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Are there guidelines for determining if VMware vSAN is right for us?

Expert Brien Posey explains which types of environments VMware's virtual SAN is most beneficial in and which environments can do without it.

What guidelines, if any, are there for determining if VMware Virtual SAN is right for our environment?

The first thing you need to know about VMware's Virtual SAN (vSAN) feature is that it's not a true SAN. A hardware-based SAN allows you to provision storage and then use that storage however you want. A VMware vSAN, on the other hand, can only be used for storing virtual machines. If you have physical servers in your environment, those servers can't connect to a virtual SAN and use it for storage as they would be able to with a traditional SAN.

A VMware vSAN is just a VMware cluster in which the various cluster nodes provide storage capacity. Each cluster node must contain at least one SATA or SAS disk (aside from the one the hypervisor is installed on) and one enterprise-grade solid-state drive (SSD). The vSAN software pools the available hard disk drives from across the clustered hosts and makes them available as vSAN storage.

Although at least one SSD is required in each clustered host, the SSD isn't used to provide capacity. Instead, it's used for caching purposes as a way to speed up read and write I/O.

VMware's vSAN software is based around the use of direct-attached storage. If you've already invested heavily in a physical SAN environment and typically use 1U servers with very limited internal storage, VMware vSAN might not be the best choice for your environment. On the other hand, organizations that lack the budget, expertise or desire to deploy a physical SAN could benefit from a vSAN because it provides SAN-like functionality without requiring dedicated hardware.

It's also worth noting that VMware envisions scenarios in which vSANs could coexist with physical SANs. Until then, the best thing you can do is to compare its limitations to your company's limitations and try to determine whether it can satisfy a business need you can't otherwise meet.

Next Steps

VMware vSAN 6.6 includes encryption and analytics

This was last published in March 2014

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This is an interesting question and it will ultimately come down to your needs and how closely VSAN delivers against them.

Things to consider are

1) Is it simple to manage?
2) Can it run on my existing servers?
3) Can I scale compute and storage resources on-demand?
4) Does it offer all the data services that enterprise storage arrays offer? Things like data integrity, snapshots, clones, compression, de-duplication, replication etc.
5) Does it provide the cost savings?

Hyper-converged solutions or Server SAN technology are growing in popularity and VSAN along with Maxta, provide solid offerings which run as a VM on the hypervisor while giving you the flexibility to run on your preferred server. (The primary difference to what a Nutanix would offer) Maxta also includes enterprise class data services for capacity management, snap shot and cloning as part of their offering.
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