With the ecommerce industry growing each year, international business is no longer an enterprise-only sport. With small and midsize companies entering the global footprint game, their IT infrastructure needs to follow suit as they seek to engage and keep customers around the world.
How Small and Midsize Companies Can Expand Globally
The issue many companies face, however, is in providing a redundant, reliable solution to house servers in their secondary locations. These locations are often considerably smaller than a main Point of Presence (PoP) and bring with this unwanted latency. Add to this the need for redundancy at the storage layer, which often revolves around NAS or SAN devices, and you’re looking at a potentially large upfront cost.
With VMware’s latest release of its VSAN platform, businesses now have a solid foundation to support their production-level remote applications, without the large CapEx cost of multiple servers and a SAN backend.
VSAN is a hyper-converged infrastructure platform that allows professionals to use storage inside the ESXi hypervisors as shared storage across the cluster. As a quick refresher, it works by presenting all storage inside of two or more hypervisors as a single datastore that all hypervisors can mount. VSAN also stores copies of all data in multiple locations, providing redundancy during a total hypervisor failure. In more complex setups, VSAN can also be used with multiple fault domains, which can support the failure of entire cabinets or even entire sites with no loss of data availability. In short, many of the benefits which traditionally have been in the realm of dedicated SANs are now available for a much lower cost (especially when deployed as a managed service).
While VSAN has always been able to scale up into large clusters as primary storage for central data centers, VSAN 6.1 offers a couple of new features that allow it to also scale down to support a remote branch office or a small/emerging market PoP.
What You Couldn’t Do Before Virtual SAN 6.1
Perhaps the biggest addition making this functionality possible is the choice to deploy a 2-node VSAN cluster. With this new feature, VSAN can now scale down in parity with other important VMware technologies such as vMotion, HA, and DRS. In older versions of VSAN, 3-node clusters were the absolute minimum. This added size, complexity, and (most importantly) cost to a remote solution - which typically prevented VSAN’s use in these scenarios.
While a 2-node VSAN requires a third virtual appliance to act as a witness in another data center (which prevents the possibility of a split-brain scenario should networking be cut between the two hosts), this remote site would most likely be connected to an existing, larger vCenter environment. It’s important to note that this virtual appliance is free, unlike an extra, unneeded hypervisor.
With vSphere 6.0, VMware overhauled the abilities of VMware fault tolerance. With vSphere 6.0, it became possible to deploy a fault-tolerant VM (which consisted of a VM running on two hypervisors simultaneously), resulting in zero downtime during a hardware failure on either hypervisor. With VSAN 6.1, VMware extended this feature onto hypervisors running with VSAN. Even with just two nodes, remote sites still find themselves overbuilt. Utilizing SMP-FT is an easy way to take advantage of these extra resources and increase uptime.
Windows Server Failover Clustering Support
WSFC has become a core tenant of any highly available Windows Server environment. With technologies such as Exchange, SQL Server, and DFS all utilizing aspects of failover clustering, many organizations found VSAN lacking in support for their primary applications. With VSAN 6.1, supporting a remote SQL cluster allows redundancy at the storage, hypervisor, service, and application level.
While technically a VSAN 6.0 feature, this bears mentioning when discussing remote PoP VSAN environments. Traditionally, one major issue with storage in remote locations is the lack of performance. To get high performance arrays, dozens of spinning disks would need to be deployed in a SAN and carefully maintained. This not only increases cost, but complexity and failure rate also. With ever-faster flash based disks arriving to the market at a blistering pace, VSAN can use all-flash arrays to get a very high level of performance out of a very small number of drives. For an even higher level of performance, VSAN 6.1 supports cutting-edge technologies such as ULLtra DIMM and NVMe, reducing or eliminating traditional SSD issues such as connectivity, controller, and bus bottlenecks to allow even lower latencies for critical applications.
With its support for a wide variety of applications, very high IOPS, low-latency performance, and a small, highly redundant environment that can grow as you need, VMware’s VSAN 6.1 platform is proving to be an excellent choice when requirements dictate an enterprise-grade solution without an enterprise-grade cost.