In-Depth

What's New in vSAN 8 U3

On June 25, VMware announced that vSAN 8 U3 was available to all its customers. This edition of vSAN has many new features and enhancements.

Since its introduction a decade ago, VMware vSAN has been a leader in software-defined storage (SDS) and the go-to storage for many companies that run VMwares ESXi hypervisor.

Before we delve into the latest enhancements in vSAN 8 U3, let's take a moment to appreciate vSAN's evolution and maturation over the past decade. This journey has been marked by the needs of its users and the utilization of hardware advancements, shaping vSAN into the robust storage solution it is today.

The Last 10 Years of vSAN
VMware vSAN, initially known as Virtual SAN 5.5, was introduced in 2014 and swiftly redefined the emerging hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) industry. This redefinition, which many of you have been a part of, saw the use of local storage on servers to create a shared storage pool for all computers in a cluster.

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Over the last 10 years, it has seen numerous releases, each bringing enhancements and new features. The initial release laid the groundwork by focusing on providing a robust, high-performance storage solution with features like storage policy-based management (SPBM), allowing administrators to define performance and availability requirements per VM. The initial release required both SSD and HDD drives. In its initial release SSDs were only used for data caching, while HDDs were used for persistent storage.

Shortly after, it was renamed to vSAN 6.0, which was released in 2015 and added support for all-flash configurations. This version also introduced fault domains, enhancing data resilience. Then came vSAN 6.2 in 2016, a release that brought significant data efficiency enhancements. The introduction of deduplication and compression, as well as erasure coding, provided better storage utilization without compromising fault tolerance.

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vSAN 6.6, released in 2017, introduced native data-at-rest encryption, making it the first HCI solution to offer this feature. This version also included enhanced health monitoring and analytics capabilities, improving visibility and management of the storage environment. vSAN 6.7, released in 2018, continued to build on these capabilities by offering better performance, streamlined deployment, and lifecycle management improvements. It also introduced automated rebalancing and efficient handling of stretched clusters for better disaster recovery.

With vSAN 7.0, released in 2020, VMware focused on further integration with Kubernetes through VMware Cloud Foundation, enhancing support for modern, containerized applications. The biggest change in this release was File Services, allowing vSAN to serve both block and file storage workloads.

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vSAN 8 was released in August 2022, and its significant feature was vSAN Express Storage Architecture (vSAN ESA). This architecture takes advantage of the capabilities of NVMe-based TLC flash devices with vSAN. It allowed optimized data handling, higher performance 5/6 erasure coding, and intelligent I/O traffic management.

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vSAN 8U3
Below is a short summary of the enhancements in vSAN 8 U3 and what they provide.

  • vSAN ESA Stretched Clusters for VCF 5.2: Using the vSAN Express Storage Architecture (ESA) in a stretched cluster topology offers new levels of performance and efficiency. VCF 5.2, leveraging vSAN 8 U3, supports vSAN ESA in a stretched cluster, providing site-level resilience. This allows VCF workloads to benefit from higher resilience, reduced capacity consumption and less data transfer across inter-site links.
  • Disaggregated Storage for VCF 5.2: vSAN 8 U3 introduces support for storage-only clusters as primary storage in VCF 5.2, allowing customers to use vSAN disaggregated storage as their centralized shared storage solution. VCF licensing includes vSAN capacity entitlements, potentially making it the only storage solution needed for all VCF workloads.
  • Increased Scalability with vSAN File Services in vSAN ESA: vSAN ESA in vSphere 8 U3 now supports up to 250 file shares per cluster. It enhances scalability for various uses, such as departmental file shares, project collaboration, and microservices architecture with persistent volumes.
  • vSAN Data Protection: vSAN 8 U3 introduces VMware vSAN Data Protection, offering integrated high-performance snapshots for VM protection and recovery. This feature enhances data center security and efficiency with improved snapshot management and portability.
  • Intuitive Management and Monitoring: vSAN Data Protection in vSAN 8 U3 includes enhanced management and monitoring, providing detailed snapshot information at the cluster, VM, and protection group levels, making tracking snapshot creation and capacity usage easier.
  • Improved Device Health Information: vSAN 8 U3 includes new telemetry data gathering from server vendors, enabling proactive hardware management and predictive issue resolution, enhancing overall storage device health management.
  • Cluster-Level Storage Performance: vSAN 8 U3 enhances the vSAN VM I/O Trip Analyzer, simultaneously allowing performance analysis on up to 8 VMs. This tool helps identify performance bottlenecks and improves overall VM workload performance and efficiency.
  • Improved RDMA Troubleshooting: vSAN 8 U3 improves RDMA troubleshooting with enhanced tracking and monitoring, ensuring optimal performance. Real-time checks against the vSAN hardware compatibility list and prioritized health scoring aid in maintaining RDMA-based network efficiency.
  • Enhanced Visibility for Storage-Only Clusters:

VCF 5.2 offers improved visibility of storage-only clusters, treating them as first-class citizens in VCF Operations. Users can easily track resource utilization and health status and forecast storage capacity needs, providing a holistic view of the datacenter environment.

This release of vSAN focuses on three significant areas: flexible topologies, agile data protection and enhanced management.

Expanding the deployment options of vSAN allows VMware's customers to deploy the solution best suited to their specific needs. VMware added support for disaggregated storage as Principal Storage and increased the scale of vSAN File services by 150 percent in this release.

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Data protection is a top concern for all companies, and vSAN Data Protection allows the recovery of data quickly and adds another layer of protect to its data. It integrates with VMware Live Cyber Recovery and provides customers with additional cloud-based ransomware protection.

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vSphere has always been able to monitor and manage vSAN, but this release allows greater insight into the performance and health of VMs and vSAN and includes additional device-level health information, improved NVMe device tracking and alarms, and cluster-level storage performance troubleshooting.

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As a side note vSAN seems to be getting some love at VMware Explore this year as a quick look at the VMware Explore catalog shows 40 sessions that mention it. You can see My Five Must-See VMware Explore 2024 Sessions here and you can read my article on why you should attend it here.

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You can read more about vSAN 8 U3 in VMware's announcement about it here.

About the Author

Tom Fenton has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 30 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 20 years focusing on virtualization and storage. He previously worked as a Technical Marketing Manager for ControlUp. He also previously worked at VMware in Staff and Senior level positions. He has also worked as a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, where he headed the Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on X @vDoppler.

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