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Hyper-convergence, which has been a trend in virtualization for some time now, continues unabated. Gartner reports that hyper-converged integrated systems are the fastest-growing segment of the overall market for integrated systems, reaching $5 billion -- 24% of the market -- by 2019. It's no wonder, then, that VMware has rolled out regular updates for its Virtual SAN storage feature for hyper-converged infrastructure, including two within the past year.
The first of these updates, Virtual SAN (vSAN) 6.5, was released in conjunction with vSphere 6.5. It includes new tools, feature updates and changes to vSAN's licensing plan. The second, vSAN 6.6, promises new features and functions, which include access to the vSAN control panel through the ESXi Embedded Host Client and capacity and policy prechecks.
Explore vSAN 6.5 updates and features
VMware added a number of feature updates to vSAN 6.5 that start with physical server access via iSCSI. This is a big bump up from the previous version of vSAN, 6.2, which only allowed virtual servers in a cluster to access storage through a VMware proprietary protocol. VSAN 6.5 also supports direct connectivity between two ESXi server nodes and eliminates the need for a storage switch between the two. By establishing a witness server, vSAN ensures consistency between the two nodes and avoids split brain scenarios, in which a cluster of nodes partitions into smaller clusters and can cause data corruption. VMware has also embraced the growing container movement, incorporating persistent container storage in vSAN 6.5.
VSAN 6.5 eliminates all-flash constraints
In addition to features updates and enhancements -- including lower total cost of ownership -- vSAN 6.5 includes one licensing change that will appeal to customers. In the past, the vSAN Standard license limited customers to hybrid configurations. In vSAN 6.5, Standard license customers can now access both all-flash and hybrid configurations.
Although this is a significant improvement, the Standard license still lacks some capabilities. At present, the Standard license does not support deduplication, compression or erasure coding, and it does not offer the stretched cluster functionality. Users who require these capabilities must purchase either an Advanced or Enterprise vSAN 6.5 license.
Keep vSAN in check with PowerCLI cmdlets
Included in the vSphere 6.5 release, PowerCLI 6.5 version 1 features a number of new cmdlets to manage VSAN. Users can now monitor vSAN performance levels, create new vSAN disks, set configuration settings and more. The latest version of PowerCLI also breathes new life into to the Move-VM cmdlet. The Move-VM cmdlet can move VMs between vCenter instances that aren't linked by single sign-on domains, so long as source and destination vCenters are vSAN 6.0 or later and have an active connection.
VMware fights for share in hyper-converged market
When VMware launched the vSAN 6.5 upgrade in November 2016, some experts wondered whether it could compete with other hyper-converged products. After all, the prior upgrade -- vSAN 6.2 -- didn't offer anything special – just the bare necessities vSAN required to be on par with the competition.
VMware insisted otherwise, promising that the 6.5 upgrade would allow users to get into hyper-convergence without adding a new platform, and it looks like the company took customers' demands seriously. With features like iSCSI support for physical workloads and two node minimums as well as changes to its licensing model, vSAN 6.5 offers better integration than previous versions, taking VMware one step closer to a fully integrated, comprehensive hyper-converged offering.
What does vSAN 6.6 have in store?
Speaking of updates, VMware launched vSAN 6.6 in April 2017. It's the first version of vSAN to launch without an accompanying vSphere update. This version of vSAN offers native encryption and real-time analytics under its Enterprise license, improvements to stretched cluster support and all-flash performance, one-click installation and optimized deduplication.
This recent release pushes the vSAN product into a new stratum of the hyper-converged market. The addition of encryption and cloud-based analytics to vSAN 6.6 suggests that VMware has entered the race of hyper-converged vendors transitioning their products into private cloud building blocks.
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