NetApp and VMware: vVols Tech Preview

Graham Smith is a Senior Solutions Manager for VMware at NetApp.  While a lot of what he does falls under the hat of “Product Management,” Graham also prides himself on remaining close to the tech.  He runs Linux as his desktop of choice, and that usually tells you all you need to know.  He’s also a UK transplant that found his way to Silicon Valley, and is passionate about innovation, marketing, and progress.  

This time last year, we were hearing about this new way VMware was going to be handling storage.  It went through many names, such as vDisk’s, VM volumes, and eventually landed with “Virtual Volumes,” cordially referred to as vVols.  Leading up to VMworld US this year, all of us storage types were pushing VMware to give us an engineering code drop so that we could do introductory tech preview demo’s at the show.  Unfortunately, this did not happen in time to show in San Francisco, but it did come shortly thereafter, and we were able to demo it this past week in Barcelona.  

Graham asked if he could write up a quick post about vVol’s and show you the demo that we had at the booth, in case you were not able to make it to the show.  So here it is!

DISCLAIMER:  This post is in no way a binding announcement of features or technologies being delivered from either NetApp or VMware, timelines of such releases, and all things discussed are subject to change.

VMware has brought some amazing abilities to the datacenter, many of which were [considered] science fiction only a few years ago. As we look back at those dark pre-virtualization days, there is one ability storage admins lost, and that is to manage storage uniquely for each application. Well, charge up your flux capacitors, accelerate to 88 MPH, and let’s go back to the future with vVols!

Attendees at the last few VMworld’s may have seen a glimpse of VM Volumes in the break out sessions.  Now, in Barcelona, we are demonstrating this future technology.

NetApp is a key design partner for vVols, and we have been working hard with VMware’s latest code drops so we can show off some of our joint capabilities.

Truth in lending statement – we can neither comment on the availability of vVols, nor on VMware’s target releases. What we can state that NetApp plans to be there on day 1, if such as a release were to happen.

If you were lucky enough to come to Barcelona (wonderful city), you may have seen the demo below given by yours truly.

What you’ll see in the video below is :

  • An overview of the problem we’re aiming to solve (i.e. Application-Granular storage management)
  • An architectural preview of vVols, Protocol Endpoint (PEs), and Containers
  • VASA’s role in this magic – how it exports Datastore Capabilities, provisions vVols, and manages their compliance to their SLO
  • How vVols enable tight integration of NetApp magic into vSphere, such as offloading Snapshots and clones to the storage controller(s) via DataONTAP
  • And a glimpse into some of the more advanced capabilities we’re working on (should such releases happen)

Watch this space for follow up blogs and some more details over the next few months!


Awesome stuff!  Thanks Graham.  Admittedly, even I had not spent a lot of time investigating vVol’s until very recently, and being tied to the booth activities as well as Hands-On-Labs at the shows makes it even more difficult to attend sessions.

So I’ll put it to you readers!  What do you think about this concept of vVol’s?  Post your questions and comments below!  Hope you enjoy the demo, and special thanks to Graham for schooling us, and to Dan Sarisky for putting the demo environment together!

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Arnold Romeijn
10/16/2012 16:10

Got the demo on the stand in Barcelona. It looks very promising. I like file based snapshots. To bad its only for cluster mode (but that’s the future anyway).

Nick Howell
Reply to  Arnold Romeijn
10/17/2012 12:02

Correct.  :)   To quote Sandra Bullock from Demolition Man, “In the future, everything will be [Cluster-Mode], John Spartan.”

Drew Henning
Drew Henning
10/17/2012 14:45

The vVol concept looks very interesting.  It reminds me of what Tintri is doing on their purpose built storage platform for VMware.

The video does a good job of showing the VMware side.  What’s happening on the NetApp end?  Does vCenter just have an aggregate where it creates a flexvol for each VM/VMDK?  Or are they some sort of volumes within volumes?  

Graham Smith
Graham Smith
Reply to  Drew Henning
10/17/2012 18:28

Thanks Drew On the NetApp end, things don’t change too much from the model today.  One or more Vservers will present NFS volumes and/or target LUNs to vSphere. Each Vserver has 1 or more aggregates in which FlexVols can be created for NFS volumes or to host LUNs. The biggest difference is in the SAN architecture. The target LUNs seen by vSphere are proxies and many VVOL LUNs can be behind it. This gives us the ability to see and manage each VVOL LUN. Think Network proxies, but for LUNs. For NFS a VVOL is simply a file just like… Read more »

Chris M Evans
Reply to  Graham Smith
10/18/2012 07:47

What exactly is a “proxy LUN” in SAN terms?  It’s not something I’ve ever heard of before and it’s not part of the fibre channel standard, to my knowledge.  Can you expand on that?

Graham Smith
Graham Smith
Reply to  Chris M Evans
10/22/2012 18:38

Good question,  A proxy LUN is seen on an iSCSI or FC SAN as a target and can  be managed, zoned etc. on the SAN. Behind each Proxy LUN are multiple VVOL LUNs, each with a UUID. Initiator / Target I/O follows SCSI standards to the Proxy LUN and are directed to the correct VVOL LUN using the UUID as a tag. A decent analogy is found in networking. Each PC, phone, TV, tablet etc. in my home network has it own IP address (192.168..), and these can all connect to the internet via my router which has only 1 IP address on… Read more »

Vignesh K Viki
Vignesh K Viki
Reply to  Graham Smith
04/07/2016 00:34

hi Graham,
How the IO mapping between the proxy LUN and the VVOL lun is done? It is completely depends of the Vendor implementation or there is any tool ( like targetcli) that provides the mapping.

Reply to  Graham Smith
11/19/2012 13:22

hello, thanks for the preview. I was at the Insight in Barcelona but I didn’g get any information about vVOL :( If I understand your comment, from the ONTAP point of view, in a NFS environment, the vVol is a file container inside an ONTAP volume. So If I take a Snapshot of the vVol, this Snapshot corresponds to a classical ONTAP Snapshot Volume, and all vVols inside the ONTAP Volume will be embedded in the ONTAP Snapshot. is that correct ? In a SAN environment  even with the proxy LUN, each vVol LUN is stored inside a classical ONTAP volume.… Read more »

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Sign Up

New membership are not allowed.