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vCloud Suite – vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 5.1 Considerations for Successful Brownfield Deployments – Part I

The concept of vSphere Storage Appliance Brownfield deployments is based around the introduction of the vSphere Storage Appliance 5.1 (VSA) solution into environments with existing virtualized infrastructures. The goal is utilize the exiting hardware and deploy the vSphere Storage Appliance 5.1 solution onto that same virtualized infrastructure. Hence the term “Brownfield” deployments.

A major requirement of the previous vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 1.0 solution was a brand new deployment of the virtual infrastructure components. Which means, brand new build or rebuilding of all of the vSphere dependent components (ESXi 5.0, vCenter Server, Update Manager, etc). Hence the term “Greenfield” deployments.

The implications of having to rebuild any production environment can be severe from a management and operations standpoints. Having the ability to avoid such implications with the introduction of a new solution such as the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 5.1 can be of great value and convenience.

 vSphere Infrastructures Scenarios Compatible for VSA 5.1

During vSphere Storage Appliance 5.1 deployments the VSA Installer will perform a series of validation check points before starting the installation and configuration procedures in order to verify that all of the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 5.1 requirements are met.

Due to the fact that a functional vSphere Infrastructure is already in production, it is okay to assume that a functional configuration (ESXi hosts, networks, storage, etc) has been implemented. The vSphere Storage Appliance 5.1 has a few specific configuration requirements which automatically are applied to Greenfield deployments which are not automatically applied to the Brownfield deployments.

Consider the following recommendations for vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 5.1 Brownfield deployments:

ESXi Hosts VMFS Heap Size – Increase the VMFS Heap Size to its supported maximum of 256MB. This will allow ESXi Hosts to address a larger capacity of open files (VMDK) locally. Read the article VMFS Heap Size Consideration for more in-depth details on this topic. Failing to modify the the VMFS Heap Size settings prior to the installation and configuration process of the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 5.1 will result in the ESXi Hosts being rebooted.

Enhanced vMotion Compatibility (EVC) – An EVC baseline is configured in order to maintain and guarantee vMotion CPU compatibility of the VSA Cluster. In Brownfield deployments virtual machines such vCenter Server and others are present and running on the ESXi hosts that will be use by the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 5.1. Because of this, the running virtual machines are using ESXi Hosts CPU features. The default EVC setting for the VSA Manager is set to Greenfield deployments which means that there are no running virtual machines on any of the ESXi Hosts to be used as members of the VSA HA Cluster.

In Brownfield deployments you are given two options:

  • to power off all the virtual machines
  • to change the EVC baseline manually to the highest setting in the dev.properties file.

Applying the recommended setting will guaranteed that the lowest common denominator of EVC baselines is used, which in this case is the highest possible. The dev.properties file is located on the system where the vCenter Server is installed, under the C:\Program Files\VMware\Infrastructure\tomcat\webapps\VSAManager\WEB-INF\classes.

Failing to change the dev.properties settings will result in a configuration error similar to the one illustrated below by the VSA Installer which will prevent the configuration process from completing.

NOTE: Do not modify any other setting within this file as doing so may cause problems with the behavior and stability of the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 5.1 solution and may not be supported.

Network Configurations – The VSA network configuration requirements are very strict and there is almost zero flexibility in reference to the validation check points is looking to detect. The check points are based on very specific name conventions and objects configuration settings. All ESXi Host that will be members of a VSA Cluster should have the following:

  • A minimum of one vSphere Standard Switch (vSwitch)
  • Five Port Groups:
    • VSA-Front End – (virtual machine port group)
    • VSA-Back End – (virtual machine port group)
    • VSA-VMotion  – (vmkernel port group)
    • VM Network – (virtual machine port group)
    • Management Network – (vmkernel port group)
If the port groups are not created with exact names and case sensitivity listed above the VSA Installer will produce errors and will not allow you to continue with the installation. The image below illustrates the errors produced by the VSA Installer for every port group check points as part of the validation for required configurations.

Five VSA required Port Groups in a two vSwitch per Host Configuration Scenario

Each port group should be configured with NIC teaming for high availability with Active/Standby failover policies similar to the ones illustrated below:

NIC Team Policies

  • When a specific NIC is configured as Active for the Management and VM Network port groups, that same NIC should not be configured as Active for the VSA-Front End port group. A secondary NIC should be configured as Active for the VSA-Front End port group, and the NIC configured as Active for the Management and VM Network should be configured as Passive.
  • When a specific NIC is configured as Active for the VSA-Back End port group, that same NIC should not be configured as Active for the VSA-Front End port group. A secondary NIC should be configured as Active for the VSA-VMotion port group, and the NIC configured as Active for the Management and VM Network should be configured as Passive.

Failing to add the listed configuration settings will result in unsuccessful configuration attempts as the VSA Installer will prevent completion.

In order to protect the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 5.1 against network related performance and security concerns issues such as Ethernet broadcast storms and malicious capturing and parsing of Ethernet frames, it is recommended to isolate the traffic between the VSA-Front End and VSA-Back End networks. If Jumbo frames are supported by the network physical switches in use, consider the use of jumbo frames for vmkernel interfaces (vMotion, and IP based storage).

The Isolating the VSA networks can be achieved with the use of VLANs. VLAN IDs can be provided in the VSA Installer configuration wizard. The use of VLANs is not a vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 5.1 Requirement. The VSA Cluster network must have at least 1 dedicated Ethernet switch that supports IEEE 802.1Q VLAN tagging standards.

IP Address Requirements – The VSA Cluster network requires a number of static IP addresses, and depending on the number of ESXi hosts used for the VSA Cluster and whether the use of DHCP is available in on the vSphere network, the number of static IP addresses can change. All ESXi hosts that are members of the VSA Cluster, including the VSA Cluster Service (VSACS) for two node VSA Cluster configurations, need to be in the same subnet.

Number of static IP addresses in the same subnet:

  • Two Node Cluster without DHCP – 11 IPs
  • Two Node Cluster with DHCP – 9 IPs
  • Three Node Cluster without DHCP – 14 IPs
  • Three Node Cluster with DHCP – 11 IPs

Number of IP addresses in a private segment for the VSA-Back End network:

  • Two Node Cluster without DHCP – 2 IPs
  • Two Node Clusters with DHCP – 2 IPs
  • Three Node Cluster without DHCP – 3 IPs
  • Three Node Cluster with DHCP – 3 IPs

In Part II, I will cover the process of the VSA storage allocation and virtual machine migration onto the newly available VSA shared storage, as well as the increase of shared storage capacity.

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Rawlinson Rivera

About Rawlinson Rivera

Rawlinson is a Principal Architect working in the Office of CTO for the Storage and Availability Business Unit at VMware. Focus on defining and communicating VMware’s product vision and strategy, and an active advisor for VMware's product roadmap and portfolio. Responsibilities revolved around connecting VMware's R&D team with customers, partners and the field. Serve as a partner and trusted adviser to VMware's customers primarily in the US. Rawlinson specialize on cloud enterprise architectures, software-defined storage, Hyper-converged Infrastructures and business continuity / disaster recovery solutions with focus on Virtual SAN, vSphere Virtual Volumes, as well as storage solutions and technologies for OpenStack and Cloud-Native Applications. Rawlinson is one of the few VMware Certified Design Experts (VCDX#86) and main author of the blog punchingclouds.com.

16 thoughts on “vCloud Suite – vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 5.1 Considerations for Successful Brownfield Deployments – Part I

  1. Tim Patterson

    One caveat here… I realize it is a strange situation to encounter, but it happened to me due to business needs.

    If you have SAN or any other type of remote datastore connected to your ESXi hosts, the VSA installer will not let you proceed with a brownfield installation.

    Any thoughts or recommendations? I got around it by temporarily disconnecting my datastores, installing VSA, then reconnecting. Slightly annoying.

  2. Pingback: vCloud Suite – vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) 5.1 Considerations for Successful Brownfield Deployments – Part II | VMware vSphere Blog - VMware Blogs

  3. Pingback: vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) – Useful Links [Updated] | VMware vSphere Blog - VMware Blogs

  4. Dhaval Ajwalia

    I need to have more information on Brownfield installation. The issue I am running into is Since vCenter server is in the same cluster as the hosts that are going to host the vSA cluster, it gives me an error that … I need to power down the VMs before I can continue with installation of vSA cluster.

    How can I alleviate that?

  5. Pingback: How to successfully deploy vSphere Storage Appliance 5.1 in Brownfield deployments | VMware Support Insider - VMware Blogs

  6. Per Frejvall

    So, I have built all the required networks, double checked the speelling, double checked the NIC teaming and all looks fine. I even re-structured in order to get the required networks specifically in vSwitch0 and vSwitch1.

    When I start the VSA installer from the vSphere Client I get to the host selection page with errors on the two hosts that I whish to brownfield into VSA.

    #1 is a warning that it will put the VSA appliance first in the start order. Fine.

    #2 is the following:

    “The number of VMFS datastores must be 1. Disconnect additional datastores and revert host to default configuration to continue.”

    I interpret that as maybe the networking is not approved for some reason and it wants to greenfield it. Anyone seen this?

    All the best,


  7. Eric Covert

    Odd error: “Cannot create VSA cluster: java.lang.Exception: Retrieved Fault from the HttpNfcLease. error =Invalid configuration for device ‘0’.”

    I get this error after the wizard starts the installation process. Any suggestions?

  8. Tibo

    I’m installing the VSA 5.1.1 on brownfield but on last step it says “This VSA Installer will delete the existing data on the local hard disks of each host”.

    This is bullshit right ? I have productions VM running on the local datastore that will be used for VSA.

    Can you confirm that there is no risk ?

  9. Per Frejvall

    Rawlingson, from what I gather, the datastores can be mounted in brownfield scenarios. Several examples on the internet show people doing BF installations of VSA with datastores mounted. Are you sure?


  10. Charles Millfield

    I successfully install VSA 5.1.1 in my environment. However, when I tried to access to the VSA tab from my vSphere client, I am getting a weird error message saying
    “The Navigation to the webpage was cancelled”, if I refresh the page then I getting error message saying “This program cannot display the web page.”

    Not sure what seems went wrong here. Any input would be appreciated.


  11. Samuel Nunes da Silva

    I am facing the following situation.

    VSA configured the cluster successfully in two host. From that within that environment created 3 VMs with ESXi5 installed to try to make a new VSA cluster through the same.
    Someone can tell me if this is possible and how many can have VSA cluster in an instance of vCenter?

    Thanks in advance!

  12. Pingback: How to successfully deploy vSphere Storage Appliance 5.1 in Brownfield deployments - IT Videos

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