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vSphere 6 Features VSAN 6.

Technical Details 85

VMware vSphere 6 also brings VSAN 6.0 which brings some significant
performance enhancements (As twice as fast in hybrid setup OR 5 times
faster in All-Flash setup!!) and new features which the one really excites is
that VSAN now allows to be a Flash only (All-Flash), that means that no
spinning media is no longer necessary. Its still possible to use spinning media
and configure hybrid VSAN 6.0 but as the flash media replaces slowly the
spinning media, the All-Flash version of VSAN makes sense.

In VSAN 5.5 it was possible to use only hybrid aproach. We did that in VSAN
5.5, but in addition now in VSAN 6.0 it will be possible to have 2 tiers of Flash
in VSAN (for example PCIe high speed SSDs, low latency flash which will be
used for high-speed caching (write buffer) and on another tier we can have
standard, lower performance SSDs, which will be used as persistent storage.

The full flash VSAN release has up to 5x performance improvements over

the the previous release and scales up to 64 nodes (2x more).

Ill get into details in this post, but you might want to check other posts
concerning VMware vSphere 6:

vSphere 6 Page
vSphere 6 Features New Config Maximums, Long Distance vMotion and
FT for 4vCPUs
vSphere 6 Features vCenter Server 6 Details, (VCSA and Windows)
vSphere 6 Features vSphere Client (FAT and Web Client)
vSphere 6 Features VSAN 6.0 Technical Details (this post)
ESXi 6.0 Security and Password Complexity Changes
How to install VMware VCSA
vSphere 6 Features Mark or Tag local disk as SSD disk
Note that all the screenshots comes from VMware presentation that I assisted
few weeks before the launch. Take a seat and enjoy -:)

vSphere 6 Features VSAN 6.0 and VVOLs

vSphere 6 brings VSAN and VVOLs as Two major new features (or rather
product functions).
VMware vSphere 6 Features VSAN 6.0
Faster (up to 5x faster than previous release), if Full-flash mode. In
hybrid mode 2times faster.
Scales up to 64 nodes (hosts) which also is due to the vSphere 6
scalability improvements.
Can execute up to 200 VMs per host (previously 100VMs)
Virtual Disk size up to 62Tb
VSAN snapshots and clones with high performance now and larger
supported capacity of snapshots and clones per VMs (32 per VM).
Rack awareness to tolerate rack failures with Fault domains
JBOD support (direct attached storage)
HW based checksum and encryption
VSAN with those functions is now ready for business critical applications. VSAN
runs on standard servers, its a software-defined storage built into vSphere. It
allows to deliver 2x more IOPs with VSAN Hybrid (up to 40 000

The All-flash VSAN 6.0 architecture

VSAN Enterprise-Class Scale and Performance. A table showing the different
performance levels, comparing the 5.5 version to 6.0 whch is divided into All-
Flash or Hybrid

VSAN HCL needs to be followed. This is not unusual as previously VSAN 5.5 had
the same requirements, especially the SAS/SATA controllers which needs to
have a certain queue depth (at least 600).
VSAN Hybrid Version The flash disks are used two ways:
Non-volatile write buffer (30%) writes are acknowledged then they
enter prepare stage on the flash-based devices, which allows to reduce
latency for writes.
Read Cache (70%) cache hits will allow the latency reduction. Cache
miss will needs to retrieve data from magnetic disks.
Better hardware you have better performance you get! Same for both
versions of VSAN!

VSAN All-Flash Version

Cache Tier highly performand and endurant flash devices present on the
Capacity tier low endurance flash devices present on the HCL
Concerning networking, its possible to use 1Gb/10 Gb NICS, but for the All-
Flash version youll need 10Gb network.

Jumbo Frames Using jumbo frames can reduce CPU overhead in large
environments and can provide nominal performance increase.

VSAN supports both VSS or VDS, where NetIOC needs VDS.

High density DAS support in vSphere 6

Some devices will be listed on VMware HCL. JBODs, but restrictions through
New On-Disk format
There is new disk format. Its a On-Disk format.

New delta-disk type vsanSparse. Its this disk format which allows the
performance gains for snapshots and clones. Why? Because the new delta disk
called vsanSparse which shall deliver comparable performance like native SAN
The vsanSparse disk format is more efficient because of new on-disk format
writing and extended caching capabilities.

All disk in a vsanSparse disk-chain shall be vsanSparse (except base disk).

Some drawbacks:

Its not possible to create linked clones of a VM with vsanSparse

snapshots on a non-vsan datastore.
If VM has existing snapshots (based on redo logs), this VM will continue
to get redo log based snapshots until the user consolidates and deletes all
current snapshots.
VSAN 5.5 its a In-place modular rolling upgrade
Non disruptive in-place upgrade which also supports rollback. The upgrade is
performed not within the GUI but RVC and CLI (Ruby vSphere Console).

There is health services for VSAN as well which shows the green check boxes
(or not) for each of the VSAN services. An outline of all new features present in
VSAN is here
The whole VSAN architecture: All-Flash or Hybrid where the Full flash needs
10Gb network

The Hybrid and All-Flash architecture. The All-Flash architecture can leverage
cheaper (0.2 TBW/day) SSDs for capacity tier and 2-3 TBW per day for
performance tier. The performance tier shall be 10% of projected used capacity.
It means that if you plan for example 6TB per disk group the performance tier
shall be about 10% of that.
The calculations and predictions:

The cache SSDs should be high write endurance models take 2+ TBW/day or
3650+/5 year. The total cache capacity percentage should be based on use case
requirements where for write-intensive workloads a higher amount should be
configured. You shall increase cache size if youre expecting heavy use of

VSAN Upgrade paths:

The new delta-disk type present in VSAN 6 need to follow some upgrade paths.
Obviously first must be the vCenter and ESXi upgrades, then the disk format
conversion on VSAN. The VSAN 6.0 has new on disk format for disk groups and
exposes new-delta disk type.

Manageability Improvements in VSAN 6.0

In VSAN 5.5 Its possible to not-to put a full host into maintenance mode in case
you have a disk replacement. But in VSAN 6.0 you can actually evacuate a
data from a single disk present in VSAN. Its supported in the UI, esxcli and

You can also launch a command through esxcli:

esxcli vsan storage remove evacuation-mode=EvacuateAllDate


In VSAN 5.5 you had to put host in maintenance mode.

In VSAN 6.0 you can first identify the disk through the UI and also on the
physical system. In fact its possible to turn the magnetic-disks
LED ON or OFF so you can identify the disk in case you want to replace it.

This is good stuff !!! -:)

You can also tag non recognized flash disk within the UI.

Also, disk which are not recognized as local to ESXi can now
be tagged/untagged as local disks. This had to be done in vSphere
5.x through the CLI. (Note: Its also one of the exams topic so in case youre
studying for VMware certification exam you better know how to do it manually).

Also whats improved within the UI is a new usability improvements when it

comes to What-If scenarios and when changing VM Storage Policy. Youll be able
to see the changes on the space consumption when:

Policy is edited
Policy is created
When reaplying a policy

User defined default policy

Admin can designate a preferred VM storage policy as the preferred default
policy for the VSAN.
And vCenter can manage different policies for each VSAN cluster

When configuring a VMs properties, you can see the VMs disk utilization on the
VSAN datastore, but also the used storage space. Its possible to show the real
usage on

Spinning disks
Flash devices
Its displayed in the vSphere web client and RVC
New Resynchronization status as a dashboard UI
Proactive Rebalance
This is also new and it allows to be beneficial in two particular cases:

When adding a new node to existing VSAN cluster or bringing a node out
of decommission state.
Utilize new nodes even if the fullness of existing disks are below 80%.
In those cases the rebalance can be more effective if it can be started earlier
then disk almost full It can be done through RVC. There is a command
vsan.proactive_rebalance start

Fault Domains
Its possible to define failure domains by grouping multiple hosts within a
cluster. This is to avoid:

Rack Failures
Storage controller failure
Network failure
Power Failure
Youll need 3 fault domains to define failure domain.

Compare VSAN 5.5 and VSAN 6.0 where there is a possibility to leverage fault
domain. You have a guarantee that files arent placed in the same rack.
There is FTT=1 to protect against one rack failures and it requires only two


Compare to with VSAN 5.5 where you need FTT=2 ( 3 replicas )

The whole picture where we can see the compare of VSAN 6.0 with VSAN 5.5
concerning the Fault domain. (Note the location of W in rack C in VSAN 6
Fault domains are configurable through:

The Web Based UI (vSphere web client)

Host Profiles (persistent across reboots)
RVC (Ruby vSphere Console)
The FTT are applied based on fault domains and not on hosts (like in VSAN 5.5).
For example when FTT=n, (2n+1) fault domains are required.

NexentaConnect on the Top of VSAN

provides file services on the top of VSAN (NFS, SMB). NexentaConnect stores
files only and VSAN stroes VMs. NexentaConnect allows using abstracted pool of
files services, has live monitoring capabilities or DR recovery planning
PowerCLI 6.0 New!
Some of the existing cmdlets were altered to work with VSAN and there are new
cmdlets introduced for VSAN:

Ruby vSphere Console (RVC)
There are new RVC commands for management and config of VSAN 6. RVC and
VSAn Observer were used to monitor VSAN 5.5 See Getting Started with
VSAN Observer (RVC).

New commands:

VSAN 6.0 Health
All health informations in the same screen -:)
VMware vSphere 6 Features vSphere Virtual
volumes (VVoLs)
Virtual disks are natively represented on arrays and enables VM granular
storage operations using array-based data services. VVoLs is a function which
does not need to be activated in vSphere 6, but its just there. Extends vSphere
storage policy-based to storage ecosystem. It does support existing storage I/O
protocols (FC, iSCSI, NFS). Its supported by major storage vendors.
In order to leverage VVols, the array has to be VVOLs capable and has to have
some capabilities which are surfaced via VASA (vSphere API for stroage
awareness) APIs.

The storage is logically partitioned into containers called Storage

VMs disks called Virtual Volumes are stored native way on those storage
IO from ESXi to the array is addressed through an acces point
called Protocol Endpoint (PE)
DataServices are offloaded to the array
The Schema:
Virtual volumes are virtual machine objects which are stored on sthe SANs
storage containers (logically partitioned). There is no VMFS.

VVols are stored in those containers and mapped to VMs files (swap, VMDK,
vmem) so in fact there is 5 different types of recognized Virtual

Data (VMDK)
Config (VM home, config files, logs)
Memory (snapshots)
Swap (VM memory swap)
Other ( generic, solution specific example CBRC in Horizon View).
Vendor Provider (VP)
The VP is responsible for creating Virtual Volumes and provides storage
awareness services. Its a software component which is developped by Storage
array vendors to be able to work with VASA APIs exported by ESX. ESX and
vCenter connect to VASA provider.

Storage Container (SC)

For VMware admin there is no change as he continue to see datastores, VMs,
Example of storage view via Dell Equalogic group manager.

VVOLs introduces unmanaged snapshots. But we firs need to know what are
managed snapshots, right? The managed snapshots are the classical snapshots
in vSphere (up to 32 snapshots per VM).

Umanaged snapshots are snapshots managed by an array but initiated

through vSphere web client.
While VVOLs are great technology Im more and more interested by VMware
VSAN as I feel the future datacenter direction going the way of linear scale and
performance VVOLs will however still play significant role to simplify the
storage management in vSphere.

There is always be use cases for VSAN and on the other hand use cases for
VVOLs and traditional shared storage arrays.