Great new things in VMware vSAN 7

Great new things in VMware vSAN 7

By Cobus Smit – 10 March 2020 – Thanks to VMware blogs!

VMware announce the latest release of vSAN version 7. We will discuss new features and enhancements in vSAN 7 and some comments to see why this is good or average. To see an earlier post of what vSAN is click here

New Features in vSAN 7

Enhanced Cloud-Native Storage.

vSAN supports file-based persistent volumes for Kubernetes on vSAN datastores. Developers can dynamically create file shares for their applications and have multiple pods share data.. vSAN supports NFS v4.1 and v3 protocols. – Persistent volumes is important for running stateful applications, and Kubernetes has supported these workloads with StatefulSets, PersistentVolumeClaims and PersistentVolumes. These primitives have supported remote volume types well, where the volumes can be accessed from any node in the cluster, but did not support local volumes, where the volumes can only be accessed from a specific node. The demand for using local, fast SSDs in replicated, stateful workloads has increased with demand to run more workloads in Kubernetes. Previously you had to select individual pods and this created some difficulty. Thanks VMware for making this easier for some developers.

Integrated File Services

Simplified provisioning. In vSAN 7, integrated file services make it easier to provision and share files. Users now can now provision a file share from their vSAN cluster, which can be accessed via NFS 4.1 and NFS 3. A simple workflow reduces the amount of time it takes to stand up a file share. Ok so here it is just a little bit easier to automate a file share on vSAN. Enabling file services in vSAN is similar to enabling other cluster-level features such as iSCSI services, encryption, deduplication and compression. The entire lifecycle of provisioning and managing file services can be seamlessly performed through the vCenter UI. This feature helps address a broader set of use cases requiring file services with the simplicity of integration and support snapshots and encryption . no biggie here but good to know and easier to use with snaps and encryption.

Lower cost. Industry-standard x86 servers lower upfront cost as well as recurring costs for file shares. I cannot see the distinction here, maybe because of the automation as above?

Unified storage operations. VMware HCI allows admins to handle both block and file storage, reducing the need for specialized skills and freeing up IT admins to focus on higher level tasks. Again same as above, easier to provision and managed the file side with the block

Simpler Lifecycle Management

Consistent operations with a unified LCM tool. vSAN 7 provides  a unified lifecycle management tool (LCM) for Day 2 operations for software and server hardware. vLCM delivers a single lifecycle workflow for the full HCI server stack: vSphere, vSAN, drivers and OEM server firmware. This is a nice one fit tool to manage your lifecycle. The integration is good and makes life easier for admins. Thumbs up!

Reduced monitoring and remediation. vLCM constantly monitors and automatically remediates compliance drift. Like above again, easier and simplified – this is what HCI is about (Simplification)

Lifecycle management can be a burden. IT Admins usually use a combined self taught set of tools to keep everything running. VMware customers currently use two different interfaces for day two operations: vSphere Update Manager (VUM) for software and drivers and server vendor-provided utility for firmware updates. In this latest release, VMware HCI sets the foundation for a new, unified mechanism to update software and firmware management that is native to vSphere called vSphere Lifecycle Manager(vLCM).

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vLCM is built off a desired-state model that provides lifecycle management for the hypervisor and the full stack of drivers and firmware for the servers powering your data center. vLCM can be used to apply an image, monitor the compliance, and remediate the cluster if there is a drift. This reduces the effort to monitor compliance for individual components and helps maintain a consistent state for the entire cluster in adherence to the VMware Compatibility Guide (VCG). vLCM is a powerful new approach to creating simplified consistent server lifecycle management at scale. – This is a little bit more info on what I mentioned earlier, it is nice to have this combined and will make life less stressful for admins and day to day operational stuff.

Increased Visibility into vSAN Used Capacity

Replication objects are now visible in vSAN monitoring for customers using VMware Site Recovery Manager and vSphere Replication. The objects are labeled “vSphere Replicas” in the “Replication” category. – This is nice to know and a good feature to see replica usage.

Uninterrupted Application Run Time

vSAN 7 enhances uptime in stretched clusters by introducing the ability to redirect VM I/O from one site to another in the event of a capacity imbalance. Once the disks at the first site have freed up capacity, customers can redirect I/O back to the original site without disruption. Awesome feature – It is things like this that differentiate a product from the competition. We can look at something like stretched cluster from VMware and metro availability from Nutanix – This is a blog for another day.

vSAN 7 has tighter integration with data placement and DRS. After recovering from a failure condition, DRS will keep the VM running at the same site until data is fully resynchronized between the two sites. Once resynchronization is complete, DRS will move the VM to the appropriate site in accordance with DRS rules. This improvement reduces unnecessary read operations occurring across the ISL, thereby ISL resources are prioritized to complete resynchronizations post site recovery.

Automatic Policy Compliance for 2-Node vSAN Deployments

vSAN 7 keeps 2-node deployments in policy compliance by automating repair objects operations during witness replacement. Nice to know for smaller configurations and less management and stress about your environment again.

vSAN 7 enhances the replacement and resynchronizing logic of a vSAN Witness Host for Stretched Cluster and 2-node topologies. When a vSAN Witness Host appliance is impacted or needs to be replaced, it can be easily done using a “Replace Witness” button in vCenter. After the replacement, vSAN invokes an immediate repair operation, quickly reinstating the vSAN Witness Host to a consistent state. This enhancement helps mitigate a transient vulnerability to site-level protection by expediting vSAN Witness Host restoration. This is nice and great thing they added to put the witness in kind of a maintenance mode without issues.

Accurate VM level space reporting across vCenter UI for vSAN powered VMs

vSAN 7 introduces a new level of consistency in VM level capacity reporting in vCenter for vSAN powered VMs. The initial design of vCenter accommodated for VM-level capacity reporting similar to how traditional storage operates. These improvements will help reconcile the reporting differences that may have been found between vSAN centric areas of vCenter and traditional VM reporting areas such as at the cluster and host view. This is a nice feature to have as you always want to know exactly what is using the space and the more granular this can be the easier for the clients.

Improved Memory reporting for ongoing optimization

A new time-based memory consumption metric is exposed in the UI and through API to provide deeper insight into resource consumption. With the robust architecture of vSAN, as the environment evolves (through scale-up or scale-out), time-based metrics help correlate the change in memory consumption with hardware and software configuration changes made in the cluster. This helps systematically assess the impact of configuration changes and continually optimize the design. This is okay, but the more granular a view can be, like in this again, the better it is for the client and admin.

Support for larger capacity devices

vSAN demonstrates great agility to meet the evolving storage needs. vSAN 7 supports newer and larger density storage devices. vSAN’s support of higher density storage devices can bring inherent improvements to customer environments, such as improved deduplication and compression ratios and a lower cost per terabyte (TB). The support for higher density drives presents a benefit unique to vSAN’s architecture: Incrementally adding or replacing existing disk groups with new disk groups consisting of much higher density drives without any additional licensing cost. This is a great feature but can be good and bad. As VMware and their official VxRail appliance support industry standard disks they can only integrate whatever is available, so yes the architecture is unique but lack their own hardware. This is where the likes of Huawei and some of IBM is a bit different as they can bypass the industry disks and use their own, but this is not totally comparable to vSAN though. Nice from them to allow bigger as this is always a plus.

Native support for planned and unplanned maintenance with NVMe hotplug

NVMe has helped usher in all-new levels of performance capabilities for storage systems. vSphere 7 introduces one feature that meets or exceeds the capability associated with older SAS and SATA devices: Hotplug support for NVMe devices in vSphere and vSAN. This introduces a new level of flexibility and serviceability to hosts populated with NVMe devices, improving uptime by simplifying maintenance tasks around adding, removing, and relocating storage devices in hosts. Modern hosts can potentially have dozens of NVMe devices, and the benefits of hotplug most help environments large and small. Always great to have more redundancy and availability like in this case.

Removal of Eager Zero Thick (EZT) requirement for shared disk in vSAN

This release also introduces improved flexibility for VM applications using shared virtual disks, such as Oracle RAC. vSAN 7 eliminates the prerequisite that shared virtual disks with multi-writer flags must use the eager zero thick format. This streamlined set of requirements improves simplicity and efficiency. Good to have and could use less disk space but we need to see if this comes at a performance cost.

Summary

vSAN 7 makes hyperconverged infrastructure much easier by providing administrators a unified storage control plane for both block and file protocols, and provides significant enhancements that make it a great solution for traditional virtual machines as well cloud-native applications. vSphere Lifecycle Manager reduces the complexity of monitoring and maintaining infrastructure by consolidating software, driver and firmware update tools and introducing a desired-state model of implementing a desired image. vSAN 7’s file shares enable admins to rapidly provision a file share via a single workflow; integrated file shares also reduce dependencies on expensive third-party solutions and eases lifecycle management. As Kubernetes-orchestrated cloud-native apps will also be able to take advantage of vSAN file shares, IT can consolidate more workloads onto vSAN-powered HCI efficiently. Additional improvements provide a wide variety of benefits, from enhanced infrastructure monitoring, which helps admins plan for future needs, to future-proofing infrastructure by supporting larger capacity drives and improving uptime with NVMe hotplug. vSAN continues to be the platform of choice for both traditional applications and evolving modern applications because of seamless evolution and rapid innovation.

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