limits of ONTAP.

A FlexGroup volume can be up to 20PB in size, span up to 24 nodes in a cluster, and support billions of files. Because FlexGroup volumes span a single namespace, you can take advantage of the horsepower of the entire ONTAP cluster. There is no additional management overhead to a FlexGroup volume. You just create the FlexGroup volume and share it with your NAS clients—ONTAP handles the rest.

For more information about NetApp FlexGroup volumes, see TR-4571, NetApp ONTAP FlexGroup Volumes.

Virtual infrastructure workload domain creation

The Virtual Infrastructure Configuration wizard allows you to specify the compute, networking, and storage for your workload domain. You also provision VMware vSphere hosts and select appropriate licenses. The wizard’s workflow reduces the complexity of setting up your virtual infrastructure by automatically taking care of the following actions:

  • Deploying a new VMware vCenter Server appliance for each new workload domain within the management domain
  • Setting up host networking including NSX components for the first and subsequent workload domains
  • Mapping storage to VMware ESXi hosts

Creating a virtual infrastructure domain by using NFS and ONTAP FlexGroup volumes is easy. First, you create a FlexGroup volume by using ONTAP System Manager, and then you record the IP address and mount path. You also make sure you have available hosts for the new workload domain.

When you have this information, you can easily create a workload domain by using NFS storage from the ONTAP system:

1. In ONTAP System Manager, navigate to Volumes in the sidebar and click +Add. Then select More Options.


2. Enter the name, capacity, export policy, and performance level of a volume. 

    Note: You can modify the performance level later by using ONTAP tools for VMware vSphere.

3. Select the Distribute Volume Data Across the Cluster option to designate the volume as a FlexGroup volume.


4. Clear the Share via SMB/CIFS option and click Save.


5. From the Volumes Overview tab, make a note of the mount path and the IP address of the logical interface (LIF) from the Network Overview window. You will use this information when specifying the storage to use with your workload domain.


VI workload domain creation

1. Log in to SDDC Manager using administrator credentials.


2. Navigate to Inventory > Workload Domains. Then click + Workload Domain and select VI – Workload Domains.


3. From the list of available options, select NFS, and click Begin to continue. 


4. Specify the name of your virtual infrastructure. Under the Workload Management Readiness section, select the appropriate option based on the intent of the workload domain. Click Next.


5. Provide a name for your new cluster. If the option is available, select a cluster image. Click Next.


6. Provide a name for the new workload domain vCenter Server. The IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway values are populated from the DNS server. Specify the root credentials for the vCenter Server. Click Next.


7. Provide the host name details of the NSX-T nodes and the administrator credentials. Optionally, you can create a new static IP pool or a DHCP pool for the overlay networking. Here is an example of a static IP pool range on VLAN 3417. Click Next.


8. Select a host from the list of currently unassigned hosts to deploy as part of your new workload domain. Click Next. 


9. On the NFS Storage page, enter a name for the datastore and provide both the NFS mount path and the NFS LIF address for the ONTAP system from an earlier step. 


10. From the drop-down menu, select the licenses and click Next. 

      Note: The values are intentionally grayed out).


11. Review the object names (displayed by the wizard) that will be created during the workload domain provisioning.


12. Review the summary of all your input and click Finish to start the provisioning process.


Multiple subtasks run—the entire process can take up to several hours to complete.


13. After the workload domain has been successfully provisioned, check to be sure that all hosts display in their workload domains and verify all the other details.



Now that your workload domain is provisioned, you can deploy virtual machines (VMs) for your applications. With ONTAP providing the principal storage, you have a host of storage features that integrate closely with VMware vSphere. Provisioning is based on easy-to-use policies, and you can use add-ons such as vRealize Automation to provision a catalog of service offerings. Stay tuned for the next part in our series of VCF blogs where we discuss using NetApp Element software with a NetApp SolidFire® array with vVols as principal storage for VCF:

  • NetApp and VCF made easy—Part 3: VCF and Element principal storage

These are the other blogs in the series:

For more information about ONTAP with VMware, read this technical report:

  • TR-4597: VMware vSphere with ONTAP Best Practices

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.

View all Posts by Josh Powell

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