Last February when VMware released VSAN 6.2 I stated that “Things had gotten Interesting” with regards to the 6.2 release of vSAN finally marking it’s arrival as a serious player in the Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI) market. vSAN was ready to be taken very seriously by VMware’s competitors. Fast forward fourteen months and apart from the fact we have confirmed the v in vSAN is a lower case with the product name officially changing from Virtual SAN to vSAN…Version 6.6 was announced last week is set to GA today, and with it comes the biggest list of new features and enhancements in vSANs history.
VMware has decided to break with the normal vSphere release cycle for vSAN and move to patch releases for vSphere that are actually major updates of vSAN. This is why this release is labeled vSAN 6.6 and will be included in the vSphere 6.5EP2 build. The move allows the vSAN team to continue to enhance the platform outside of the core vSphere platform and I believe it will deliver at least 2 update releases per year.
Looking at the new features and enhancements of the vSAN 6.6 release it’s clear to see that the platform has matured and given the 7000+ strong customer base it’s also clear to see that its being accepted more and more for critical workloads. From a service provider point of view I know of a lot more vCloud Air Network partners that have implemented vSAN as not only their Management HCI platform, but also now their customer HCI compute and storage platforms.
A lot for Service Providers to like:
As shown in the feature timeline above there are over 20+ new features and enhancements but for me the following ones are most relative to vCAN Service Providers who are using, or looking to use vSAN in their offerings. I will expand on the ones in red as I see them as being the most significant of the new features and enhancements for service providers.
- Native encryption for data-at-rest
- Compliance certifications
- vSAN Proactive Drive HA for failing drives
- Resilient management independent of vCenter
- Rapid recovery with smart, efficient rebuilds
- Certified file service & data protection solutions
- Enhanced vSAN SDK and PowerCLI
- Simple networking with Unicast
- vSAN Cloud Analytics for performance
- vSAN Cloud Analytics with real-time support notification and recommendations*
- vSAN Config Assist with 1-click hardware lifecycle management
- Extended Health Services
- Up to 50% greater IOPS for all-flash with optimized checksum and dedupe
- Optimized for latest flash technologies
- Expanded caching tier choice
- New Docker Volume Driver
Simple networking with Unicast:
As John Nicholson wrote on the Virtual Blocks blog…it’s time to say goodbye to the multicast requirements around vSAN networking traffic. For a history as to why multicast was used, click here. Also it’s worth reading John’s post and also the he goes through the upgrade process as if you are upgrading from previous versions, multicast will still be used unless you make the change as also specified here.
I can attest first hand to the added complexity when it comes to setting up vSAN with multicast and have gone through a couple of painful deployments where the multicast configuration was an issue during initial setup and also caused issue with switching infrastructure that needed to be upgraded to before vSAN could work reliably. In my mind unicast offers a simpler less complex solution with minimal overheads and makes it more transportable across networks.
Service Providers are always trying to squeeze the most out of their hardware purchases and with VMware claiming 50% greater IOPS for all-flash through optimized data services that in theory can enable 150K IOPS per host it appears they will be served well. in addition to optimized checksum and dedupe along with support for the latest flash technologies. The increased performance helps accelerate tenant workloads and provides higher consolidation ratios for those workloads.
Service providers can accelerate new hardware technologies with the support of the latest flash technologies, including solutions like the new breed of NVMe SSDs. These solutions can deliver up to 250% greater performance for write-intensive applications. vSAN 6.6 now offers larger caching drive options that includes 1.6TB flash drives, so that service providers can take advantage of larger capacity flash drives.
Disk Performance Enhancements:
For those that have gone through a vSAN rebuild operation you would know that is can be a long exercise depending on the amount of data and configuration of the vSAN datastore. vSAN 6.6 introduces a new smart rebuild and rebalancing feature along with partial repairs of degraded or absent components. There is also resync throttling and improved visibility into the rebuilding status through the Health Status. Cormac Hogan goes through the improvements in detail here.
From a Service Provider point of view having these enhanced features around the rebuilds it critical to continued quality of service for IaaS customer who live on shared vSAN storage. Shorter and more efficient rebuild times means less impact to customers.
Health Checks and Monitoring Improvements:
VMware has introduced VM encryption native at the vSAN datastore level. This can be enabled per vSAN Cluster and works with deduplication and compression across hybrid and all-flash cluster configurations. vSAN 6.6 data Encryption is hardware agnostic, there is no requirement to use specialized and more expensive Self-Encrypting Drives (SEDs) which is also a bonus. Jase McCarty has another Virtual Blocks article here that goes through this feature in great detail.
From a Service Provider point of view you can now potentially offer two classes of vSAN backed storage for IaaS customers. One that lives on an Encrypted enabled cluster that’s charged at a premium over non Encrypted clusters. In talking with service providers across the globe, data at rest encryption has become something that potential customers are asking for and most leading storage companies have an encryption story…now so does vSAN and it appears to be market leading.
vSAN 6.6 Licensing:
In terms of the licensing Matrix, nothing too drastic has changed except for the addition of Data at Rest Encryption in the Enterprise bundle, however in a significant move for vCAN Service Providers, QoS IOPS Limiting has been extended across all license types and can now be taken advantage across the board. This is good for Service Providers who look to offer different tiers or storage performance based on IOPS limited…previously it was only available under Enterprise licensing.
As a bonus feature that I think will assist vCAN Service Providers is the new Native Bootstrap installer in vSAN 6.6. William Lam has written about the feature here, but for those looking to install their first vSAN node without vSphere available the ability to bootstrap is invaluable. The old manual process is still worth looking at as it’s always beneficial to know what’s going on in the background, but it’s all GUI based now via the VCSA installer.
vSAN 6.6 appears to be a great step forward for VMware and Service Providers will no doubt be keen to upgrade as soon as possible to take advantage of the features and enhancements that have been delivered in this 6.6 release.