To wrap up my VSAN series I want to share my final thoughts with the community. Please feel free to comment and share yours!
All experiences I’ve made with VSAN are only based on my LAB with the minimum deployment of just three hosts and without any real world workload but I would say I’m able to rate the overall impressions I got.
In my case the setup itself was quite simple because I already had a vCenter server running but in case of a green field deployment the provided boot strap process is maybe a bit cumbersome but no big deal.
The policy based management in general is really pleasant and offers flexibility to assign different policies to different workloads or even different VMDKs on a single VM.
The way VSAN handles problems/outages is good but it also has the potential to cause some trouble if you don’t follow the recommendation to set a proper host isolation response. Please see my “Working with VSAN – Part II” post for details.
The lack support for stretched cluster deployments and large 62TB VMDKs is a bit disappointing but I hope it won’ take too long until these features make it into the product.
From a performance perspective I won’t rate it without having any real experience from a productive environment but I can rate the way it scales, which is quite nice. I would always recommend to select a chassis which allows future SSD/HDD expansions. Personally I favor the Dell PowerEdge R720 XD which offers support for up to 24 HDDs, redundant SD card to install the hypervisor, sufficient computing recourses and enough slots to add HBAs, RAID controllers or Flash cards. I think really important is the ability to add hosts which do not contribute storage to the VSAN cluster. In my lab I was not able to feel the difference between a VM running on a host with or without a local copy of the VM data.
But please be realistic, if your “working set” doesn’t fit into the SSD cache and I/Os need to be served from disk(s), this can impact the application performance. Many people I’ve talked to were wondering why VMware doesn’t let customers the choice to use RAIDs instead of single disk drives to speed up disk operations. I don’t know if there is a technical reason behind this requirement or just the vision of using storage in a more efficient way.
When it comes to networking probably even if 1 GbE will be sufficient for smaller deployments but you also have the ability to mitigate potential bottlenecks by using multiple network adapters to handle the VSAN workload.
I’ve also talked to some VMware folks who don’t see VSAN as a 1:1 replacement for classic SANs yet. In the end we agreed that it heavily depends on the planned use case and the expected workload. Probably a huge IO monster database with hundreds of GB or even TB is not the best use case for VSAN, just keep that in mind.
However I indeed see it for customers which are running smaller environments with reasonable workloads to “replace” entry level SAN solutions. The huge benefit is the simplified management which enables admins to work in their well-known environments like Ethernet networking and vSphere.
But all that glitters is not gold. What really annoyed me was a problem with the VM Storage Policies or actually with the VSAN Storage Providers. There is a known Issue with vSphere 5.5 Update 1. In my opinion this is not supposed to happen when releasing an update and making such a hyped solution GA. To cut some corners and to speed up fixing the issue I moved all my hosts to a new VMware vCenter Server Appliance, which was no problem for VSAN itself.
So overall I really enjoyed working with VSAN and now I feel comfortable to recommend it to customers if it fits into the environment and it matches the expected workloads. This is important for me personally because I think you should always stand up for a solution you sell to a customer.