VMware vSAN Review

We are a service provider and we build IaaS clusters on top of it.

What is most valuable?

In our model, the price of vSAN storage space is a bit lower than SATA-based storage space from other storages, and vSAN usually has better characteristics (IOPS + latency).

We can easily scale up our vSAN cluster horizontally. All we need is to buy the same hardware nodes and put them in racks.

vSAN has better integration with virtualization than any other datastore.

Stretched All Flash vSAN is the leading product to build a disaster recovery solution. We have a plan to build it in near future.

How has it helped my organization?

It’s simple: We are service provider and if a solution can give us new opportunities, it is a good solution. We can build economically effective IaaS clusters on top of vSAN.

What needs improvement?

vSAN is very complex inside. For example, you need to have a plan for any emergency situation, beginning from the PoC stage; how you monitor SSD and HDD; how you change them. It looks simple, but you cannot just remove a broken component and an install new one. Under the vSAN layer, you need many accurate steps to make these simple actions.

And when you operate a big environment, you need to have more tools to control the health of the solution, to troubleshoot issues and so on. VMware has improved this side from 5.5 to 6.5, and there’s still room for it.

vSAN is not a hardware-agnostic product. We would like to have more compatible SAS controllers and other components in the market. There is room for improvement for both hardware vendors and for VMware.

On the other hand, vSAN is a production-ready solution and all these possible improvements are cosmetic issues.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have used it from the vSAN 5.5 release date, more than two years.

We use VMware vSAN 5.5 with the latest updates in our products.
The first product is a B2B sector solution, CloudLine, and we sell space on vSAN as one of the storage tiers.
The second one is our B2C solution, CloudLite.ru. It looks like Digital Ocean – we sell IaaS to retail customers in the mass market.
We have plans to build new clusters using vSAN 6.5.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have encountered stability issues. We had run many tests with vSAN before production. To avoid any issues with vSAN stability, one needs HCL hardware and compatible BIOS drivers for each of the components. The crucial part is that you need HBA without RAID and with disk pass-through, which is important. Finally, you need strong network expertise and a solid network.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have not encountered any scalability issues; you can scale vSAN horizontally without any issues. But you need to start from 5 (!) nodes; not 3 or 4. It’s a long story – why? :)

How is customer service and technical support?

Rating technical support is not a simple question. VMware has great technical experts at level 2 and 3, and they are always available if you have severity 1 issue. Technical support is not so good for minor issues.

Which solutions did we use previously?

Previously we use traditional datastores - NetApp, EMC, IBM. And we continue to use it.

How was the initial setup?

Initially, you need to have enough expertise. You need to read some popular bloggers and select hardware from “recommended nodes”. And then you can start a PoC.

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

We are part of the VMware vCAN program, so our licensing is different from the retail model and it’s comfortable for us.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We keep an eye on all solutions that come to the market. We have tested SimpliVity and Nutanix. We use MS Storage Spaces in our production. All these products have their pros and cons.

What other advice do I have?

You need to use it for the reason of economical efficiency. It’s one of VMware’s great products.

vSAN is a great product, and we see improvement from 5.5 to 6 and 6.5.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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