Virtual SAN: Powerfully Simple and Simply Powerful

March 5, 2014

Today, VMware is excited to highlight the upcoming release of Virtual SAN: a new kind of radically simple storage. It challenges long-held preconceptions about how storage should be done. It’s yet another proof point that the world is moving to a software-defined data center.

Delivering Virtual SAN to market wasn’t easy. I’d like to share with you the story behind the story.

When I arrived at VMware two years ago, I was given the charter to deliver the next generation of vSphere, our flagship product. It was a humbling experience, but exhilarating at the same time. A few months into the role, I welcomed our storage group to my team, and I had the honor of working closely with a dedicated team of engineers.

I saw that they were building something very important — what I believe will be a significant turning point in the history of storage. The team set out to build a software-defined storage solution optimized for virtual environments and not just another storage appliance. Our goal was to build a product that had all the qualities of shared storage (resilience, performance, scalability, etc.) but running on standard x86 servers with no specialized hardware or software to maintain. Add to that a policy based management solution and you have a new operational model – one that drastically simplifies storage management.

There were problems aplenty, as is usual in all long term software projects: long nights, low morale, competing priorities and shifting schedules. Through it all, the team persevered. We hit a particularly painful point in June of 2013. We were getting ready to ship vSphere 5.5, and I had to be the one to tell the team they weren’t ready to ship Virtual SAN yet. Instead, they would have to go through a broad public beta and much more rigorous testing before we could call the product “customer-ready”.

The stakes were far too high, particularly as this was VMware’s first foray into storage.Virtual SAN Delivers Enterprise-Grade Scale

They were disappointed, of course, not to be showcased up on stage at VMworld, but still they persevered. I think we took the right course. Six months and 11,000 beta testers later (thank you), I’m proud to announce that Virtual SAN is customer-ready: it’s robust, proven and ready for action.

I’m especially proud of how the team has outperformed expectations. One example: we told people VSAN would support 8 nodes during the beta. At last month’s VMware Partner Exchange conference, we announced support for 16 nodes. And today we’re announcing GA support for 32 nodes. That means that Virtual SAN can now scale from a modest three node remote office, to a multi-petabyte, mega-IOPS monster — just by adding more server resources.

We are finally proud to call this an enterprise storage system worthy of the VMware badge. The team has delivered something truly unique in the industry: a fully distributed storage architecture that’s seamlessly integrated into the hypervisor.

VSAN isn’t bolted on, it’s built in.

I know that our customers will immediately see the benefits of what we’ve delivered with Virtual SAN. Run it on any server that runs vSphere. No specialized hardware or software needed. Incredibly easy to install and configure. Screaming performance. Linear scalability. Very cost-effective. Works with all the other VMware products. And a management experience that’s just as simple and powerful as vSphere itself, allowing you to manage storage at the VM and application level, rather than at the LUN and volume level.

Much has already been written about Virtual SAN, and how it brings something completely new to the storage world. And I’m sure more will be written in the future.

I wanted to share my personal thanks to the teams that are bringing this technology to market: VMware employees, beta testers and our partners. Together, we’ve done something amazing.

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