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ONTAP Select Software RAID with NVMe

Jim Svesnik

Each release of ONTAP Select delivers new ways to leverage software-defined storage in environments with evolving needs. With the release of ONTAP Select 9.7, we are introducing support for Software RAID configurations backed by NVMe (nonvolatile memory express) drives. In this blog, I will highlight the host preparation steps that are unique to deploying ONTAP Select against NVMe storage.

First, your installation environment must meet the minimum requirements. These include:

  • ONTAP Select Deploy version 9.7
  • ONTAP Select Premium-XL license, or 90-day Evaluation install
  • VMware ESXi version 6.7 or higher
  • NVMe devices must conform to specification 1.0 or higher
A comprehensive set of requirements for supported ONTAP Select configurations can be found at the ONTAP Select Resources page.

To maximize efficiency of the NVMe devices used for data, VMDirectPath I/O Pass-through is used to expose the drives to the ONTAP Select virtual machine. This allows ONTAP to have direct PCI access to the device. To configure this, you must first enable support for I/O virtualization within the host CPU. This is done by accessing the host’s BIOS configuration menu and enabling Intel® VT for Directed I/O (VT-d).

Aptio Setup Utility screen Next, the NVMe drives intended for ONTAP Select data must be configured for pass-through to virtual machines. Within vSphere, this is done within the host Configure view, under Hardware: PCI Devices. Click Edit and select the NVMe drives that you want to use for ONTAP Select. A maximum of 14 NVMe devices are currently supported per ONTAP Select node.

PCI Device Availability Edit screen

Note: a VMFS datastore, also backed by an NVMe device, is required to host the ONTAP Select VM’s system disks and virtual NVRAM. Make sure to leave at least one NVMe drive available for this purpose when configuring the others for PCI pass-through.

The selected devices will reflect Available (pending), and a reboot of the host is required to complete the process.

DirectPath I/O Devices Available to VMs The remaining host configuration steps are similar to those followed when deploying ONTAP Select Software RAID using SSD drives. Consult the documentation available under the ONTAP Select Resources page for full details.

Once the hosts are prepared, you can install the ONTAP Select Deploy utility, which is provided in a VM form-factor. Deploy guides you through the workflow of creating the ONTAP Select storage cluster on your newly prepared hosts. During this process, Deploy will detect the presence of NVMe drives configured for pass-through and automatically select them for use as ONTAP’s data disks. You can adjust the default selection if desirable.

ONTAP Select Deploy screen

Once the cluster is successfully deployed, ONTAP 9.7’s newly re-designed System Manager allows you to quickly provision the storage according to NetApp’s best practices with just a couple of clicks. ONTAP will automatically enable flash-optimized storage efficiency features that allow you to get the most out of your NVMe storage.

ONTAP system Manager screen

ONTAP OTS-NVME screen Interested in seeing first-hand the benefits of software-defined storage using ONTAP Select Software RAID with NVMe? Register for a free 90-day trial and get started today!

Jim Svesnik

Jim has been with NetApp for 10 years and is a Senior Engineer focused on Quality Assurance. He has worked on supportability, manageability, and cluster infrastructure components of ONTAP, and in his recent role has been heavily involved in the ONTAP Select product. In his spare time, Jim enjoys traveling to new destinations around the world. He holds a degree in Computing and Information Science from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

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