VMware's New vSAN 6.6 Improves Its Hyper-Converged Infrastructure With Increased Security, Performance

VMware on Tuesday released its latest vSAN software-defined storage offering, calling it the first to include native hyper-converged infrastructure security.

VMware vSAN 6.6 is also the first version to be optimized for Intel's new Optane 3D XPoint NVMe storage technology, and includes a number of new analytics and site protection features, said Yanbing Li, senior vice president and general manager of the company's storage and availability business unit.

VMware's vSAN is the base on which VMware's hyper-converged infrastructure business is built. The company offers vSAN to server vendors who develop vSAN Ready Nodes for use as hyper-converged infrastructure appliances. vSAN is also at the base of VMware's own VxRail and VxRack hyper-converged appliances.

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Hyper-converged infrastructure is a hot market, one that is growing like crazy, Li told CRN. "It's one of the fastest-growing parts of the IT business," she said. "And we're happy to be a big part of it, growing faster than the market."

VMware vSAN, when combined with server and networking technology from Cisco, has proven to be a viable alternative to other vendors' hyper-converged infrastructure offerings, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems (IAS), a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and partner to both VMware and Cisco.

"If customers already have vSAN-ready hardware in their data centers, they just need to buy the VMware vSAN licenses," Woodall told CRN. "This gives customers a lot of flexibility."

The new vSAN 6.6 is the first hyper-converged infrastructure offering to feature native encryption of the data, VMware's Li said.

"The encryption is hardware-agnostic," she said. "There's no need to add self-encrypting storage drives. It works on any hardware on our hardware compatibility list. It also allows deduplication and compression of data to be done before the encryption."

Also, vSAN 6.6's encryption has been submitted for FIPS [Federal Information Processing Standard] certification, and the application is currently under review, Li said.

The company addressed continuous operations by enhancing vSAN 6.6 with stretch clusters, which provide high availability across two sites with nested file domain.

"It works on a more granular level than in the past, with multiple copies of data at each site so that any issues at the second site do not impact operation," Li said.

It also features intelligent rebuild technology to minimize the movement of data needed to rebuild a site that goes down, she said.

VMware has enhanced the performance of vSAN 6.6 with new optimization to the core software to increase performance by 50 percent while reducing latency, Li said.

It is also the first hyper-converged infrastructure technology to provide support for the new Intel Optane 3D XPoint non-volatile memory-based flash storage, which can improve overall performance by up to two-and-a-half times, she said.

The software has also been tuned to a broader set of applications than in the past, including Hadoop, SAP, Oracle, and others, and comes to market with a new version of Docker Volume Driver, she said.

Analytics is included in vSAN 6.6, too. It comes with new proactive cloud analytics to improve the monitoring and management of its health, including when used with cloud-based platforms, Li said. "A big benefit of those proactive cloud analytics is that the analysis engine actually sits in the cloud," she said. "There's no need to run another application. Just go to the SaaS portal."

All the enhancements to vSAN 6.6 will also be included in new versions of VxRail and VxRack to be released in the near future, Li said.

VMware provides vSAN technology to several system vendors who use it to produce vSAN Ready Nodes which in some cases competes with those vendors' own hyper-converged offerings. For instance, Hewlett Packard Enterprise works with vSAN even though it has its own HC380 and SimpliVity 380 offerings, and Cisco does the same even though it also produces HyperFlex hyper-converged infrastructure appliances.

Li said the hyper-converged infrastructure market is moving to a software-centric model where diversified software stacks will eventually be the winner. However, she said, vSAN does not necessarily impact VMware's partners' markets for their own hyper-converged appliances.

"The hyper-converged infrastructure industry is a dynamic one," she said. "There will be competition and cooperation at the same time. VxRail has grown much in the last year. But the majority of our business comes via our server partners. We engage with these partners to make sure we grow both our businesses."

VMWare's vSAN, in general, has evolved over the last few years from storage in a cluster to a viable data center-wide technology, Woodall said. That has also matched the evolution of data centers operations, he said.

"Customers choose their hardware not just for the components, but for the flexibility to match their workloads," he said. "Today the conversation in the data center is all about the virtual machine administrator or the private cloud administrator. There's no need to coordinate with different legacy groups, which simplifies the buying decision. And that makes vSAN an increasingly important part of VMware-centric deployments."