VMware Virtual SAN 6.0: All-Flash Configuration

VSAN-ALL-FLASH-LOGOOh well now that the cat is officially out of the bag, as they say!. Everyone in the world should now be aware of the fact that VMware Virtual SAN 6.0 supports an all-flash architecture. I think it’s time to discuss a couple of items with regards to a new architecture.

The Virtual SAN 6.0 All-Flash architecture uses flash-based devices for both caching and persistent storage.

In this architecture, the flash cache is used completely as write buffer. This all-flash architecture introduces a two-tier model of flash devices:


  • write-intensive, high endurance caching tier for the writes
  • read-intensive, cost-effective flash device tier for data persistence

The new device tiering model not only deliver incredible performance results, but it can also potentially introduce cost savings for the Virtual SAN 6.0 all-flash architecture depending on the design and hardware configuration of the solution.

Virtual SAN Configuration Requirements

In order to configure Virtual SAN 6.0 for the all-flash architecture, the flash devices need to be appropriately identified within the system. In Virtual SAN, flash devices are identified and categorized for the caching tier by default. In order to successfully enabled the all-flash architecture configuration we need manually to flag the flash devices that will be utilized for data persistence or capacity. This configuration is performed via one of the supported command line interface tools such as RVC or ESXCLI.

RVC handles the configuration of the devices at a cluster level. Below you’ll find an image, which illustrates the usable syntax for flagging the flash devices with RVC.


ESXCLI handles it at the per-host level. Below you’ll find an image, which illustrates the usable syntax for flagging the flash devices with esxcli.


Another command line utility that is worth knowing is the VSAN Disk Query (vdq). This utility allows users to identify when the flash devices are configured for used in the capacity tier as well as if they are eligible to be use by Virtual SAN.
Whenever vdq is used to query the flash devices on a host as illustrated below, the output will display a new property called “IsCapacityFlash”. This property specifies whether a flash device will be utilized for the capacity tier instead of the caching tier.


For more in-depth information on the use of vdq, please take a look at a post by one of VMware’s elite engineers and VSAN Champion and my boy William Lam. #WreckingCrew

It’s important to highlight that flagging flash devices to be used for capacity cannot be performed from the option available in the vSphere Web Client UI. It has to be performed via the CLI. (wait for it….wait for it)

Once the flash devices, they will be displayed as magnetic devices (HDD) in the disk management section of the Virtual SAN management tab.

That’s about it, after the flash devices have been properly tagged, the rest of the Virtual SAN configuration procedure is as easy as it was in the previous version.

So in the spirit of making things easy and reduce any contention with getting into the CLI and manually flagging every disk. I’ve been able to design a tool along with my good pal and now a VSAN Champion Brian Graf that should take care of disk tagging process for just about everyone.

Here is a demo of how simple it is to configure a Virtual SAN 6.0 all-flash cluster with a teaser of the Virtual SAN All-Flash Configuration Utility. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention….. It’s a 64 node all-flash cluster (The BigDaddy).

– Enjoy

For future updates on Virtual SAN (VSAN), vSphere Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and other Software-defined Storage technologies as well as vSphere + OpenStack be sure to follow me on Twitter: @PunchingClouds

VMware Virtual SAN 6.0

VSAN-60It is with great pleasure and joy that I like to announce the official launch of VMware Virtual SAN 6.0, one of VMware’s most innovative software-defined storage products and the best hypervisor-converged storage platform for virtual machines. Virtual SAN 6.0 delivers a vast variety of enhancements, new features to the as well as performance and scalability improvements.

Virtual SAN 6.0 introduces support for an all-flash architecture specially designed to provide virtualized applications high performance with predictably low latencies. Now with support for both hybrid and all-flash architectures Virtual SAN 6.0 is ready to meet the performance demands of just about any virtualized application by delivering consistent performance with sub-millisecond latencies.


Hybrid Architecture

  • In the hybrid architecture, server-attached magnetic disks are pooled to create a distributed shared datastore that persists the data. In this type of architecture, you can get up to 40K IOPS per server host.

All-Flash Architecture

  • In All-Flash architecture, the flash-based caching tier is intelligently used as a write-buffer only while another set of flash devices forms the persistence tier to store data. Since this architecture utilizes only flash devices, it delivers extremely high IOPs of up to 90K per host, with predictable low latencies.


Virtual SAN 6.0 delivers true enterprise-level scale and performance by doubling the scalability of Virtual SAN 5.5 by scaling up to 64 nodes per cluster for both hybrid and all-flash configurations. In addition, Virtual SAN 6.0 improves the number of virtual machines per host up to 200 for both supported architectures.


The performance enhancements delivered in Virtual SAN 6.0 are partially due to the new Virtual SAN on-disk Filesystem (VSAN FS). The new version delivers a new VMDK delta file (vsanSparse) takes advantage of the new on-disk format writing and extended caching capabilities to deliver efficient performance. This results in the delivery of performance-based snapshots, and clone that are comparable to SAN snapshots.

Virtual SAN 6.0 now enables intelligent placement of virtual machine objects across server racks for enhanced application availability even in case of complete rack failures. Virtual SAN Fault Domains provide the ability to group multiple hosts within a cluster to define failure domains to ensure replicas of virtual machines data is spread across the defined failure domains (racks).


Along with all the new added features a significant amount of improvements have been added to enhance the management user experience:

  • Disk/Disk Group Evacuation – Introduce ability to evacuate data from individual disk/disk groups before removing a disk/disk group from the Virtual SAN.
  • Disk Serviceability features – easily map the location of magnetic disks and flash devices. Ability light disk LED on failures, Turn disk LED on/off from the vSphere Web Client.
  • Storage Consumption Models – adds functionality to visualize Virtual SAN 6.0 datastore resource utilization when a VM Storage Policy is created or edited.
  • UI Resynchronization Dashboard – the vSphere Web Client UI displays virtual machine objects resynchronization status and remaining bytes to sync.
  • Proactive Rebalance – provides the ability to manually trigger a rebalance operation in order to utilize newly added cluster storage capacity.
  • Health Services – deliver troubleshooting and health reports to vSphere Administrators about Virtual SAN 6.0 subsystems and their dependencies such as cluster, network, data, limits, physical disk .


With all the major enhancements and features of this release, Virtual SAN is now enterprise-ready, and customers can use it for a broad range of use cases, including business-critical and tier-1 production applications.  Stay tune, there is a lot more to come from the world’s greatest software-defined storage platform. For more information visit the Virtual SAN product page.

– Enjoy

For future updates on Virtual SAN (VSAN), vSphere Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and other Software-defined Storage technologies as well as vSphere + OpenStack be sure to follow me on Twitter: @PunchingClouds

vSphere Virtual Volumes

VVOLs-LogoToday VMware announced the release of vSphere 6.0 and with this announcement comes the official release of vSphere Virtual Volumes. vSphere Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) is VMware’s new management & integration framework designed to deliver a more efficient operational model for external storage.

vSphere Virtual Volumes implements the core tenants of the VMware SDS vision to enable a fundamentally more efficient operational model for external storage in virtualized environments, centering on the application instead of the physical infrastructure.

vSphere Virtual Volumes allows application-specific requirements to drive storage provisioning decisions while leveraging the rich set of capabilities provided by existing storage arrays. The value outcome of vSphere Virtual Volumes is threefold:

  • vSphere Virtual Volumes simplifies storage operations by automating manual tasks and eliminating operational dependencies between the vSphere Administrator and the Storage Administrator that only add complexity. Provisioning is faster, and change management is simpler as the new operational model is built upon policy-driven automation.
  • vSphere Virtual Volumes simplifies the delivery of storage service levels to applications by providing administrators with finer control of storage resources and data services at the VM level that can be dynamically adjusted in real time.
  • vSphere Virtual Volumes improves resource utilization by enabling more flexible consumption of storage resources, when needed and with greater granularity. The precise use of storage resources eliminates overprovisioning.

vSphere Virtual Volumes virtualize SAN and NAS devices into logical pools of capacity, called Virtual Datastore. vSphere Virtual Volumes represents virtual disks natively on the underlying physical storage. Virtual disks become the primary unit of data management at the array level without the need of the VMFS filesystem.

vSphere Virtual Volumes VMware offers a new paradigm, one in which an individual virtual machine and its drives become the unit of storage management, rather than the traditional LUN.

vSphere Virtual Volumes is the implementation of the virtual data plane for external storage in the VMware SDS model. vSphere Virtual Volumes is composed by two key implementations:

Flexible consumption at the logical level

vSphere Virtual Volumes virtualizes SAN and NAS devices by abstracting physical hardware resources into logical pools of capacity (called Virtual Datastore) that can be more flexibly consumed and configured to span on or more storage arrays. The Virtual Datastore defines capacity boundaries, access logic, and exposes a set of data services accessible to the VMs provisioned in the pool. Virtual Datastores are purely logical constructs that can be configured on the fly, when needed, without disruption and don’t require to be formatted with a file system.

Finer control at the VM level

vSphere Virtual Volumes defines a new virtual disk container (Virtual Volume) that is independent of the underlying physical storage representation (LUN, file system, object, etc.). In other terms, with Virtual Volumes the virtual disk becomes the primary unit of data management at the array level. This turns the Virtual Datastore into a VM-centric pool of capacity. It becomes possible to execute storage operations with VM granularity and to provision native array-based data services to individual VMs. This allows admins to provide the right storage service levels to each individual VM.

To enable efficient storage operations at scale, even when managing thousands of VMs, Virtual Volumes uses vSphere Storage Policy-Based Management (SPBM). SPBM is the implementation of the policy-driven control plane in the VMware SDS model.

Efficient operations through automation

SPBM allows capturing storage service levels requirements (capacity, performance, availability, etc.) in the form of logical templates (policies) to which VMs are associated. SPBM automates VM placement by identifying available datastores that meet policy requirements and coupled with Virtual Volumes, it dynamically instantiates necessary data services. Through policy enforcement, SPBM also automates service level monitoring and compliance throughout the lifecycle of the VM.


Stay tuned, there is a lot more to come from the world’s greatest software-defined storage platform. For more information visit the vSphere Virtual Volumes product page.

– Enjoy

For future updates on Virtual SAN (VSAN), vSphere Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and other Software-defined Storage technologies as well as vSphere + OpenStack be sure to follow me on Twitter: @PunchingClouds

VMware Virtual SAN: File Services with NexentaConnect


NexentaConnect for Virtual SAN is a software-defined storage solution designed specifically to deliver file service on top of Virtual SAN. This solution complements Virtual SAN by delivering a software-based NAS capabilities that add enterprise-class Windows and UNIX-based file services without the need for any additional hardware purchase to augment the virtual machine storage provided by VMware Virtual SAN.

NexentaConnect is designed to deliver high-performance NFS and SMB file services to the full datacenter by leveraging Virtual SAN features and capabilities. The management and configuration of the solution adopts Virtual SAN simplified management approach delivering an agile and efficient operational model. The solution delivers NFSv3, NFSv4, and SMB 2.1 file shares services for hybrid networks, as well as its set of capabilities relate to performance, availability, and storage services such as:

  • Localized server-side read cache
  • Compression and de- duplication

NexentaConnect for Virtual SAN maintains data integrity under high workload, network/disk/host recovery and brings various recovery functions, such as snapshot and remote file replication designed specifically for this solution. All configured and managed through the vCenter console and the vSphere Web Client.

Key integrations into the VMware Virtual SAN environment:
  • Easily install and provisions file services (NFSv3, NFSv4, SMB) on Virtual SAN within minutes.
  • Complete management through the vSphere Web Client interface.
  • Runs seamlessly on Virtual SAN and is compatible with VMware HA and DRS
  • Security and Domain integration, AD with AAA and Kerberos support
  • Leverage Virtual SAN’s data protection, performance, and availability

NexentaConnect complements Virtual SAN deployment by utilizing local Virtual SAN storage capacity in servers to deliver high-performance NFS and SMB file services to the full datacenter. NexentaConnect orchestrates the deployment and configuration of enterprise-class file services on Virtual SAN in a short period of time.

The NexentaConnect solution is comprised of the following components:

NexentaConnect vSphere Web Client Plugin – Provides management integration with to the vSphere Web Client and vSphere Client.
NexentaConnect Manager – is a virtual appliance that provides centralized services such as schedule events, monitoring, licensing, database services and orchestration of all the configuration and management functions for the solution.
NexentaConnect Filers – deployed on-demand when the first folder is created.

  • One Filer per Virtual SAN cluster
  • Separate file system (pool of 2TB VMDKs) per every VM Storage Policy
  • Note: 2TB is to fulfill Virtual SAN 5.5 supportability
  • Default 128K block size
  • Elastic – scales on-demand as Virtual SAN scales
  • Thin provisioned or reserved space options offered

NexentaConnect leverages proprietary data services and technologies such as compression to reduce the data on top of Virtual SAN to deliver:

  • LZ4 compression algorithm (lossless, LZ77 family)
  • Real-time and extremely light on CPU
  • Over 500 MB/s on compression (Per core)
  • Over 1.5 GB/s on decompression (Per core)
  • Suppresses some internal headers and zero padding (aka zero-block deduplication)
  • De-duplication is planned for v.2.0, currently available in tech-preview
The NexentaConnect Manager virtual appliances characteristics:
Ubuntu Linux (64 Bit) based appliance
  •  Single vCPU
  •  3 GB of RAM
  •  Single 20 GB Disk
  •  1 Network Adapter

Nexenta IO Engine – are virtual appliances that are deployed as filer on Virtual SAN datastore purpose-built and optimized to run on VMware ESXi hypervisor. The Nexenta IO Engines filers can scalable Up to 30 VMDKs per virtual appliances. Each drive supporting up to 2 Terabytes per VMDK serving virtually unlimited file shares virtual infrastructure

Nexenta IO Engine virtual appliance characteristics:
  • Ubuntu Linux (64 Bit) based appliance
  • 4 vCPU
  • 16 GB of RAM
  • Minimum of 2 Virtual Disks (scalable up to 30)
  • Virtual Disk capacity up to 2 TB per disk
  • 2 Network Adapters
NexentaConnect for Virtual SAN Requirements:
  • VMware vSphere 5.5 or later
  • VMware vCenter Server 5.5 U1 or later (Windows and Linux)
  • ESXi 5.5 U1 or later
  • VMware vSphere Cluster with Virtual SAN enabled
  • VMware vSphere Web Client
  • VMware HA (optional)
  • Directory Services (optional)
  • Microsoft Windows Active Directory 2008 R2 or later
  • VMware vCenter Server 5.5 U1 or later
  • Network Services
  • DNS
  • DHCP

NexentaConnect for VMware Virtual SAN extends Virtual SAN use-cases for scale out datastores and enables administrators to build full-featured hyper-converged pods capable of supporting mixed virtual machines workloads and high performance shared
storage services. 
Primary uses cases, among others, are virtual desktops, pre-production, test and development environments.

Virtual Desktops: Providing a hypervisor-converged solution to include the desktops, as well as user persona data.
Remote and Branch Office (ROBO): Addresses the need for scale-out NAS functionality 
Lab & Development: Avoids acquisition of expensive storage, lowers time to provision.
Disaster Recovery Target for files: Lower-cost DR solution, enabled through a built-in 
snapshot and remote replication capabilities of NexentaConnect.

Overall, the NexentaConnect for Virtual SAN solution should be considered when looking to deliver file services for virtualized infrastructures on top of VMware Virtual SAN. NexentaConnect for Virtual SAN is not a VMware developed or owned solution for more information about NexentaConnect for Virtual SAN visit their product page.

NexentaConnect for Virtual SAN

– Enjoy

For future updates on Virtual SAN (VSAN), vSphere Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and other Software-defined Storage technologies as well as vSphere + OpenStack be sure to follow me on Twitter: @PunchingClouds