I trust you are as excited as I am with VMworld just around the corner. In case you missed it, we have a lot going on in San Francisco. Brian Gracely has a published number of posts covering the details of our Breakout Sessions and the sessions featuring either NetApp Partners or Customers over at the Virtualization Effect.
The Storage Most Integrated with VMware
In yesterday’s post I made an effort to clarify the level of integration between VMware and a storage vendor claiming to have the greatest level of integration. While I craft the follow up to that post I’d like to offer you a preview of one of the integration technologies that will be made available and on display at VMworld.
Introducing the Rapid Cloning Utility 2.1
While the RCU is not a new product, version 2.1 is loaded with a number of major enhancements. For those unfamiliar with the RCU it is a vCenter plug-in that delivers end-to-end storage provisioning and the creation of deduplicated virtual server and desktop clones by storage arrays running Data ONTAP.
As the cloud becomes a reality; automation, orchestration, and efficiency technologies will become paramount to the success of the deployments. I believe the RCU represents the essence of NetApp engineering efforts, which deliver the capabilities inherent within Data ONTAP and makes them available to VMware administrators.
I would like to highlight that the videos referred to in the post and hosted on YouTube are not what will be on display at VMworld; however, they will provide you a sense of what will be on display.
Integrated Storage Provisioning
The RCU allows VMware administrators automatically provision NFS & VMFS (FC & iSCSI) datastores directly from within the Virtual infrastructure Client. Provisioning can done at multiple levels ranging from the data center, cluster, resource group, or individual ESX/ESXi server. Simply right click to get started…
On the storage array the RCU can create FlexVols, LUNs, can mask the LUNs, secure and export the NFS volumes, set advanced NFS volume configurations, enable dedupe and/or thin provisioning.
One the ESX/ESXi hosts the RCU enables storage connectivity protocols, opens firewall ports, connects to and formats LUNs and/or connects to NFS volumes. If you have deployed over an IP based storage protocol, the RCU will balance datastore connections across all of the available storage network paths.
Provisioning within the RCU is literally a one-stop-shop operation. Now I don’t want to spook storage administrators. There are prerequisites for enabling the RCU. First the storage protocols and storage networking must be enabled and operation along with a storage container defined for the VMware datasets. For the term ’storage container’ I am referring to either a FlexVol with LUNs or an Aggregate with NFS. We have implemented this form of physical resource management based on the feedback of storage administrators.
Integrated Datastore Management
Unlike most LUNs attached to physical servers datastores are far from static volumes and as such the ability to dynamically manage them can make life a lot easier for a VMware admin.
The RCU allows for the enablement, disablement, and reporting of NetApp data deduplication on a datastore by datastore basis. One can also destroy a datastore and its contents. What’s unique with this operation is the RCU actually returns free space back to the storage array, which in turn can immediately be utilized in the form of the provisioning of new datastore or as capacity for the expansion of an existing datastore.
The RCU also allows NFS datastores to dynamically be resized. This functionality includes both increasing and decreasing datastore capacity. Note VMFS datastore can be increase with running data today; however, the process is manual and requires interaction between the storage and VMware admins. The 2.2 release will add support for VMFS datastores.
Integrated VM and Datastore Cloning
Anyone familiar with previous versions of the RCU understands that this tool began as a simple a cloning tool that leverages our FlexClone technology. In fact, if you attended VMworld 2007 you might recall this little demo, which is where it all started.
Today the RCU still creates deduplicated VMs for virtual servers and desktops; however, it is much more integrated in the management of these VMs than ever before. New to v2.1 is the option to simply right click and clone multiple VMs and datastores across an entire data center, cluster, resource group, or individual ESX/ESXi server. This cloning operation also includes the option to balance the deployment across all nodes in the selected deployment option.
The RCU directly imports virtual desktops into VMware View Manager and XenDesktop for further streamlined operations between VMware and desktop administrators.
I’d like to highlight that at present that the ability to manipulate VM specific files via NFS datastores is a bit more advanced than what is available with VMFS datastores.
Today the RCU can clone pre-deduplicated, individual VMs on NFS datastore and this process completely eliminates all I/O between the ESX/ESXi nodes and the storage.
By contrast, VMFS datastores require the cloning to be accomplished from an ESX host and for VDI deployments this process is repeated until an individual datastore is filled. From there we deduplicate the datastore, and create zero cost FlexClone copies. While the end results are identical to cloning NFS hosted VMs and datastores, this process does require a few additional minutes to complete and it does not offload the I/O between the ESX/ESXi nodes and the storage array.
We will update the RCU to leverage the copy offload functionality that will be available when VMware release the vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI) in a near-future version of ESX/ESXi.
In addition, the copy offload APIs will allow FlexClone to be the technology behind VMware LinkedClones when running on storage arrays powered by Data ONTAP. I may be piling on here, but FlexClone is also empowering customers who manage their virtual desktop environments with Quest vWorkspace.
In Closing – Why Integrate Storage into VMware?
NetApp has always approached storage differently than traditional, legacy storage array vendors. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the classic array architectures; however, it does mean that there are limits in terms of what they can provide from within the storage array.
As I meet with more customers; be it VMware admins, cloud service providers, or net-new NetApp accounts I find that most virtualization focused professionals have never managed shared storage arrays. For these customers the integration of storage directly into vCenter allows them to virtualize more systems in less time and on less disk with features they are used to seeing with server virtualization technologies such as VMware.
NetApp is focused on continually enhancing the level of virtualization and abstraction between physical storage controllers and the data being stored. Doing so allows us to be storage protocol and array platform neutral (yes Data ONTAP runs on IBM and other 3rd party controllers) while delivering the integration, efficiency, and simplicity required for the cloud and our integration partners.
Please share your thoughts on this post. I look forward to seeing and meeting many of you in person at VMworld. Stop by the booth where one of the many folks on my team can assist you with a personal demo of the RCU and the rest of our VMware integrated tools.
As always… ‘Virtualization Changes Everything’