Software-Defined Storage vSAN

Datacenter Complexity: Fixing Compute and Storage

Datacenters are complicated and have lots of moving parts. Virtualization has delivered a great deal of value due to density and agility, but it sits atop complex, expensive hardware. We can fix that with some clever redesign and software, making it much simpler. We can also make it more reliable, scale better, perform better, and cost 40-60% less. That sounds like a lot to offer. It is, and we do: customers such as Union Hospital, Keck Medical Center of USC, and many others are already leveraging such designs with great success.


Basic Components – What Do We Have Today?

VMware vSphere runs on computers connected to Ethernet and Shared Storage via Fibre Channel. It’s a complex spaghetti of multicolored copper cables, fiber-optic cables, switches, and configurations. Ethernet is required; that’s simply how systems communicate, but the others are no longer necessary for most of the datacenter. Shared Storage and Fibre Channel represent half the capital cost and most of the complexity in the datacenter, and we have a better way.

Only computers and Ethernet are required for a modern datacenter. Google,, eBay, and a host of other application providers already run that way: seas of computers operating as groups, each able to fail without consequence, designed to be affordable and scale out, connected by software. We can do that for your datacenter and run your workloads on a sea of independent computers that deliver greater reliability and performance, saving of 40-60% on capital infrastructure and delivering better results. That sounds like a lot to offer. It is, and we do.


Deconstructing Shared Storage – What is Actually Inside?

Half of the infrastructure budget is spent on shared storage and connectivity. It’s a huge investment of capital and operating dollars, and that’s not surprising: that’s where the data resides. As we look inside, however, we find common components and software.

Shared storage connected via Fibre Channel is the most common repository: where most of the data in use resides. Fibre Channel is a method of interconnection that appeared when Ethernet was comparatively slow. With very fast Ethernet commonplace, the added value of Fibre Channel is all but eliminated; the same capabilities can be delivered in much more elegant ways.

Storage Arrays themselves are monolithic structures, rack upon rack of gear delivering only two things: space and speed. Half of the infrastructure budget is spent on space and speed. For such funds and such fancy exteriors, surely there must be special components inside.

Not so much: inside those expensive and iconic towers are very ordinary components. Inside is off the shelf disk, x86 compute, and software. That’s it. The disk is a lot like what’s inside any computer you own albeit faster. The x86 compute features a design almost identical to any computer you own and runs a very similar operating system. The software is the only element that is truly unique, and all it delivers is space and speed.


Off the Shelf Disk

Take any spinning drive out of an array, and take off the cover. Guess what’s inside? A Seagate, Toshiba, or Western Digital. That’s it. There are only three drive manufacturers; the other names are brands after significant consolidation. No matter what vendor you choose for your SAN, inside will be drives from one of those three manufacturers who have seen flat revenues for two years.

Flash or Sold State Drives (SSDs) are produced by many vendors, but the market is dominated by Samsung, SanDisk, Kingston, and Micron who together comprise more than 70% by storage capacity sold in 2015.

Think about that for a second: three manufacturers for spindles and four for flash drives no matter whose array you purchase. The rest is packaging…and markup.


X86 Compute

Just about every array is built on standard x86 compute hardware; inside beats the heart of the same chips that power your laptops, desktops, and servers, and there are only two manufacturers to choose from: Intel and AMD. The rest is packaging…and markup.



The real emergent property of shared storage comes via the software that allows the groups of spindles and flash to behave as a single, highly available, highly performant appliance. This is the real secret sauce from each storage vendor, and this is the valuable intellectual property you are purchasing.

We can debate the merits of various vendors and their features, but all we really need from them is space and speed. We have several to choose, and as long as they can deliver what we require, they are interchangeable.


Storage Deconstructed

That’s all a SAN is: spindles, flash, compute, and software. A SAN is expensive packaging and software.



VMware Storage – At Home in the Hypervisor

VMware has helped Healthcare customers become 65-99% virtualized. This means that the majority of information on its way to and from storage flows through the Hypervisor. No one else has access to your data in flight the way VMware does. We optimize it all day long: your most important information marshaled without delay.

We can do in software the same things that the storage vendors do today, but we can do it at the most efficient place, right at the source with the least overhead and the least cost. We can decide how best to use the flash and the spindles to ensure the performance and reliability needed on a per workload basis. As long as your selection meets our requirements, you can be assured excellent results.

You buy the flash and the spindles you like off the shelf. They’ll be the same physical things you’ll find in a storage vendor’s solution. You can buy the compute you like. It will be the same compute in your storage array and the same compute you already need for your workloads.


Your Datacenter is Software

Software is what really runs your datacenter, and the modern datacenter designs are greatly simplified: seas of independent nodes that are low cost, connected only by high speed network and software. Software Defined Datacenter is elegant and simple, inherently more reliable, more scalable, delivers greater performance and greater value.

VMware has all that you need to deliver outstanding performance and ease of use from a vast array of simple nodes from vendors you expect. They all run VMware as described. Simple. Elegant. Scalable. Reliable. That sounds like a lot to offer. It is. And we do.


Ready to see for yourself? Request a free Virtual SAN Assessment today to validate Virtual SAN’s benefits for your organization.


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