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VSAN: A Different Way of Looking at Hyper-Converged Infrastructure

I’ve seen too many small businesses tie themselves in knots by over-committing on capex for more computing power and storage than they need. Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) offerings were supposed to simplify the lives of IT decision-makers by collapsing the implementation process, but it’s also meant less freedom to choose the amount of infrastructure you need. When you buy hyper-converged, you basically get x86 servers that leverage software to turn direct attached storage into a shared storage resource

Companies like Nutanix, VCE and SimpliVity put it all together so you get one single, appliance-based solution with all the software and hardware you need, including three years of support, typically.

That’s excellent, but CTOs and other IT decision-makers tend to be rightly concerned over hidden costs. “Already assembled” offerings come at a significant premium over DIY projects. Virtualizing your compute allowed you to pick and choose your hardware manufacturer as well as deploy applications at the drop of a hat, why not take this same idea and apply it to your storage? This would allow you to avoid vendor lock-in, scale storage modularly as needed, and achieve out of this world performance!

Cost Comparison With HCI

That’s exactly what VMware’s 2016 Virtual SAN 6.2 release makes possible. This puts VMware squarely in “competition” with storage vendors and the more traditional hyper-converged vendors. I often hear people ask, “But isn’t vSAN hyper-converged?” Yes and no. The reason is that vSAN is similar to the software-defined storage aspect of traditional appliance based HCI solutions, but gives VMware vSAN sizingyou the flexibility to right size your infrastructure to the needs of IT today with the ability to choose from a variety of hardware manufacturers. Already have vSphere? Well guess what, then you already have vSAN! VMware’s Virtual SAN is built into the hypervisor and only needs to be unlocked through licensing, no additional install is needed. And because it’s built into the hypervisor you don’t have to deploy an additional VM to manage storage, which reduces latency and leaves more compute for the applications.

So how does Virtual SAN stack up to the competition? VMware did some comparisons with different configurations of Nutanix vs. vSAN to find out. A good example is a comparison of the hyper-converged NX-3460 G4 node with a VMware stack built on hardware from SuperMicro, the supplier for Nutanix. The hyper-converged package lists for $201,501, while the Virtual SAN option comes to $62,159. That’s pretty substantial, especially when you factor in how much you value your freedom to pick and choose your storage and computing capacity.

Download our VMware vSAN infographic to learn more about software-defined storage.

Expand On Demand

Just as server virtualization did for the computing side, Virtual SAN will simplify manageability and improve efficiencies on the storage side of the data center. Growing firms finally have more flexibility to pick and choose the configurations that meet the needs of their IT infrastructure. Instead of a cookie-cutter, drop-in appliance, you decide what you need. IT doesn’t need to handicap the business by over-allocating too early.

From an IOPS standpoint, vSAN is phenomenal with the ability to right size performance simply by adding flash as you need. If you need more capacity, simply add more spinning disk. It’s a more organic and modular way to grow the business while keeping expenses under control. With vSAN, it’s possible to manage the storage from the same vCenter portal that vSphere users leverage today

I highly encourage you to take a look at vSAN if you are looking at hyper-converged infrastructure. If you are already running vSphere, it only takes two clicks to deploy Virtual SAN and your off to the races.

Author: Perry Peterson, Director of Practice Management


  1. happy on October 30, 2017 at 3:04 am

    ‘VMware vSphere will need to be licensed identically for both configurations’ – not true, you can use AHV from Nutanix and cut out VMware licensing

    • Perry on November 2, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      Great point! You are correct, assuming that you are open to running AHV. This blog and the cost comparison was made with the assumption that vSphere would be the hypervisor of choice, which at the time was most likely the direction most organizations would move forward with. That has changed significantly with Nutanix making substantial improvements in the features, functionality, and 3rd party acceptance of AHV.

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