VMworld 2016 Roundup: Day 3

Another day of sessions and events at VMworld 2016. On with the show.

General Session

For general session commentary, check out the Live Blog. More direction setting conversation, with VMware looking to take a lead on proving the infrastructure upon which containers can natively run. My favourite take away is that VMware’s working on analyzing customer VSAN data in order to provide recommendations particular to each customer. This level of service is bound to be popular and seen as a source of significant value by customers.

Evolution of VMware Virtual SAN [STO9058]

Christos Karamanolis and Vijay Ramachandran took us through the history of VSAN. First, an overview. Hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) is composed of two things. Hyper converged software, and industry standard hardware. VSAN is the hyper converged software component, and many VMware partners provide industry standard hardware that is compatible with VSAN.

There are several use cases for HCI, and VSAN in particular.

  • Business critical workloads
  • DMZ workloads
  • Disaster recovery & disaster avoidance
  • Management
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
  • Test & Development
  • Staging
  • ROBO (Remote office branch office)

VSAN fits this use cases due to either performance considerations, storage isolation considerations (as in, you’re not necessarily tied to a centralized storage solution like a SAN), or both. 64% of VSAN customers actually use it for business critical workloads, and this happens to be the number one use case. That’s a good statistic to take note of, as it suggests that VSAN has reached the point where companies agree that it has reached enough maturity to trust their prized apps to it. If you were to boil down the benefits of VSAN into three things, they’d be: simplicity, low TCO, and choice.

Simplicity since, not only is it operationally more simply than a lot of alternative storage solutions, but it can be procured and implemented simply via turnkey appliances.

Low TCO since the commodity hardware helps drive the costs down, as well as realizing operational efficiency to keep the ops cost down. Intel was on the Solutions Exchange floor demo’ing a VSAN based solution that delivered all-flash for around $1/GB.

Choice, as you can chose how to consume it. As mentioned it’s available as turnkey appliances, but also available in more of a build-it-yourself model with VSAN ready nodes or HCL-based hardware. It also provides choice as it can be considered as another aviallbe tier of storage within your overall storage solution.

VMware claims that VSAN is the leader in the HCI market, with over 5000 customers and greater than 200% year over year market growth. That’s pretty impressive, given how long VSAN has been on the market. It’s also interesting that the release cadence that VSAN has been able to achieve over the last several versions has achieved about a 6-month turn around for new versions. This means that customers will receive new features, often ones built based on customer feedback, in a fairly short amount of time, furthering the value they’ll get from VSAN.

From here on this overview contains forward looking information which VMware cannot guarantee will make it into the VSAN  product.

There are three future trends that are the most likely to impact VSAN: Disruptive flash technologies, growth of the public cloud, and cloud-native apps.

Disruptive Flash

In the not-to-distant future, maybe just a couple years, SSD will become the standard capacity disk, replacing traditional HDDs. We’ll see high capacity NVMe devices that can act as both storage and cache. There will also be byte-addressable NVDIMMs, such as Intel’s 3D XPoint, that will assume the top spot for storage performance that could server as cache in higher-end VSAN configurations. VMware is looking to make sure that VSAN is re-architected as needed to support this next generation hardware. Looking at the new or newly comoditized hardware coming, it’s likely that VSAN will not have to perform write buffering in the future, with all reads and writes heading straight to the storage tier.

Growth of Public Cloud

Based on the growth of the public cloud, improvements and efficiencies in management will become increasingly  important. Today, the management lifecycle of a VSAN cluster is: Day 0, auto-configure the cluster and stand it up; Day 1-2, continuously monitor the cluster health and determine how to adjust it as needed; Day 3+, maintain frequent monitoring, adjusting as necessary. In the future, VSAN should be able to gather data and use analytics to provide customer-specific recommendations to tune the cluster. This will rely on the data gathered from thousands of customers’ VSAN deployments in VMware’s cloud, so that patterns and trends can be determined. This will make operating VSAN clusters easier and more efficient. VSAN management will continue to be delivered via the vSphere Web Client, even with the analytical-data based recommendations coming from the cloud, maintaining a consistent and familiar interface for administrators.

Policies will become critical to automating application lifecycle management. They’ll also be extended to data management and global data governance. To provide increased value from this policy oriented approach, VMware’s looking at decoupling snapshots from their parent VMs. This will allow snaps to move between environments and clouds, as per the policies. Policies will be able to enforce control, auditing, retention and compliance for data, making them very comprehensive and powerful.

Cloud-Native Apps

Applications are moving from traditional “old-school” monolithic models to scale-out, microservice-based, where the app will be inherently distributed. Based on current trends, the new models will continue to be developer focused and will increasingly be container-based. The distributed applications will be integrated with container managers, and will rely on persistent storage, as the containers themselves, if not outright idempotent, will be expected to be fragile and require redeployment frequently.

Today cloud-native apps are serviced by vSphere, vSphere Integrated Containers and Photon OS. All of those cloud/container platforms can leverage VSAN as an ideal storage platform. VMware is also looking to invest in a distributed file system for cloud-native apps. This will be an efficient way to distribute container images, a scalable method of data volume sharing, and will support consistent snapshots & clones.

VMware will be announcing a new version of VSAN following VMworld US, and are looking to include the following new features: encryption, new availabilty and policy features, and new management tools. The value and usefulness of VSAN appears to continue on an upward trend. It’d be wise to give VSAN a close look, if you haven’t already.

Dee Abson

Dee Abson is a technical architect from Alberta, Canada. He's been working in the field of technology for over 20 years and specializes in server and virtualization infrastructure. Working with VMware products since ESX 2, he holds several VMware certifications. He was awarded VMware vExpert for 2014-2018. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter.

18 Responses

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  1. November 15, 2016

    […] no unencrypted bits leave the system. All of this is configured via storage policy. Check out my VMworld 2016 Roundup: Day 3 for more detail. Encryption coverage is on page […]

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