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Please keep in mind these features are currently only available in private preview, but will soon be GA and readily available.

VMware Cloud overview

VMware Cloud is a platform that enables VMware applications to run on the public cloud. As an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution, it allows customers to move virtualized workloads to dedicated VMware environments in all of the major public cloud providers, including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and approximately 170 other VMware Cloud Certified partners. The biggest component of VMware Cloud is the ability to migrate traditional data center applications to the cloud or establish a hybrid cloud deployment where applications based on VMware reside on-premises or in the cloud. This helps organizations from an operating model, as there is no need to learn multiple virtualized applications in order to manage those applications across on-premises or in the cloud. VMware Cloud is available in different flavors depending on the cloud provider. If you are looking at AWS as your cloud provider of choice, the best solution is VMC on AWS. Similarly, if you are choosing Azure as your cloud provider, the ideal solution is Azure VMware Solution (AVS). Lastly, if you are looking at Google Cloud as your cloud provider of choice, then the solution known as Google Cloud Virtualization Engine (GCVE) is best suited. Below we will cover the NetApp-based storage solutions that complement each of the three cloud provider VMware solutions mentioned above.

AWS FSx for ONTAP (FSxN) overview

Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP is a fully managed service that provides reliability, scalability, performance, and feature-rich file storage built on NetApp's popular ONTAP file system. Based on ONTAP, this file system provides all of the same management, agility, and simplicity as other AWS services. For customers that use NetApp ONTAP storage on-premises today, FSx for ONTAP provides similar options to migrate, burst file-based workloads, or backup that a secondary physical NetApp ONTAP storage system would provide. The fact that everything is ONTAP, means that your application's data stays the same and does not have to be re-factored as you are transitioning the application to AWS. This service integrates directly with AWS Identity and Access Management, Amazon WorkSpaces, AWS KMS, and AWS CloudTrail just like any of the other AWS FSx storage options.

NetApp Infographic

Azure NetApp Files overview

Azure NetApp Files (ANF) is a native Microsoft Azure storage service built on adjacent NetApp ONTAP storage systems in most Azure regions. Just like ONTAP, ANF can support both NFS and SMB/CIFS connectivity and the ability to "lift and shift" any Linux or Windows applications to the cloud. The service offers a range of performance tiers to match the needs of your application and is deeply integrated into the Azure portfolio as a native service. One of the biggest bonuses of ANF is the certifications granted for meeting several compliance needs including SAP HANA, GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI/DSS. The service comes built with management capabilities via the Azure portal, CLI, PowerShell, or REST API, and supports NFSv3, NFSv4.1, and SMB3.1.x. Additionally, all data is encrypted at rest, adding a FIPS-140-2 level of compliance and 99.99% availability.

Microsoft Infographic

Google Cloud Volumes Service (CVS) overview

NetApp and Google Cloud partnered to offer a fully-managed file-based storage solution. Google Cloud CVS is fully integrated into the Google Cloud Console and is directly tied to all  other Google Cloud products and solutions. CVS is built around support for NFSv3, NFSv4.1, and SMB workloads and can easily migrate applications or move volumes from on-premises ONTAP storage to Google Cloud without needing to refactor or re-architect your application. CVS includes all of the common ONTAP features, such as efficient, automated snapshots, instant cloning, asynchronous volume level replication, and backup or archive to cheaper object storage with Google Cloud Storage.

Google Cloud Graphic

Current VMware Cloud usage via "guest connected storage"

The increase in demand for VMware-specific applications and management in the public has sparked a trend toward more customers looking at VMware Cloud, whether this is on AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud. Based on the solutions above and the respective VMware Cloud solutions across AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, you can only mount NetApp Cloud storage solutions via "guest OS connectivity". 

What does it mean to connect via "guest OS"?

As it stands today, with the three storage solutions referenced above, none of them integrate directly with VMC on AWS, AVS, or GCVE. However, this does not mean you can't use the storage from the solutions referenced above. If you would like to use FSxN, ANF, or CVS in Google Cloud for your VMware Cloud solutions, you can only do so by mounting the NFS or SMB file system directly to the VM running either Linux or Windows. To explain this in more detail, below are the steps you would follow:

  1. Configure your VMware Cloud solution in the cloud provider, ensuring network connectivity is established from on-premises, cloud-to-cloud, or cloud-born applications you intend to run on VMware.
  2. Utilizing the cloud provider console, deploy the file system that corresponds with the cloud provider you prefer. For example, if you are looking to deploy in AWS, you would utilize the Amazon FSx for ONTAP service and deploy your file system accordingly.
  3. If you are utilizing NFS, ensure that the file system has the proper export policies for the Linux-based VMs running in VMware Cloud.
  4. Alternatively, if you are using SMB, ensure that the file system is added to your Active Directory server/service and that the users/groups have permission to map the file system on the Windows-based VMs running in VMware Cloud.
  5. Lastly, rather than navigating to vSphere to manage the file system as a datastore attached to the VMs, you will log into each VM individually and mount the file system like you would any other NFS/SMB network storage solution.

As you can see, this is not the seamless process you would intend to see with both source and target running VMware. You cannot use any of your common vSphere datastore functionality in order to attach the storage to the VMs via VMware management tools. On top of that, you miss out on some features that VMware offers for site reliability and disaster recovery and there is no easily automated approach to get your VMware-based applications to replicate, utilize, or establish connectivity to the storage without intervention and extra provisioning steps.

Why "native datastore" with VMware Cloud is important

Currently in "private preview", NetApp, VMware, and the cloud providers have announced a simplified version of the breakdown above with "guest OS" connected storage and VMware Cloud. The announcement highlights that the three storage solutions, based on NetApp ONTAP above, will be available as native datastore connected with VMware Cloud. To highlight, this means that whether you are using VMC on AWS, AVS, or GCVE, you will be able to attach your respective NetApp Cloud storage solution (FSxN, ANF, CVS in Google Cloud) to VMware Cloud via the traditional datastore approach. This provides on-premises-like features and the functionality of an OnPrem VMware hypervisor with NetApp ONTAP storage volumes mounted as datastores in VMware to the public cloud VMware solutions. 

It is difficult to speculate on all of the features and functions that will be released as part of the native datastore functionality from NetApp-based cloud storage and VMware Cloud solutions, but we will be sure to highlight them once they are available. 

The below scenario is one possible benefit specific to VMC on AWS and FSxN.

As FSxN holds all of the common NetApp ONTAP technology features, such as SnapMirror, FlexCache, ONTAP APIs, etc., the benefits of VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) and ONTAP Storage Replication Adapter (SRA as part of ONTAP Tools for VMware) come full circle. In an on-premises VMware and ONTAP solution, you would utilize SRA with SRM to develop recovery plans from primary to secondary locations. The functionality would ensure that all of the data in the disaster recovery plan is application-consistent, minimizing your RTO and RPO as you failover from a primary to a secondary location. Now, imagine the secondary location being VMC on AWS attached to datastores from FSxN. This would create a like-for-like scenario, but rather than needing a physical data center for your secondary location, you would utilize AWS regions. The network components would still need to be configured for disaster recovery to be seamless. However, you also have additive features with VMware vRealize to automate and orchestrate much of the deployment and failover, as it is integrated with VMC on AWS. 

This is just one of many likely scenarios with the release of native datastore functionality with NetApp-based cloud storage and VMware Cloud, but more will be discovered as we move out of "private preview" and into "general availability". WWT's architects will be sure to keep you informed and establish a solidified lab environment in the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) to provide customers with the first glimpse of this solution end-to-end.

Feel free to reach out to us directly (Dale Darby or Derek Elbert) if you are interested in learning more about this solution.

For those readers that need more insight, or who would like to learn more about the solutions referenced above, please utilize the following labs: