VMware vSAN Review

Very stable, easy to set up, and easy to use

What is our primary use case?

We are providing virtual machines for our niche area of accounting firms. For virtualization, we are using VMware vSphere, and for storing these virtualizations, we are using VMware vSAN. 

We have co-located servers in different data centers. That's where we have installed the VMware vSAN for our use.

How has it helped my organization?

vSAN is software-defined networking. The advantage of vSAN is that if one of the servers goes down, nothing happens. In traditional SAN, if the SAN goes down, everything goes down, and your business will come to a halt. That's why we decided to go for vSAN because you have a number of servers in vSAN. 

Each server participates in creating the virtual SAN. In case one server goes down, the other servers continue to work, and the workload gets realigned to the nodes that are up. Your work doesn't get interrupted. That's why a lot of companies are moving to software-defined storage, where the storage is created through software. vSAN is also software-defined storage.

What is most valuable?

It is very easy to set up and very easy to use. It is very useful.

What needs improvement?

If one node out of your ten nodes fails, it takes a lot of time to replicate and rebalance VMware vSAN. This time can be reduced. When a node fails and the data is not accessible, vSAN has to be rebalanced to make the redundancy level of two again. However, if it is taking a lot of time and any other hardware fails during that time, then we have a problem. Two disk failures mean that all data will be lost, and we may have to recover it from the backup. So, the number of threads that run to do the rebalancing could be more so that the time taken to make it fully redundant again is not so much.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using VMware vSAN for almost five to six years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Initially, there were a lot of problems because it was a new product from VMware. There were a lot of hiccups, but now, it is a very stable product.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is quite scalable. We are using it ourselves, and we are providing virtual machines to other customers. 

We are using 16 nodes. For creating this storage, we have about 600 terabytes of storage in VMware vSAN in each cluster. If you have to make it several petabytes, then I don't know whether it will work or not, but up to one petabyte, I don't see any challenge in VMware vSAN. I have no idea about the scalability larger than that.

How are customer service and technical support?

I would rate VMware support a seven out of ten. I won't give them more than that because some of their engineers don't have so much in-depth understanding of the product. Sometimes, a lot of time gets wasted than getting support from them. Their support team needs to be trained for faster IT support.

How was the initial setup?

It is very easy to set up. You don't have to really make any effort to set it up. One or two days are enough to deploy VMware vSAN. It takes around 24 to 48 hours.

What about the implementation team?

We do it ourselves because we have about five to six clusters in different data centers in the US at different geographic locations. It is easy to deploy, and you don't need a very strong technical knowledge to deploy. 

The number of people required to maintain this solution depends upon the size of the infrastructure. If you have 15 nodes, you can have a team of about two to three experienced people.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

If they could reduce the cost, it would be better. Licensing costs are something that they could take care of. If you are a smaller and strong IT team, then VMware vSAN is a very good product. If you want to expand in the service provider space, then you will have to go for an open-source solution like OpenStack.

We are now looking at OpenStack because we sell licensing costs. We are a service provider, so the IT component data is a substantial component in our overall costing. We feel that OpenStack might help us to cut down the licensing cost. Therefore, we are looking at SAS storage instead of vSAN. SAS is open source, but it is not wise to have open source without having the backend support. We are using RedHat SAS, and it is an open-source solution. You can also have a free version, but we are using it with support from RedHat so that we have somebody to back us up in case we have a problem. 

If you do normal business, then IT expense is 1% or 2% of the total turnover. The higher licensing costs sometimes don't make difference to the big companies who are not service providers and are using it only for their internal use. For them, the IT cost is 1% or 2%, but for an IT service provider, the IT costs will go up to 15% to 16% of the total cost of the operations. This is where the licensing costs become irrelevant. For example, the licensing cost of using VMware, VC, and vSAN is 8% of my monthly revenue. Every month, I pay about $35,000, and, with the revised plan, it will be something like $50,000 or revenue of $600K per month, which means almost 8% of the revenue is going into VMware licensing. In a very competitive world, 8% as a cost element is huge. So, if I can bring it down to 2%, I save 6% in revenue expenditure. In terms of profit, 6% of 30% is something like another 25% increase in my profit. My profit can be almost 25%. It would be 20% to 25% in case I am able to handle the licensing costs and bring them to a very low level. Because these IT costs are substantial for us, that is why we are going with OpenStack. 

OpenStack has a limitation that it requires more hardware. There will be some increase in the hardware cost, but overall, we will save 5% to 6% of our licensing cost by using OpenStack.

What other advice do I have?

If you want a very simple structure, VMware vSAN is a good idea. If you have a larger and strong IT team and the cost is a factor for you, you can go for OpenStack.

I would rate VMware vSAN an eight out of ten.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Implementer
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