An architectural diagram provides an overview of how all components of the Virtual Volumes functionality interact with each other.

The illustration depicts how different components of Virtual Volumes interact.

Virtual volumes are objects exported by a compliant storage system and typically correspond one-to-one with a virtual machine disk and other VM-related files. A virtual volume is created and manipulated out-of-band, not in the data path, by a VASA provider.

A VASA provider, or a storage provider, is developed through vSphere APIs for Storage Awareness. The storage provider enables communication between the ESXi hosts, vCenter Server, and the vSphere Client on one side, and the storage system on the other. The VASA provider runs on the storage side and integrates with the vSphere Storage Monitoring Service (SMS) to manage all aspects of Virtual Volumes storage. The VASA provider maps virtual disk objects and their derivatives, such as clones, snapshots, and replicas, directly to the virtual volumes on the storage system.

The ESXi hosts have no direct access to the virtual volumes storage. Instead, the hosts access the virtual volumes through an intermediate point in the data path, called the protocol endpoint. The protocol endpoints establish a data path on demand from the virtual machines to their respective virtual volumes. The protocol endpoints serve as a gateway for direct in-band I/O between ESXi hosts and the storage system. ESXi can use Fibre Channel, FCoE, iSCSI, and NFS protocols for in-band communication.

The virtual volumes reside inside storage containers that logically represent a pool of physical disks on the storage system. On the vCenter Server and ESXi side, storage containers are presented as Virtual Volumes datastores. A single storage container can export multiple storage capability sets and provide different levels of service to different virtual volumes.

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