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Cloud Automation

Cloud Cloning with FlexClone: Cloud Volumes ONTAP Customer Case Studies

Testing is a vital component in the developmental process for both startups and the largest enterprises. DevOps teams are charged with the task of setting up and maintaining testing environments. This process, while incredibly common, has many challenges which can often slow down development and prolong time to market. When dealing with multiple teams, many testing cycles, and large data sets, testing can get quite complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. Cloud automation for cloning data volumes is one key part of solving this challenge.

One major step in tackling these challenges is to clone volumes as efficiently as possible. Cloud Volumes ONTAP FlexClone® was designed specifically for this purpose. In this blog post we’ll take a closer look at FlexClone and several customer case studies to see how DevOps teams have successfully deployed this cloud cloning technology to reduce time to market, cut costs, and increase agility.

Why Is Cloning Important?

DevOps teams are required to rapidly set up multiple dev/test environments. Creating just one exact copy of an environment, complete with all its data, can be time-consuming and expensive. These copies need to be used by multiple teams at once, or for automated testing, which can run hundreds of tests and sometimes in parallel, with new copies constantly being generated. This process is necessary to keep the testing environments up-to-date with the latest production releases and to provide fresh data after automated software operations may have mutated the old set. 

Managing many copies at once can be difficult, slow, and expensive due to the large size of the datasets involved, and things can quickly get out of hand. When copying is inefficient and if there is no automatic mechanism to cleanup copies after testing, each copy can cause storage overhead, dangerously driving up memory usage and cloud storage costs.

Creating and managing multiple environments is a mission-critical task. How it is handled can either accelerate development or lead to significant delays. DevOps teams must find a method to create, manage, and scale clones efficiently across teams and throughout many test cycles. This can be challenging, and the cloud providers do not offer built-in cloning functionality.

FlexClone is a Cloud Volumes ONTAP feature designed to overcome these issues.

What is FlexClone?

Cloud Volumes ONTAP offers an array of features geared towards cloud automation. The Cloud Volumes ONTAP FlexClone feature allows users to create a writable and zero-capacity clone of any storage volume whether on-prem or in the cloud. The clones, taken from NetApp Snapshot™ storage snapshot copies of the source volume, are created instantly, no matter the size of the volume. In addition, clones do not affect overall storage space. They only require storage space when changes are made to them.

FlexClone is a particularly potent tool for creating copies in the cloud for cloud testing purposes. Any Cloud Volumes ONTAP volume can be cloned easily, including production databases and file shares. Using BlueXP Console as well as RESTful API, DevOps teams can leverage FlexClone to easily manage, automate, and integrate clones into the testing workflow. Once a test is complete, the clone can easily be deleted, freeing up capacity. This Cloud Volumes ONTAP feature can also be harnessed in Kubernetes deployments, making it easier to clone persistent volumes for stateful sets.

Check out this video blog to see how easy it to clone volumes in the cloud using FlexClone.

Customer Success Stories with FlexClone Cloud Cloning

Many companies are using NetApp’s FlexClone capabilities to create clones in the cloud more efficiently. In this section we explore four examples of companies that use the Cloud Volumes ONTAP FlexClone feature to transform their DevOps workflows, lower storage costs, and gain a competitive advantage by accelerating testing. 

Officeworks: Dev/Test Boost for Australia’s Leading Office Supplies Retailer

Officeworks is a prominent Australian office supplies retailer with more than 160 retail stores. The enterprise was limited by its outdated on-prem data centers which were quickly running out of storage space. Rather than purchase additional physical storage, Officeworks decided to undertake a cloud transformation, migrating some of its workloads to AWS and shifting towards a cloud-first strategy. To do this, they employed Cloud Volumes ONTAP to transition seamlessly and dramatically increase their DevOps productivity with FlexClone. Using this data cloning technology, Officeworks was able to: 

  • Accelerate development by creating multiple writable copies instantly.
  • Share clones throughout dispersed worksites.
  • Quickly create clones of Kubernetes persistent volumes.

Read the entire customer interview here.

Wirestorm: Faster TTM and Lower Costs Through Cloud Cloning

Wirestorm is a consultancy company that provides end-to-end IT solutions, specializing in business intelligence, cloud computing, big data, and cloud application development. Among its client-base are fortune 500 companies which include Microsoft, Schneider Electric, and Corbis. The enterprise helps its clients optimize operations, formulate new ideas, and create innovative products.

Before partnering with NetApp, analyzing their client’s vast pools of data was a long arduous process which typically took up to six months to complete. This limited the enterprise to just two projects a year. Much of the time spent was dedicated to setting up environments. Wirestorm turned to NetApp to manage its operations across multiple cloud vendors. Cloud Volumes ONTAP capabilities allow the company to quickly build and tear down environments and easily transfer vast amounts of data from place to place. As a result, Wirestorm can now explore its customer’s data and produce insights far faster than ever before. By primarily using FlexClone to store and transfer data, Wirestorm gained:

  • Much faster development time: Over 20 projects were completed in 2018 (as opposed to an average of two in previous years).
  • Lower storage costs: Their 6 TB database, which previously consumed 30 TB of storage and five full copies, no longer consumes extra storage space since it leverages just a single copy and four associated clones.
  • Data sets as large as production could be used, increasing the quality of testing.
  • The time spent creating dev/test environments was reduced from over 20 hours to less than one minute.

Read the full Wirestorm case study here.

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Clavis Insight: Cloud Cloning to Collaborate and Reduce Costs

Clavis Insight provides some of the most prominent manufacturers with sales insights and online solutions. Their operations deeply depend on effectively managing their client data. Initially, the company launched its infrastructure in AWS, but as the business expanded storage needs tripled, becoming unmanageable. NetApp Private Storage and Cloud Volumes ONTAP helped to mitigate storage costs which has skyrocketed, enhanced efficiency and accelerated time to market. Some of the advantages include:    

  • Enhanced internal collaboration: with FlexClone, each team has a copy of the database with no storage impact, allowing multiple tasks to be safely executed in parallel.
  • Product development sped up dramatically: With FlexClone, a database is ready for UAT testing in 15 minutes instead of three days.
  • Along with other storage efficiencies, reduced storage costs by 67%.

Read the full Clavis Insight case study here.

EidosMedia: Faster Dev Time for a Global Publishing Platform

EidosMedia is a digital publishing platform which caters to some of the largest publishers in the industry, including Le Monde, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Given the nature of the work, the platform must be highly available, allowing customers to create and deliver content across multiple channels online and in print. To answer its high availability and scaling needs, EidosMedia transitioned its operations from on-prem to the cloud.

Using Cloud Volumes ONTAP, data is available 24/7 to support its applications and answer the demands of its clients. With FlexClone EidosMedia was able to:

  • Create dev/test and production environments within minutes, using writable data volumes that are cloned immediately with zero-capacity.
  • Significantly reduce development time and time to market.
  • Keep data constantly available and can be transferred on-demand to satisfy operational requirements.

Read the full Eidos Media case study here.


The way in which DevOps teams copy and manage environments directly affects the development process. If environments are copied inefficiently, test cycles will be slowed down, storage costs will continue to rise, storage space will run out, and ultimately products will be delayed. That can all be solved with FlexClone. It's worth noting that infrastructure as code is another way to introduce significant automation into DevOps operations.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP enables its users to maintain their competitive edge with FlexClone. The feature allows the instant creation of zero-capacity clones, optimizing DevOps workflow and accelerating development of cloud applications. 

Start using FlexClone today with a free 30-day trial of Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

Yifat Perry, Technical Content Manager

Technical Content Manager