Virtual SAN Buying Guide

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There are more options than ever in the virtual SAN (vSAN) arena. And that field just got more interesting with the release of VMware’s own vSAN product.

“VMware vSAN is a good thing for the industry and those using VMware in that it will shake up the status quo, and enable organizations to use what they have,” said Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group.

“While there is and will be overlap, chaos and confusion, there is also opportunity to bring the experience of shared SAN storage along with its various benefits to those who in the past could not afford, nor have the size or need for a larger SAN.”

VMware Virtual SAN

Currently in beta, VMware’s vSAN will soon be generally available. It is described as a software-defined storage solution that extends VMware vSphere to pool compute and direct-attached storage. What VMware Virtual SAN does is cluster server disks and flash to produce shared storage for virtual machines.

It features a policy-driven control plane that automates storage consumption and management. Relying on server-side solid state disks (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs), VMware Virtual SAN is said to deliver lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and test/development environments. Users can start small and grow as needed.

“The primary use cases we think most customers will deploy the initial release of VMware Virtual SAN are: VDI, tier 2/3 environments, disaster recovery as storage target in the recovery site through integration with VMware vSphere Replication and VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager, and Remote Office/Branch Office,” said Alberto Farronato, Director of Storage & Availability Product Marketing, VMware.

“VMware Virtual SAN is built into the VMware vSphere kernel and does not require any additional software installation. It is turned on and managed from the vSphere Web Client. Activating VMware Virtual SAN is as easy as turning on common VMware vSphere features such as Dynamic Resources Scheduler (DRS).”

DataCore SANsymphony

DataCore have been in the virtual storage space for a long time. Its virtual SAN platform is called SANsymphony-V, which is hardware-agnostic storage virtualization software that abstracts and pools internal and external disks along with flash/SSDs. The company said thousands of data centers around the globe deploy DataCore.

Features include in-memory DRAM caching, auto-tiering, synchronous mirroring, asynchronous replication, thin-provisioning, snapshots, and CDP. Pricing for an HA (high-availability) cluster of 2 SANsymphony-V nodes is under $10,000, including 24×7 annual support.

“The SANsymphony-V platform is designed for mission-critical, latency-sensitive applications in companies large and small, where downtime is not tolerated,” said Steve Houck, COO, DataCore Software.

He believes that VMware vSAN takes advantage of inexpensive internal disk drives, which drives more customers, especially SAN-averse ones, to virtualize their apps. However, he added that it requires the use of more expensive flash memory, a minimum of three hosts, and doesn’t work on physical machine that are also be in the mix, or other hypervisors such as Microsoft Hyper-V.

SANsymphony-V, said Houck, is transparent to applications, so no code changes are necessary. It installs on a virtual machine in two or more nodes to create a tiered storage pool. The software can also run on dedicated x86 machines to offload all storage-intensive tasks from the application hosts.

“The quest for software-defined storage has branched three distinct approaches to storage virtualization; hypervisor-based, device-dependent, and agnostic, software-only,” said Houck. “vSAN is an example of hypervisor-based, EMC ViPR and IBM SVC are device-dependent, and DataCore SANsymphony–V is an example of software-only storage virtualization.”

HP StoreVirtual VSA software

HP StoreVirtual VSA is a virtual storage appliance optimized for VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V environments. According to HP, over 170,000 licenses have been deployed to date. It creates a virtual array within any x86 virtual server and scales as a company’s needs evolve.

VSA includes high availability and disaster recovery features. Its LeftHand OS runs on a hardware appliance and as a virtual appliance with VSA. Users can run both in their environment, move data across all platforms and manage all from one console. They can also switch from physical to virtual or vice versa, as the VSA presents out to the infrastructure as an iSCSI array.

According to Kate Davis, Product Marketing Manager, HP StoreVirtual, pricing is $3,000 for a 4 TB, three-pack license, $3,500 for a 10 TB single license and $6,000 for a 50 TB single license. She said that it can work well for SMBs, remote offices, branch offices and for service providers. It can run on any x86 server certified for vSphere or Hyper-V.

“With the rapid growth of data storage there is room for different types of storage tiers within their infrastructure,” said Davis. “VSA and vSAN are flexible tiers of storage that allow users to utilize the infrastructure in place to gain the needed data services at any given time for a variety of unpredictable workloads, and match the benefits they achieved with server virtualization now on the storage side.”

Sanbolic Melio

Melio is said to be a software-defined data acceleration platform that combines a scalable distributed clustered file system to optimize data management across any infrastructure. Pricing is $8,500 per node, including one year of support and maintenance.

Momchil “Memo” Michailov, co-founder & CEO of Sanbolic, claims that it drives storage costs down to 0.025 cents per IOP using commodity infrastructure. It is application, workload, server, hypervisor and storage agnostic to enable organizations to mix and match any combination of physical infrastructure, virtual infrastructure (including public cloud platforms such as Amazon and Rackspace), legacy SAN storage and flash storage. He added that it has more than 850 enterprise customers worldwide, including 30 of the Fortune 100. This includes government, financial services and healthcare users.

“VMware vSAN is just a storage management solution, not a data management platform,” said Michailov. “Basic capabilities like snapshots are not supported, it has a limited scale capability of six disks and eight nodes, and does not support fibre channel storage or pure SSD deployments.”

Melio, on the other hand, runs on any existing legacy, commodity or server-side storage. It is protocol agnostic, and it supports most standard block connectivity such as FC, ISCSi, FcoE, Infiniband, SAS and so on.

NetApp Data ONTAP Edge

 NetApp Data ONTAP Edge is said to provide low-cost, enterprise-class data management and virtual DR protection. It is targeted squarely at remote offices that run on the VMware vSphere. Designed to complement NetApp FAS and V-Series storage, Data ONTAP Edge is characterized as allowing you to build a data center on an enterprise server using VMware vSphere. It converts the server’s internal disk drives into a storage platform.

Data ONTAP Edge includes the NetApp Data ONTAP-v operating system, which comes with native data deduplication and FlexClone, SnapVault, and SnapRestore software. These can be leveraged so that a central site can provide backup, recovery, and archiving of remote-site data.

As NetApp’s vSAN product currently runs only on VMware, it could suffer from the arrival of VMware vSAN. Expect, therefore, that the company will likely broaden its potential by making it available on Hyper-V.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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