Wednesday, December 3, 2014

NetApp troubles

I've been bugged by a problem for more than 2 weeks now.

May 2012 we let Belgacom (now Proximus) build us a small VMware vSphere 5.0 setup with 3 hosts.

We chose NetApp as our shared storage vendor and bought a FAS2040.  A few months later we added an extra shelf.  For a small organisation (130 people) this was quite the investment, but hey some peace of mind has its price.

Since then we never had noteworthy issues, so we were happy customers.  Until a few weeks ago...

As a policy we try to follow new VMware releases (as we pay for  them) for new functionality (supported OSes).  Almost a year ago (January 2014), we did an upgrade from vSphere 5.1 to 5.5.   We did check NetApp's IMT tool and found out this was possible.  The upgraded system worked flawlessly (only a minor issue with logging and VSC).  We also did an ONTAP upgrade [= the OS on the NetApp device] a few weeks ago.

Now we wanted to update to vSphere 5.5U2.
In my preparations I started to read the VMware release notes.
One of the first steps is to check hardware compatiblity in the VMware HCL [=hardware compatibility list]

To my surprise our FAS wasn't supported anymore for 5.5U2.   Moreover I discovered we were already running an unsupported configuration.   Last supported VMware vSphere version for our filer is 5.1U2 and we were already at 5.5 ...  I (and Proximus for that matter) didn't check the HCL in January assuming that a system costing thousands of Euros still would be supported.

Now every VMware architect will acknowledge the importance of this HCL in designing a configuration as this has implications on the level of support you get from VMware.

Proximus immediately did what they had to do and created a case at NetApp.

We got a reply that NetApp will support our configuration and they work closely together with VMware.  But that was not the question.  Our question was: will VMware support our configuration   as it used to be supported?  NetApp then pointed Proximus to VMware support "as we [=NetApp] has no control of their [=VMware] HCL" (sic).

So Proximus did just that:  VMware confirmed we were running an unsupported configuration and pointed out what NetApp should do to "make it back into the list":  send a request to VMware to (re)certify.  This means VMware will check its performance and compatibility.

The thing is we can't easily go back to the latest supported configuration (5.1U2) because this isn't supported with the new ONTAP version.

The EOA [= End of availability] date of the FAS2040 is 2 nov 2012, software supported 31 oct 2017.  Does this mean EOA also means end of VMware certification for NetApp?

Bottom line: we only had the system for 1,5 years when a minor update of VMware was released, and this isn't supported anymore.  I understand they won't support the next major version of VMware, you can't support stuff forever.

Be careful with this stuff: check and doublecheck the HCL with every upgrade and update, you have been warned!   Also check (if possible) whether the proposed components of your system are about to be replaced by the vendor.

I will post new findings.

For the sake of completeness: the history of VMware 5 releases

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