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Amazon EBS Elastic Volumes in Cloud Volumes ONTAP

December 15, 2022

Topics: Cloud Volumes ONTAP AWSMaster8 minute read

AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes have been widely adopted for cloud-native, throughput-sensitive workloads, as they offer high performance through replication and snapshotting capabilities. Now NetApp BlueXP Cloud Volumes ONTAP users can take advantage of this exciting AWS EBS type.

NetApp’s support for EBS Elastic Volumes in Cloud Volumes ONTAP aggregates extends the benefits of Cloud Volumes ONTAP for AWS systems, enabling better performance and additional capacity. With NetApp BlueXP, which provides automatic capacity management for Cloud Volumes ONTAP, capacity is dynamically increased when EBS Elastic Volumes are used, ensuring non-disruptive scaling.

In this post we’ll discuss the working and implementation of Elastic Volumes in Cloud Volumes ONTAP systems.

Read on or use the links below to jump down to each section:

What Are EBS Elastic Volumes?

Amazon EBS Elastic Volumes are block-level storage volumes that are designed to be highly scalable, performant, and durable. These volumes can be attached to any EC2 compute instance for storing application data and are designed to offer a cost-effective storage option where you can increase the capacity of an Amazon EBS volume without having to provision additional hardware.

As you can scale an EBS Elastic Volume without having to unmount the volume or restart the compute instance, it is considered ideal for applications that require frequent storage changes or for instances where you need higher storage capacity than what is available on a single EBS volume. They are also suitable for applications that require frequent snapshots or require real-time replication such as data warehousing, log processing, and media streaming.

Some benefits of using EBS Elastic Volumes over traditional storage volumes include:

  • High scalability makes it easy to increase the storage capacity of an EBS volume without having to provision additional hardware
  • Enhanced durabilityis made possible by built-in redundancy
  • High performance can be configured by scaling IOPS to support the most demanding workloads

How Cloud Volumes ONTAP Supports EBS Elastic Volumes

NetApp Cloud Volumes recently announced support for EBS Elastic Volumes, enhancing aggregate scalability and performance. The elastic nature of these EBS volumes enables BlueXP to dynamically alter the underlying storage capacity while Cloud Volumes ONTAP is still running, which makes disk scaling non-disruptive. This section discusses how Cloud Volumes ONTAP’s support for EBS Elastic Volumes works.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP with Elastic Volumes: Aggregate Architecture

The diagram below shows an aggregate with AWS EBS Elastic Volumes:


Every aggregate is made up of one or two RAID groups, each with four identical disks of the same capacity. The RAID group can expand to as large as 64 TiB in capacity, meaning the maximum capacity of each aggregate tops out at 128 TiB. BlueXP begins with one RAID group, and grows by increasing the capacity of all four disks equally. The growth in capacity is a minimum of either 256 GiB (64 GiB for each disk) or 10% of the aggregate’s size.

For example, assume you start with a 1 TiB aggregate, meaning each disk starts at 250 GiB. BlueXP will implement increments of 256 GiB each time since it is greater than 10% of the aggregate capacity (100 GiB). Once the aggregate reaches the 64 TiB capacity, BlueXP creates a second RAID group to increase storage capacity.

Supported Configurations

Cloud Volumes ONTAP’s support for Elastic Volumes works with specific EBS disk types and Cloud Volumes ONTAP versions. Visit the NetApp documentation to learn about the supported versions and configurations.

Benefits of Elastic Volumes for Cloud Volumes ONTAP

The Elastic Volumes feature integrates the benefits of EBS into Cloud Volumes ONTAP systems. Some of the benefits of Elastic Volumes for Cloud Volumes ONTAP include:

Increased aggregate capacity
Elastic Volumes can be deployed on aggregates with two RAID groups of up to 64 TiB spread evenly across four disks. This results in a total aggregate capacity of 128 TiB, which is 33% greater than the 96 TiB maximum capacity available for aggregates in which the Elastic Volumes feature is not enabled.

Better performance
Cloud Volumes ONTAP systems with Elastic Volumes can have up to eight disks per aggregate divided in two groups. This makes it easy to set up proper replication and redundancy to ensure consistent data availability. With more logical disks in the array, BlueXP can grow the aggregate’s size without stopping the disks, making capacity scaling non-disruptive.

Dynamic disk growth
Elastic Volumes extend AWS EBS’s snapshot capabilities into Cloud Volumes ONTAP, which enables quick scaling by restoring the volumes across multiple Availability Zones. Elastic Volume aggregates can range from several hundred GBs in size to 128 TiB, allowing storage teams to build data storage for applications of any size. The Elastic Volumes can be scaled up and down while Cloud Volumes ONTAP is still running, allowing for disk growth without impacting critical applications.

Using EBS Volumes in Cloud Volumes ONTAP

The Elastic Volumes feature offers a combination of high performance (io1) and low cost (gp3) SSDs to handle a wide assortment of transactional workloads. Elastic Volumes make it easy to right-size the aggregate and adapt to changes in performance with no downtime, making them attractive for throughput-intensive workloads.

Approaches to Provision Elastic Volumes

There are different ways to spin up Elastic Volumes in BlueXP. These are:

Provisioning Elastic Volumes with a new Cloud Volumes ONTAP setup
This refers to the approach of creating a new Cloud Volumes ONTAP system from scratch with the Elastic Volumes feature enabled for initial aggregate. With this approach, whenever a new io1 or gp3 disk is used, it is automatically provisioned as Elastic Volumes.

Here you can identify aggregates that have Elastic Volumes enabled:


On an existing Cloud Volumes ONTAP instance
Creating Elastic Volumes on an existing Cloud Volumes ONTAP system can be done in two ways:

  • Creating new volumes on an existing aggregate that supports Elastic Volumes
    If the user creates new io1 or gp3 disks, BlueXP automatically adds them to an existing aggregate with the Elastic Volumes feature enabled.
  • Creating a new aggregate with Elastic Volumes enabled
    The Elastic Volumes feature is automatically enabled for new Cloud Volumes ONTAP (version 9.11.0 or higher) aggregates running on io1 or gp3 disks. When the user creates the aggregate, Cloud Volumes ONTAP’s BlueXP prompts for the aggregate size, and creates the appropriate RAID configuration.

Volume Creation Workflow

When a user deploys a volume that uses the supported EBS disk types, BlueXP provisions Elastic Volume through the following steps:

  • BlueXP first checks if there is an existing aggregate with the Elastic Volumes feature enabled, and creates the volume on it
  • If BlueXP identifies more than one aggregate with the Elastic Volumes feature enabled, it creates the volume on an aggregate that would require fewer disks
  • If the system has aggregates that support Elastic Volumes, but the feature is disabled, BlueXP creates the volumes on one of these aggregates
  • If there are no aggregates that support Elastic Volumes, BlueXP creates a compliant aggregate and then creates the Elastic Volume on the new aggregate. The capacity of the aggregate is calculated as the size of the requested volume plus 10%.

Capacity Management Modes

Capacity management modes allow account administrators to choose whether BlueXP automatically performs disk growth or prompts for permissions from the team. There are two capacity management modes:

  • Automatic - BlueXP automatically purchases new storage disks for Cloud Volumes ONTAP systems when the workload requires more capacity. BlueXP also deletes, moves and attempts to recover failed disks without further action from storage teams.
  • Manual - BlueXP sends “Action Required” alerts when capacity requirements change. The changes are only applied to the Cloud Volumes ONTAP system once the storage administrators give the go-ahead.


Note that disk scaling is a time-consuming task that can take several hours to complete. Another point to consider is that when adding volumes to an aggregate, BlueXP may experience slow performance while requesting more disk space for instances that have exceeded the storage limit aggregate.


Elastic Volumes in Cloud Volumes ONTAP systems enable automated scaling of aggregates without disrupting disk functions, enforcing high performance, high availability, and agility. BlueXP spins up EBS volumes on an aggregate if the destination Cloud Volumes ONTAP system has the Elastic Volumes feature enabled.

Account administrators can check whether an aggregate supports Elastic Volume’s by checking the account’s Advanced Allocations page. Visit the official NetApp documentation to further understand how to work with Elastic Volumes in Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

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  • What is EBS used for?
    EBS is the high-performance block storage option offered by AWS. As such, it is used as the storage layer for the most mission-critical workloads by users in many different industries.
  • What is Elastic Volume in AWS?
    Elastic Volumes are a new approach to using EBS volumes. As the name implies, Elastic Volumes are more changeable, allowing users to adjust performance, volume size, and type. All of this is possible without restarting and while the volume remains attached, so the applications the storage serves are never disrupted by the change.
Oded Berman, Product Evangelist

Product Evangelist