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VMworld pushes vSAN HCI to cloud, edge

Private beta for next vSAN version includes built-in snapshots, NFS file services and cloud-native storage, as well as improved cluster management for the HCI software.

VMware executives predict the vSAN hyper-converged software platform will grow rapidly into a key building block...

for the vendor's strategy to conquer the cloud and other areas outside the data center.

VMware spent a lot of time discussing the roadmap for its vSAN hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) software at VMworld 2018 last month. The vSAN news included short-term specifics with the launch of a private beta program for the next version, along with more general overarching plans for the future.

VMware executives made it clear that vSAN HCI will play a big role in its long-term cloud strategy. They painted HCI as a technology spanning from the data center to the cloud to the edge, as it brings storage, compute and other resources together into a single platform.

The vSAN HCI software is built into VMware's vSphere hypervisor, and is sold as part of integrated appliances such as Dell EMC VxRail and as Ready Node bundles with servers. VMware claims more than 14,000 vSAN customers, and IDC lists it as the revenue leader among HCI software.

VMware opened its private beta program for vSAN 6.7.1 during VMworld, adding file and native cloud storage and data protection features.

VSAN HCI: From DC to cloud to edge

During his opening day keynote at VMworld, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger called vSAN "the engine that's just been moving rapidly to take over the entire integration of compute and storage to expand to other areas."

Where is HCI moving to? Just about everywhere, according to VMware executives. That includes Project Dimension, a planned hardware as a service designed to bring VMware SDDC infrastructure on premises.

"The definition of HCI has been expanding," said Yanbing Li, VMware senior vice president and general manager of storage and availability. "We started with a simple mission of converging compute and storage by putting both on a software-defined platform running on standard servers. This is where a lot of our customer adoption has happened. But the definition of HCI is expanding up through the stack, across to the cloud and it's supporting a wide variety of applications."

VSAN beta: Snapshots, native cloud storage

The vSAN 6.7.1 beta includes policy-based native snapshots for data protection, NFS file services and support for persistent storage for containers. VMware also added the ability for vSAN to manage Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) in AWS, a capacity reclamation feature and a Quickstart guided cluster creation wizard.

If it pans out as we hope, it will be data center as a service.
Chris GreggCIO, Mercy Ships

Lee Caswell, VMware vice president of products for storage and availability, said vSAN can now take point-in-time snapshots across a cluster. The snapshot capability is managed through VMware's vCenter. There is no native vSAN replication yet, however. Replication still requires vSphere Replication.

Caswell said the file services include a clustered namespace, allowing users to move files to VMware Cloud on AWS and back without requiring separate mount points for each node.

The ability to manage elastic capacity in AWS allows customers to scale storage and compute independently,

"This is our first foray into storage-only scaling," Caswell said.

The automatic capacity redemption will reclaim unused capacity on expensive solid-state drive storage.

Caswell said there was no timetable for when the features will make it into a general availability version of vSAN.

Mercy Ships was among the customers at VMworld expanding their vSAN HCI adoption. Mercy Ships uses Dell EMC VxRail appliances running vSAN in its Texas data center and is adding VxRail on two hospital ships that bring volunteer medical teams to underdeveloped areas. They include the current Africa Mercy floating hospital and a second ship under construction.

"The data center for us needs to be simple, straightforward, scalable and supportable," Mercy Ships CIO Chris Gregg said. "That's the dream we're seeing through hyper-converged infrastructure. If it pans out as we hope, it will be data center as a service. Then, as an IT department we can focus on things that are really important to the organization. For us, that means serving more patients."

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