The first time I heard about vSAN — software built into the vSphere kernel — it was known by the name of Distributed Storage. At VMworld this year, VMware announced that vSAN is entering beta, with General Availability expected in 2014.

I’ve been looking into vSAN for quite some time now. It doesn’t matter which IT leader you speak with: storage growth, performance, and security are huge topics on his/her mind. I am no different. 100% uptime while maintaining enterprise IO workloads is not a cheap proposition in the storage world, folks. Imagine if technologies like vSAN (yes, there are others) bring a new revolution in storage just as VMware Virtual Center’s launch did for virtualization in 2004.

vSAN is an advanced storage solution that focuses on providing you SAN-like performance using clustered data stores on the backend. Imagine, at some point, the ability to utilize commodity disk that may already be in your data center, or perhaps those empty drive bays in your cloud chassis, to present flexible, scalable, performant, and easy-to-manage storage. Sure, there are other technologies that offer similar capabilities today, but not within the vSphere kernel itself. Here are some tech learnings from VMworld that may drive your business to get involved with the vSAN beta.

In short, vSAN:

  • Utilizes small amount of memory and CPU on each host within the vSphere cluster (minimum 3 ESXi nodes)
  • Must be enabled on all hosts within the cluster
  • Ideally utilizes SSD for the read cache and write buffer; it requires a minimum of one SSD and one SAS (or SATA) per server
  • You can define the number of replicas per data store, as well as define the drive-write buffer to SSF and then have that destaged to SAS/SATA
  • Performance tools already exist in the beta and can be exposed through APIs back to the consumer
  • 10 GB/E is the best practice for a vSAN-based environment
  • Requires a SAS/SATA controller (on HCL) but no RAID configuration is needed
  • Is presented with raw disk
  • Highly recommends unified storage layout across all nodes in the cluster for predictable storage performance

Use cases that were described by VMware for vSAN out of the gate in 2014 include private cloud, test/dev environments, DR storage, and management clusters. If nothing else, there are a number of utilities being built around vSAN. Check out this blog.

What do you think? Will vSAN be to storage what vCenter was to virtualization?


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