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New Features of the vSphere Storage Appliance version 5.1

This post is to highlight the new features of the recently announced vSphere Storage Appliance version 5.1. The major enhancements to VSA v5.1 are two fold. The first is to enhance the VSA for the SMB/SME markets; the second is to move into adjacent markets such as ROBO.

Before we start, I want to make a clarification around the required RAID configuration. Initially, VSA v1.0 required a RAID10 configuration on the local storage of each of the ESXi hosts participating in the VSA cluster. This has already been relaxed and RAID5 & RAID6 are now also supported configurations. More detail can be found here. Let’s move on to the new 5.1 features.

Support for additional disk drives & Expansion CHASSIS

In VSA 1.0, each ESXi host could have only 4 x 3TB disk drives. In VSA 5.1, we will be increasing the number of disks per ESXi host 8 x 3TB disk drives.

The number of 2TB (or less) disks per host has also been increased. 12 disks can now be supported internally in an ESXi host. In VSA 1.0, this was only 8. One other major enhancement is the support for JBODs (Just a Bunch Of Disks) or disk expansion chassis. An additional 16 disks can now be supported in an expansion chassis attached to an ESXi host. This gives a maximum number of 2TB (or less) physical disks per host of 28.

Increase Storage Capacity Online

In VSA 1.0, the cluster storage capacity cannot be resized after deployment. VSA 5.1 supports the online growing of storage capacity.

There is a new UI enhancement in VSA 5.1 to address this. It allows the VSA shared storage to be increased in size after deployment, as long as there is enough free local storage on all nodes to grow.

ROBO Support

This is the most sought after feature of the VSA 5.1 release. There have been many requests to enable VSA for ROBO (Remote Office/Branch Office) solutions. This involved two development efforts:

  • Allow a single vCenter instance to manage multiple VSA clusters
  • Allow vCenter to reside on a different network subnet to the VSA cluster

Both of these features are now in VSA 5.1. VMware will support 150 VSA clusters being managed from a single vCenter server.

vCenter running on the VSA Cluster

Another popular feature request was to allow vCenter server to run as a VM on the VSA cluster, something that wasn’t possible in VSA 1.0. Therefore vCenter had to be installed somewhere else first before a VSA cluster could be deployed. Customers can now deploy a vCenter on a local VMFS datastore of one of the ESXi hosts that will participate in the cluster. The cluster can then be created, since we can now create the VSA datastore using a subset of local VMFS storage and not require all of VMFS storage like we did in 1.0. After the shared storage is created (NFS datastores), vCenter can then be migrated to it.

Brownfield Install of the VSA Cluster

In VSA 1.0, we required a vanilla version of ESXi 5.0 installed on the 2/3 nodes (what we called a green field installation). VSA 5.1 includes a feature called the automatic brownfield install of the VSA. This is where VSA 5.1 can be installed on ESXi hosts that are already in production and may have network portgroups configured as well as running VMs. One of these running VMs can contain your vCenter server as we discussed previously.

vSphere 5.1 Specific Enhancements

VSA 5.1 will run on both vSphere 5.1 and vSphere 5.0. Another restriction which we had in VSA 1.0 is also lifted in VSA 5.1. We now support memory overcommit on VMs running on VSA 5.1. This means that you no longer need to allocate a full complement of memory to each VM running on the VSA.

That completes the list of storage ehancements in the 5.1 version of the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA). Obviously this is only a brief overview of each of the new features. I will be elaborating on all of these new features over the coming weeks and months.

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Cormac Hogan

About Cormac Hogan

Cormac Hogan is a Senior Staff Engineer in the Office of the CTO in the Storage and Availability Business Unit (SABU) at VMware. He has been with VMware since April 2005 and has previously held roles in VMware’s Technical Marketing and Technical Support organizations. He has written a number of storage related white papers and have given numerous presentations on storage best practices and vSphere storage features. He is also the co-author of the “Essential Virtual SAN” book published by VMware Press.

10 thoughts on “New Features of the vSphere Storage Appliance version 5.1

  1. Jonah

    Support for additional disk drives & Expansion CHASSIS

    Are the two following configurations the same. The information does not make it clear

    1. A configuration that consists of 12 internal disks of 2TB(or less) connected to an internal RAID controller and 16 disks in an disk expansion chassis connected to an external RAID controller
    2. A configuration that consists of 12 internal disks of 2TB(or less) connected to an internal RAID controller and 16 internal disks connected to second internal RAID controller

    The first configuration seems to be the only supported configuration as described in the documentation but hardware wise seems to be no different to me.

    So for instance a Dell PowerEdge T620 which is on the Hardware Compatible list can be configured with a chassis with up to 32 internal 2.5″ Hard Drives. These internal disks can be configured in a 16 + 16 split using Dual H710P RAID controllers. So a maximum of 16 disks can be connected to one internal RAID controller and a maximum of 16 disks can be connected to a second internal RAID controller.

    I want to know if I can use that Dell Server configuration and whether it would be a supported configuration as it would save the cost of buying an expansion disk chassis.

  2. Jonah

    I should clarfify that my configuration would be based on VMware vSphere Storage Appliance for Essentials Plus, which would use the internal storage of servers to form a shared storage resource. That way I can use features such as vMotion and High Availability without shared storage hardware. In my case I don’t want to spend on the cost of external disk expansion if don’t have to while still maxing out the capacity supported on a single ESXi host

    1. Cormac HoganCormac Hogan Post author


      I check with our engineering folks, and this is the answer I received.

      Once the 710P RAID adapter is qualified for VSA 5.1, I think a VSA configuration with up to 28 internal drives split across two 710P RAID adapters should be a valid configuration. While a configuration with more than 32 drives will likely work fine, it will be an invalid configuration since up till now we only support max configurations (drive capacity and # of drives) that have been validated by VSA QE.


  3. Anthony

    I’ve always been a little confused with the supported disk configuration for VSA, and judging by the forums I’m not the only one. You speak to many VMWare partners and they’ll tell you that beyond the total storage capacity and disk size, the number of disks involved in say a RAID 10 configuration is inconsequential. The limitation imposed by VMWare is solely based on configurations they’ve had time to test. For example, if you found a RAID controller that was on the VMWare HCL and could use 28x600GB drives in a single RAID 10 array, it would work just fine with VSA. Is there any truth to this?

  4. Cormac

    Hello Anthony, yes indeed, the limitations that are enforced on the VSA are those which we have tested and validated in our own labs. However VSA 5.1 is increasing considerably the number of supported disks per ESXi host as per the pst above.

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