VMware PEX: VMware Says VSAN Software-Defined Storage To Ship This Quarter

VMware on Tuesday opened its VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) 2014 with news that it has received widespread industry support for its VMware Virtual SAN software-defined storage offering, and the company said it expects the technology to start shipping by the end of next month.

VMware is also expected to unveil a new version of its VMware Data Protection Advanced, or VDPA, with the ability to do physical backups of such Microsoft applications as SQL, SharePoint and Exchange.

VMware Virtual SAN, or VSAN, which was introduced last August at VMworld, is a new software-defined storage solution that ties to the company's VMware vSphere private cloud and virtualization platform.

[Related: Software-Defined Storage: Separating The Reality From The Hype]

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As a result, it is a major component in VMware's software-defined data center strategy, said Alberto Farronato, director of product marketing for storage and availability for the vendor.

VSAN is a software-defined storage solution that runs on any standard x86 server, where it pools both SSDs and spinning disks to produce resilience shared storage for virtual machines, Farronato said.

"It's a hypervisor-converged storage solution," he said. "The entire architecture and functionality of the solution is delivered from the vSphere kernel."

Multiple server and storage partners have publicly committed to working with VSAN, Farronato said. These server partners include Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and IBM, the latter of which is currently selling its x86 server business to Lenovo. Storage partners include Fusion-io, LSI, Samsung, SanDisk, Seagate and Western Digital.

On the software side, VSAN will be supported by vendor partners that also participate in VMware's VADP, or vSphere APIs for Data Protection, Farronato said.

This includes such vendors as Symantec, Acronis, CommVault, EMC and Veeam. Veeam, which VMware asked to not be a sponsor of VMware PEX, will be cited at the event as a partner that is providing backup technologies for VSAN, he said.

VSAN is slated to ship in the first quarter of this year and will be available in two flavors, Farronato said.

The first will be a BYO (build your own) version in which solution providers and customers can take there choice of server, storage and RAID cards from an approved hardware compatibility list.

The second will be VSAN-ready nodes already assembled by technology partners and ready for solution providers to add the VSAN software, he said.

NEXT: VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) Addressing Customer Needs: VAR

Keith Norbie, director of server, virtualization and storage for the Eastern U.S. at Technology Integration Group (TIG), a San Diego-based solution provider and VMware partner that has tried the beta version of VSAN, said he likes how well VSAN addresses customer needs.

"I like the way VSAN extends virtualization capabilities to clients with new storage options," Norbie said. "I like the architecture and how it defaults to using storage-based policies. It gets us past the brute force needed in the past to set up storage."

VSAN has the potential to be highly disruptive to traditional storage vendors, Norbie said.

"But it's hard to predict," he said. "Customer buying decisions are often based on politics, or on the customer's current installed base. And different vendors have different strengths."

VSAN is also easy to deploy, which is great for the channel, Norbie said.

"The channel is moving beyond the need for installing single technologies," he said. "It's focused on solutions, on flexibility and scalability. VSAN unlocks our ability to do that instead of having to go out and work with old architectures."

VMware's Farronato said a key point around VSAN is its simplicity when used with vSphere.

"There's no specialized expertise required," he said. "Everything is managed through vSphere through a single pane of glass. Anyone who can turn on vSphere DRS [Distributed Resource Scheduler] can turn on VSAN."

Furthermore, Farronato said. VSAN leverages storage-based policy management.

"As you provision storage capacity, you can do virtual machine provisioning just by setting the policies," he said. "You can establish separate policies and service levels for each virtual machine. And you can auto-provision storage and server resources and adjust them automatically."

VSAN in the beta version scales to eight nodes in a clustered environment, but when released it is expected to scale to 16 nodes, Farronato said. Performance, according to VMware's internal benchmarking tests, is up to 900,000 aggregate IOPS per VSAN cluster. VSAN also matches the performance of all-flash storage arrays when used in virtual desktop infrastructure environments, he said.

Farronato said there could be some overlap between VSAN and the functions of some of VMware's storage partners, but that customers would be free to choose the technology that best suits them.

"It's not the first case we introduced technology that overlaps with what our partners offer," he said. "We approach the market with a partner ecosystem, and let partners offer whatever technology they prefer."

NEXT: VSAN Different From EMC's ViPR Software-defined Storage Tech

VSAN is also different from the ViPR software-defined technology being developed by EMC, which holds a majority stake in VMware, VMware's Farronato said.

ViPR provides a software-defined control plane layer for external storage arrays and is focused on how users can control storage in those arrays, he said. VSAN, on the other hand, is focused on virtualized infrastructures, he said.

"They are complimentary," he said. "Both can be used in the same environment, but for different implementations."

Farronato also said that, unlike vSphere Data Protection, a data protection solution for virtual machines in VMware environments, which was built using Avamar technology from EMC, VSAN was built with no help from EMC.