Technology Partners Virtual Volumes (vVols)

Implementing VMware Virtual Volumes on HP 3PAR StoreServ

In Q1 of this year we announced the general availability of vSphere 6.0, which includes a key capability to the VMware vision for Software-Defined Storage: Virtual Volumes (vVols). vVols is an integration framework to make 3rd party storage systems VM-aware and thereby enables control over native storage capabilities using the VMware control plane for SDS management: Storage Policy-Based Management.
There are two parts needed for customers to embark on the vVols transformation.  The first requirement is vSphere 6.0 with integrated vVols and SPBM features, and the other is a vVols-enabled array. The main reason why vVols is such a disruptive technology is because of the wide support from the storage partner ecosystem. HP is a vVols design partner and one of the few partners to deliver Day 1 support for vVols.
Today I’m very pleased to offer a guest article from Eric Siebert, HP Solutions Marketing Manager and our very dear colleague on the vVols partnership.


At HP we’ve put considerable effort into supporting VMware Virtual Volumes (vVols) on our 3PAR StoreServ arrays. As a design partner on vVols we were also chosen by VMware as their Fiber Channel reference platform for the development of vVols. After years of joint development efforts, VMware Virtual Volumes is now available as part of vSphere 6.0, and we’re excited to see production customers using and benefiting from VMware’s new architecture for shared storage.

VMware Virtual Volumes with HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage changes the model of vSphere from LUN-centric to VM-centric. The technology shift from a SCSI LUN-based model to an object-based model is the core difference introduced with vSphere 6.0 and vVols. vVols are designed for object storage access, differing from traditional block storage using LUNs. Instead of the traditional approach of simply presenting a LUN with a linear range of LBAs, vSphere 6.0 now manages data placement and access, giving the HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage visibility into what LBAs correspond to individual objects such as a VMDK, VMX, swap, or clone. The storage becomes VM-aware, which shifts many data operations from the vSphere host to the storage, like HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage.

HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage provides a tightly-integrated experience with support for vVols built into the array firmware that does not require an additional plug-in or software piece to enable vVols and to support VMware’s VASA 2.0 specification through the storage VASA Provider. The VASA Provider is the out-of-band communication mechanism between VMware vCenter Server 6.0 and the HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage. The VASA Provider for HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage system supports the storage capabilities profile as defined by the VASA specification. The name and description of all HP 3PAR storage capabilities can be viewed from the vSphere Web Client once the VASA Provider has been registered.

vVols use Storage Containers, a pool of raw storage capacity that offers logical grouping of vVols. All vVols are created inside the Storage Container. While Storage Containers are not visible via the in-band data path, they are presented to vSphere in the form of a datastore. The VASA Provider manages Storage Containers and reports their existence to the vCenter Server and ESXi hosts via the out-of-band control path. With HP 3PAR StoreServ, the entire array (or domain if you are using 3PAR Virtual Domains) is the Storage Container (SC). Storage Containers involve the allocation of chunks of physical storage; the Storage Container is the storage pool for vSphere on the HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage. The vVols architecture on 3PAR StoreServ is depicted below:


As mentioned above, the vVols and VASA functionality is integrated into the HP 3PAR Operating System software (firmware) and available to a vSphere 6 environment with minimal configuration required. The steps for implementing vVols on 3PAR StoreServ are fairly simple:

  1. Verify the 3PAR StoreServ protocol endpoint on your ESXi hosts – You can use the vSphere esxcli command to confirm the protocol endpoint (PE) for a 3PAR StoreServ array from an ESXi host as follows: “esxcli storage core device list -–pe-only”. In the storage device list, you should see an “Is VVOL PE” value that will be “true” if the ESXi host can see the 3PAR StoreServ PE.Picture2
  2. Register the 3PAR StoreServ VASA Provider in vCenter Server – To do this you will need to know the VASA Provider URL, you can easily find this out by issuing the showvasa command on your 3PAR StoreServ array. Once you have this, in vCenter select the Storage Providers tab and add a new Storage Provider using the URL along with a username and password for your 3PAR StoreServ array.Picture3
  3. Create and mount a Storage Container for vVols – In vCenter Server add a new datastore and select VVOL as the datastore type, give it a name and select the ESXi hosts that can access it.Picture4

After this is complete, the vVols Storage Container is now available to use for your new VMs and all the storage capabilities of the 3PAR StoreServ array will be known to vSphere. To get the most benefit out of vVols you will next want to create Storage Policies that are based on the features and capabilities of your 3PAR StoreServ array, and presented to the storage policy engine via the VASA Provider. As of now the following 3PAR StoreServ capabilities are supported with vVols:

  • Thin Provisioning
  • Array Snapshots
  • Auto Zero Detect
  • De-duplication
  • Virtual Copy
  • Space Reclamation (UNMAP)
  • Adaptive Flash Cache
  • Priority Optimization
  • Drive type (Nearline, SSD, Fiber Channel, etc)
  • RAID Level

HP is continually working to support new 3PAR StoreServ features in vVols, which will be available in future updates of the 3PAR OS. Once polices are created with the desired capabilities, they can be assigned to individual VMs to bring powerful storage array features directly to your VMs and applications. A key benefit we’re seeing with these policies is empowering the vSphere admin to more easily see and leverage the powerful storage capabilities available; while on the flip side, saving the storage admin from performing as many manual provisioning tasks. Just make sure you enable VM Storage Policies in vCenter Server on your host or cluster so you can start applying them to VMs.

Getting up and running with VMware Virtual Volumes on 3PAR StoreServ is as simple as that. If you want more information on implementing vVols on your 3PAR StoreServ array check out the following demos and white papers.

HP 3PAR StoreServ and VMware vVols Demo:

HP 3PAR and VMware vVols demo: deeper dive:

3PAR and VMware vVols Technical Implementation Guide:

Evaluation of HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage with VMware vVols:



Again, our sincere thanks to Eric from HP for his contribution to our blog series on Virtual Volumes.  Make sure you follow Eric on twitter: @EricSiebert is where you’ll find him.
I would also recommend you watch this video from Craig Nunes, VP of WW Marketing and Alliances for HP Storage, talking about the VMware / HP partnership on vVols.
 Learn more about vVols on the VMware product page:



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