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A Tale of Two Simulators

I recently downloaded both the EMC VNX simulator and the NetApp OnTap 8 simulator for a proof of concept lab. Both came with detailed instructions on how to get them started, though the actual experience was vastly simpler for the VNX simulator over the OnTap simulator.

The NetApp procedure runs to 32 pages of which the first 26 are dedicated to setting up the VM in VMware Workstation/Player or ESX. This is followed by a page and a half of information on assigning a unique system ID. There are no instructions on how to access or configure the simulator once you get past this point, and the VM is rebooting constantly.

The EMC VNX guide is 38 pages, of which 2 are about loading the VM in VMware Workstation (EMC doesn’t support it in ESX, though it is well known to work). The remaining pages are full of clear concise instructions that take you from loading the VM to provisioning storage through the Unisphere interface.

After digging around further and finding other people with similar issues on the OnTap simulator I found there is a second manual required, one that is not linked from the page where I downloaded the simulator from. This 64 page manual covers setting up the disks and joining a cluster. It still doesn’t leave me with a GUI or any instructions on taking advantage of the underlying power of the OnTap system.

In my opinion NetApp need to lift their game with their simulator. I don’t believe that it should be difficult to provide one that requires less effort to configure, and presents an easy to use management interface on first boot.

Once both simulators, were configured and I was able to access them from another VM, I was able to save files to a CIFS and NFS share and access them. From the VNX simulator I was able to replicate to a second VNX array for a full DR proof of concept.

For the VNX simulator I recommend reading Chad Sakac’s blog http://virtualgeek.typepad.com/ which is full of useful information on not only the VNX simulator, but also ESX home brew for building a lab environment on a budget. Of particular note are most of the articles in the Celerra-VSA-Howto category.