VSAN 6.2 – Things Just Got Interesting!

There is a saying in our industry that Microsoft always get their products right on the third attempt…and while this has been less and less the case of late (Hyper-V 2012 didn’t exactly deliver) it is more or less an accurate statement. Having been part of the beta and early access blogger sessions for VSAN 6.2 I can say with confidence that VMware have hit the nail on the head with this 6.2 release.

The Hyper-converged storage platform which is built into the worlds leading hypervisor platform (VMware ESXi) has reached a level of maturity and feature set that should and will make the more established HCI vendors take note and certainly act towards lowering the competitive attack surface that existed with previous releases of VSAN.

The table below shows you the new features of 6.2 together with the existing features of 6.1. As you can see by the number of green dots there are not a lot of new features…but they certainly pack a punch and fill in the gaps that had stopped VSAN being adopted for higher end workloads in comparison with existing market leaders.

Across all versions, Software Checksum has been added with Advanced and Enterprise versions getting VSANs implementation of Erasure Coding (RAID 5/6) with Deduplication and Compression available for the All Flash version and QOS IOPS Limiting available in Enterprise only.

With the initial 5.x releases of VSAN VMware where very reluctant to state that it was suitable for “enterprise” workloads and only mentioned VDI, Test and Development workloads…the language changed to extend to more enterprise workloads in VSAN 6.x but as you can see below the 6.2 release now targets all workloads…and more importantly VMware are openly confident of backing the claim.

VMware have achieved this mostly through the efficiencies that come with their deduplication and compression feature along with erasure coding which in effect adds RAID5/6 support with a FTT level of 1 or 2 set which is in addition to the RAID1 implementation in previous versions. Software Checksum has been used as a huge point of difference in comparing other HCI platforms to the previous VSAN releases so it’s great to see this added tick box to further ensure data consistency across VSAN disk group and datastore objects.

The QOS feature that applies IOPS limiting on a per VM basis is also significant for extending VSAN workload reach and allows the segmentation of noisy neighbours and allows operators to apply limits that have had a flaky history up to this point on vSphere platforms and this is probably my favourite new feature.

As with previous 6.x releases of VSAN there is an AFA option available in Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions though you will pay a premium compared to the hybrid version and while I’m still not convinced VMware have the pricing right I do know that there is ongoing work to make it more attractive for enterprises and service providers alike.

One of the great things about VSAN is the ability to build your own platform from whatever combination of HCL approved hardware you want. This flexibility is only comparable to EMCs ScaleIO but also means that some extra thought needs to go into a VSAN build if you don’t want to go down the Ready Node path. In my testing…if sized correctly the only limitation in terms of performance is the speed of your network cards and I’ve been able to push VSAN (Hybrid) to impressive throughput numbers with importantly low latency numbers.

Finally, the 6.2 version of VSAN expands on the Health and Monitoring components that existed in previous versions. VMware have baked in new performance and capacity monitoring into the vCenter Web Client that gives insights in VM storage consumption and how that capacity is taken up by the various VSAN components.

There is also a new Cluster Performance Menu to gives greater details into VSAN Cluster throughput, IOPS and latency so there should be no need to get into the vSphere Ruby Client which is a blessing. The UI is limited by the Web Client and not as sexy and modern as others out there but it’s come a long way and now means you don’t need to hook in external systems to get VSAN related metrics.

As suggested by the posts title, I believe that this VSAN release represents VMware’s official coming of age into the HCI market and will make the other players take note which will no doubt spark the odd Twitter fuelled banter and Slack Channel discussions about what’s missing or what’s been copied…but at the end of the day competition in tech is great and better products are born out of competition.

Things just got Interesting!

For a more detailed look at the new features check out Duncan Epping‘s post here:

2 comments

  • For clarification, Deduplication and Compression as well as Erasure Coding are limited to All-Flash Configurations

  • Hi Jase,

    Thanks for the article. Great overview of the improvements. We have had experience with the earlier releases and have hit issues with performance of applications where the IO is comprised of large volumes of very small writes. In these cases the IOP performance is WAY lower than say a SAS drive on a controller with RAID cache. Obviously the role of cache is making a huge difference.

    In the VSAN world there appears to be no opportunity to take advantage of cache in this way.

    We have put this down to a permanent architectural limitation … but not being storage guys am not sure whether we are on the money or not.

    Do you have any immediate thoughts around this?

    Look forward to your comments.

    Best regards
    Chris

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