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VMware Intros vSAN 6.7 Software-Defined Storage Software, But With Eye Toward Hyper-Converged Infrastructure

VMware vSAN 6.7 includes an HTML 5-based user interface, improved compatibility with cloud-native applications, and closer integration with vSphere and vCenter.

VMware Tuesday made a major update to its vSAN software-defined software, including redesignating it as hyper-converged infrastructure.

VMware vSAN 6.7, the latest iteration of the software, was unveiled in conjunction with that of VMware vSphere 6.7, the company's hybrid cloud management platform.

vSAN is a fast-growing business with over 10,000 customers currently and growing by 100 customers a week, said Lee Caswell, vice president of products, storage and availability for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company.

[Related: 19 Powerful Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Solutions: New Choices From A Narrowing Field Of Vendors]

"Hyper-converged infrastructure buyers are really infrastructure buyers," Caswell told CRN. "Most of our customers are trying to get out of managing storage. Software-defined storage sounds like you have to manage things."

vSAN, on the other hand, automates that management across on-premises and cloud environments while integrating easily with VMware vSphere and other environments, Caswell said.

"We are the only hyper-converged infrastructure offering running in the cloud," he said. "Not connecting to the cloud. Running in the cloud. Our customers are moving to the cloud, and they want all the services they use on-premises to be in the cloud."

The semantics of calling VMware vSAN a hyper-converged infrastructure platform instead of a software-defined storage platform makes sense, said Michael Strong, co-owner and chief operating officer at Blue Layer IT, a Lubbock, Texas-based solution provider and VMware channel partner.

Software-defined storage does indeed imply a separation of storage and networking, but with hyper-converged infrastructure everything revolves around the virtual machine, Strong told CRN.

"You don't look at traditional infrastructure and say, 'Let's create a new VM,'" he said. "You need the LUN, you need to provision the VM and pick out the specifications, and you end up with silos of storage. But with hyper-converged infrastructure, the whole ecosystem is based on the VM."

While VMware vSAN can be deployed as a stand-alone offering, it makes sense to be deployed along with vSphere, Caswell said.

"In the cloud, they are integrated together all the time," he said. "And because customers expect it to work in the cloud, it integrates with VMware NSX [software-defined networking] to connect public and private clouds."

New in VMware vSAN 6.7 is an HTML 5 user interface, Caswell said. "It's a modern front end," he said. "It's a beautiful front end."

It's about time VMware adopted HTML 5, Strong said.

"That means tremendous security enhancements," he said. "It gives a consistent view across the entire environment, and provides a cohesive interface with vSphere. It's the modern way to go."

Also new with VMware vSAN 6.7 is the ability to integrate its performance and capacity monitoring and capabilities with the VMware vCenter management platform, Caswell said.

"Partners can now go into individual virtual machines and set up monitoring and alerts as a service for customers," he said. "They can use it to initially ensure vSAN is up and running, and then add other services above the core."

The integration of vSAN to vCenter was a long time coming, Strong said. "VMware administrators spend the bulk of their time in vCenter," he said. "That's why so [much] third-party software is written to vCenter. This is eliminating silos. The Holy Grail for admins is everything within a single pane of glass."

vSAN 6.7 is also designed to bring more workloads to the platform, with an emphasis on cloud-native applications such as NoSQL databases including Cassandra, Hadoop and MongoDB, as well as to clustered Windows Server environments, Caswell said.

"Customers need data resiliency on top of vSAN resiliency," he said. "Now the applications work in parallel instead of against each other."

Also new is vSAN ReadyCare, which VMware introduced to improve the support experience in hyper-converged infrastructure environments, Caswell said.

VMware is increasing the number of health checks provided by vSAN, and now reporting the health check data through the VMware Analytics Cloud, an artificial intelligence health engine that detects anomalies and reports them proactively to customers, he said.

"If a customer has an issue, our tech gets access to the latest alert information," he said. "We've doubled the size of our support staff team to account for the growing number of customers and the new analytics information."

The VMware Analytics Cloud "was developed internally, and runs on a lot of internal systems," Caswell said. "We use it to understand the health of our systems. And if we can run on it, others can run on it."

All the new capabilities of VMware vSAN 6.7, which is slated to be released in late April or early May, will be available on the vSAN Ready Node appliances several server vendors build by combining their servers with the vSAN software. Those appliances may also include NSX or VMware Cloud Foundation, he said.

vSAN 6.7 will also be included on future shipments of Dell EMC VxRail hyper-converged infrastructure appliances, he added.

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