VMware vSAN Review

The solution is built on commodity hardware. Snapshot management continues to improve with each release.

What is most valuable?

If you really want to squeeze all of the value out of this solution, it should deployed in an all-flash configuration. The all-flash vSAN solution allows customers to take advantage of newer features such as erasure coding, deduplication and compression, greater swap file efficiency and other enhanced management capabilities.

The erasure coding (aka RAID-5/6) feature increases storage capacity efficiency compared to the default RAID-1 fault tolerance method that consumes more space but provides the best performance. Some virtual workloads do not require all of the performance provided by RAID-1. An administrator simply defines a capacity-based storage policy configured for RAID-5/6, which is then quickly applied to the VMs that would require it.

How has it helped my organization?

vSAN is a very cost-effective solution for just about any data center. It is very easy to deploy, scale and manage. The entire solution is built on commodity hardware, so customers do not have to break the bank (or budget) to invest in this technology compared to a much more costly centralized storage array.

What needs improvement?

Snapshot management is something that continues to improve with each release of vSAN. Earlier versions experienced performance degradation, but each version gets more and more efficient with snapshots. The new snapshot format known as “vsanSparse” was introduced in vSAN 6.0, which replaced the traditional “VMFSsparse” formats which involved redo logs.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with VMware vSAN for quite some time now, dating back to the old vSphere Storage Appliance and then vSAN in vSphere 5.5. It has come a long way in a short period of time with many improvements.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Anytime I have encountered issues with stability, it usually was the result of a poor design or poor implementation. If you are looking to deploy VMware vSAN properly aligned to your business needs, you should consider a vSAN assessment before anything else. Properly sizing and spec’ing the solution will ensure stability.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is not a major issue with vSAN. The latest version can scale up to 64 nodes per vSAN-enabled cluster. The nodes can be configured to be very dense when it comes to CPU, memory and local disk configurations. A majority of the 2U servers out there contain up to 24 slots (SSD or HDD). All-flash configurations provide more disk capacity thus making the solution more dense. Scaling the solution is also very easy. Scale up or scale out; it all depends on how the solution was initially sized during the design phase.

How is customer service and technical support?

The stability of the solution has limited the number of times that I have been on a support call for vSAN. The handful of times that I have had to call VMware for support on vSAN, the support experience was phenomenal. The support staff responded swiftly and were very knowledgeable.

Which solutions did we use previously?

I did not previously use a different solution but there are various solutions out there in the hyper-converged market that work very well.

How was the initial setup?

The actual implementation of vSAN is very easy to do. Once the equipment is racked, stacked, powered on and installed with ESXi, the vSAN cluster can be up and running very quickly. To avoid any hiccups, it should be properly sized and designed.

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

Review all of the options available with each vSAN version (Standard, Advanced, Enterprise, ROBO) and look at the solution from a “long-term” perspective. One example would be a vSAN solution that will eventually span multiple sites. The primary site is ready now but the second and third sites are a year or so away from being production ready. In this case, I would recommend to my customer the Enterprise Edition, so they can take advantage of the stretched cluster feature. Once the other sites are ready, the stretched cluster vSAN can be quickly deployed because the proper licensing is already in place.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I would certainly consider other options, but I apply that logic to any solution. Always weigh the pros and cons of the solution that you are looking for. Does it satisfy your solution requirements? Does it fit with the long term goals? What type of workloads are being deployed? Cloud integration or some type of automation required? Many factors can and will come into play with choosing the proper hyper-converged solution. Look very closely at each one and do a comparison to determine which solution aligns with your needs the most. Once you have narrowed things down to two or three solutions you can then use the results of the assessment to assist with the final decision.

What other advice do I have?

Invest the time and resources to properly design and size vSAN early on, long before hardware is purchased. It is very important to ensuring stability and its overall functionality. Contact a trusted solution provider or expert and evaluate the existing infrastructure or environment to determine the correct hardware and software configuration. Lastly, VMware is very consistent with releasing up-to-date ready node configurations that are certified and tested for vSAN functionality. Adhere to those guidelines and the solution will be successful.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: I work for a VMware Partner.
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