Native NFS Snapshots (VAAI) w/ VMware View Composer (View 5.1)

Following my post on Netapp Edge VSA and the Rapid Clone utility, I thought it was obvious to write a piece on the new VAAI functionality in VMware View 5.1 which allows the use of Netapp Native NFS snapshots (VAAI) for VMware View Composer linked clone deployments.

This feature is really the missing piece of the puzzle as the Rapid Clone Utility (RCU) could deploy large numbers of desktops very quickly, however it could only do manual pools which may have been a pain point for some customers.

So lets jump right in.

To take advantage of native NFS snapshot functionality within VAAI you need to install the NFS VAAI Plugin.

The official documentation on the plugin can be found at here.

The easiest way however, is too download the offline bundle from and use the VSC plugin to complete the installation, see below for instructions.

The below screenshots are designed to be visual aids to support the above written instructions.

The below is the VSC plugin main screen.

Click the “Tools” option on the left hand side

Click the “Install on host” button, then select the hosts you want to install the plugin on and press “Install”

Select “Yes” to confirm the installation

The installation will begin as shown below. The installation was not super fast for me, so be patient.

After around 3 mins (in my lab anyway), it should complete, following which, reboot your host/s.

The easiest way to confirm if the installation was successful is to check the “Hardware Accelerated” column (on the far right) for your datastores. Ensure it is now showing “Supported” as per the below example.

If for some reason it still shows “Not Supported”, reboot your host, and if that doesn’t work, reinstall the plugin.

Now that we have the plugin installed, its time to get into VMware View Administrator.

Launch the web interface to your connection broker, and login.

You should see similar to the below after logging in.

Note: My system health shows some errors due to not have signed certificates, this will not impact the functionality.

Now, this article assumes your environment is already configured with a vCenter and View Composer server, like the below. If you do not have vCenter and View Composer configured, this article does not cover these steps.

The below shows the VMware View administrator console, To create a Pool (with or without Native NFS Snapshots) , we use the “Add” button shown below.

In the Pool definitions section, we start at the “Type” menu.

For this example, to use View Composer, we select the “Automated Pool” option and press “Next”.

The “User Assignment” screen gives us two (2) options, both options can leverage the Native NFS snapshots, but in this case, I have selected “Floating”.

In the “vCenter server” menu, Select “View Composer linked clones” and press “Next”.

We are now in the “Settings” section of the Add Pool wizard, Here we set the ID and Display Name, for this example, the ID and display name are both set to “W7TestPool”. After you set your ID and Display name, press “Next”.

In Pool settings,  I have chosen to leave everything default for this example. In the real world, each of these settings should be carefully considered.

In the “Provisioning settings” menu the two (2) main things to do is to set the naming pattern, which should be a logical name for your environment, followed by {n:fixed=3}, this basically results in three (3) digits after your chosen name so you can support VMs 001 through 999.

Then we select the maximum number of desktops and the number of spare desktops.

In this example I want to provision all desktops up-front to demonstrate the speed of deployment.

In a production environment this would not generally be the most efficient setting.

The “View Composer” disks menu allows us to configure “disposable disks”, for this example these are not required as no users will be using the desktops I am deploying as this is a test lab. However, in a production environment this is an option you need to carefully consider.

The “Storage Optimization” menu allows both persistent and replica disks to be separated from OS disks. Again, this is something to carefully consider in your production environments, but is not relevant to this example. As such neither option it used.

Now we select the Parent VM & Snapshot, In this case, I am using a Windows 7 VM which I have prepared. There is nothing special about this image, it is just a bare Windows 7 installation patched using Windows update, nothing more.

For this example, I am using my “MgmtCluster”, which is  just a cluster with my physical ESXi 5.0 host.

The datastores option is important, to make full use of the Native NFS Snapshots, the Parent VM should be in the same NFS datastore.

I have selected “NetappEdge_Vol1” as this is where my Parent VM resides, You have the option to set the “Storage Overcommitment” as shown below, however this is not relevant as we’re using the Native NFS Snapshots option later in the wizard.

The below shows all options are completed, now we hit “Next”.

Here we see we have the option to “Use native NFS snapshots (VAAI), if this is greyed out, you may have an issue with the plugin install OR the datastore you have selected is not on your Netapp Edge/FAS or IBM N-Series controller.

We can also use Host caching (CBRC) which will generally provide good performance, as such I have left it enabled.

In the guest customization section, we can set an AD container where we want the linked clones to reside, in a production environment you should use this feature, but for this demonstration its not relevant.

You can also use QuickPrep or Sysprep – Each has Pros & Cons, but both work with the Native NFS snapshots.

Now we’re done, so all we need to do is hit “Finish”.

Now, I have included the below screen shot of the datastores prior to the Linked clones being deployed as a baseline to show there is 31.50GB Free on “NetappEdge_Vol1” which will be used for this demonstration.

Having completed the “Add Pool” wizard, after a short delay, the initial clone of the master VM will start, you will see a task similar to the below appear.

We can also see from the above the first two clones took just 20 seconds.

Now see the next screen shot, where the tenth VM is powering on, thus confirming the storage (or cloning) part of the process is complete. Note the completed time of 20:53:39, which is 20:50:12 , this means all 10 VMs we’re cloned, and registered to vCenter is just 3mins 27seconds (or 20.7 seconds per 10Gb VM).

At this stage the VMs are all booting up, and customizing etc before registering with the connection broker.

This step in the process is largely dependent on the amount of compute in your cluster and the storage performance (mostly from a read) perspective. As I have only a single host with my servers / storage and desktops running on the same host, the time it takes to complete this step will be longer than a production environment.

In conclusion the new functionality with Native NFS Snapshots (VAAI) clearly demonstrates a significant step forward to improving desktop provisioning times w/ View Composer. It also basically removes the compute and I/O impact on your vSphere cluster and storage array.

The performance appears to be similar to the performance of the Rapid Clone Utility (RCU) without the restriction of having to use “Manual Pools”.

As such I would encourage anyone looking at VDI solutions to consider this technology, as it has a number of important benefits over traditional “dumb disk”.

One thought on “Native NFS Snapshots (VAAI) w/ VMware View Composer (View 5.1)

  1. Excellent post … I had a similar result using EMC VNX 5300.. for a VMware view deployment using link clone. the provisioning was almost immediately. now View 5.1 is arriving at a time when businesses seem more than ready to consider new approaches to end-user computing