“In the cloud, vSphere functions like hyper-converged infrastructure,” said Philippe Charpentier, technical director of NetApp in France, to Computer Weekly’s sister publication LeMagIT.
“You choose a certain number of nodes, each with a certain quantity of virtual processors, RAM and storage capacity.
“But if your application needs more storage at any given moment – for example, to extend your data lake – you have to add to the number of nodes. In other words, pay for vCPU and RAM that you don’t need. With Ontap services you only have to pay for the storage.”
VMware has offered a cloud version of its vSpehere virtualisation in the three big public clouds for several years. These are VMware cloud on AWS, Azure VMware Solutions and Google Cloud VMware Engine.
The challenge for VMware is to offer vSphere datacentre customers an extension to the cloud that is simple, where the technology is familiar and it’s not necessary to adapt virtual machines or admin policies.
Unlike the VMs offered by default on AWS, Azure and GCP, those from VMware run on separate physical servers, designed for vSphere, with high tariffs and storage that also costs more.
“With tweaks, it is possible to extend storage for VMware in the cloud with native storage services from AWS, Azure or GCP,” said Charpentier. “Except that they are not designed for that.
“VMware would have had to develop gateways that allowed its storage services to be controlled from vCenter,” he added. “And that wouldn’t have the guaranteed performance and secure access that critical applications require.”
He explained that enterprises generally choose to retain the VMware format when they migrate to the cloud because applications are too critical to be adapted to cloud-native formats.
Ontap and vSphere already connected in the datacentre
NetApp already sells its Ontap storage under licence via the three big cloud providers so they can offer storage compatible with its disk arrays. These are FSx for Ontap with AWS, Azure NetApp Files and NetApp Cloud Volume on GCP.
“From a technical point of view, it operates exactly the same as the Ontap enterprises use in their datacentre to extend a vSphere cluster,” said Charpentier.
“In other words, VMware has integrated its storage services in vCenter. Above all, that means all the high-level settings possible in in the datacentre between vSphere and Ontap are now possible in the cloud.”
Technically speaking, Ontap is not a storage resource that VMware can access as an alternative to its own vSAN system, but rather that vSAN uses to extend capacity with better integration with access settings, bandwidth and security.
According to the various analyst houses, Ontap is used by 15% to 20% of VMware datacentre customers. “In the cloud, we are the only alternative for 100% of customers,” said Charpentier.