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Today, VMware vSphere 6.5 Update 1 became generally available. With this update we are excited to announce vSAN 6.6.1, which adds even more new features on top of the major vSAN 6.6 release that launched only a few months back. Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) powered by vSAN will now benefit from even lower operational costs and accelerated Day 2 activities.

vSAN 6.6.1 introduces three key new features:

  • VMware vSphere Update Manager (VUM) integration
  • Performance Diagnostics in vSAN Cloud Analytics
  • Storage Device Serviceability enhancement

In addition, new licenses are available to make the capabilities of the vSAN Enterprise edition more accessible to ROBO and VDI environments. This article provides a quick overview of these features along with links to additional information.

 

New vSphere Update Manager (VUM) Integration

VMware vSphere administrators have turned to vSphere Update Manager (VUM) for quite some time now to simplify and automate the patching and upgrading of vSphere clusters. In previous versions with vSAN, admins had to complete some homework and manual steps before upgrading vSphere in a vSAN cluster. The primary concern before performing a software upgrade was verifying hardware compatibility (like SAS or SATA I/O controllers and NVMe devices) with a new version of vSphere and vSAN. This was a manual process of checking the VMware Compatibility Guide to ensure the upgraded version was supported with the specific hardware deployed in that vSAN cluster.

Those concerns and manual steps have now been eliminated and automated. With vSAN 6.6.1, VUM now includes a system-managed baseline group to ensure a vSAN cluster is running the latest supported versions of vSphere and vSAN.

VUM automatically pulls and combines information from the VMware Compatibility Guide and vSAN Release Catalog with information about the currently installed ESXi release. The vSAN release catalog, hosted on the VMware Cloud, maintains information about available releases, preference order for releases, and critical patches needed for each release. In addition, VUM identifies new, asynchronously-released drivers that need to be installed for select hardware vendors, including Dell, Fujitsu, Lenovo and Supermicro. Recommendations for upgrades, patches, and drivers are automatically generated using this information and awareness of the underlying hardware configuration.

When a new, compatible update become available, a notification is proactively displayed in vSAN Health Service. Once alerted of new software or drivers to update, the upgrade process is automated—simply use the Remediate option in VUM to perform a rolling upgrade of the cluster.

This new enhancement to VUM makes it much easier to determine the latest supported vSphere and vSAN versions for an environment; reduces risk by helping to ensure every host in a cluster is running the same build; and eliminates the time-consuming process of manually upgrading each host.

 

Performance Diagnostics added to vSAN Cloud Analytics

Today’s release enhances the vSAN Cloud Analytics capabilities introduced in vSAN 6.6 with a new Performance Diagnostics feature that analyzes the performance of a given vSAN cluster against previously executed benchmarks. Administrators can select the desired benchmark goal—such as maximum throughput or minimum latency—and a time range during which the benchmark ran. This feature requires that you join the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) and enable the vSAN Performance Service.

HCIBench has API-level integration with the new Performance Diagnostics part of vSAN Cloud Analytics. Administrators can run an HCIBench benchmark test and view detailed results of the test in Performance Diagnostics with supporting graphs. The Ask VMware button provides access to relevant VMware Knowledge Base articles that contain additional information and recommendations.

The recommendations and insights help administrators optimize their cluster performance, understand the impact of certain hardware choices (which is very useful in proof of concept scenarios), and perform faster troubleshooting if questions about performance do arise.

 

Storage Device Serviceability

To help simplify Day 2 tasks like hardware maintenance, vSphere includes plugins that provide extended management and information support for physical drives connected to the local storage controllers in a server. For vSAN environments, this capability proves to be especially beneficial. As a result, information, such as drive location in the server chassis, can be displayed through these plugins to ease administration and maintenance.

For select hardware, vSAN 6.6.1 takes this capability one step further by introducing the ability to locate a specific drive and then blink its LEDs to assist with physically locating the drive.

As a result, an admin can visually identify the device that needs attention so they can take proper action—knowing that they are removing the correct physical drive. Admins can use this feature to reduce the time to service a storage device and lower the risk of human error. This capability works in both RAID mode and pass-through mode, and is currently supported on HPE DL and ML series servers with Gen 9 controllers.

 

New vSAN Licensing for ROBO and VDI

Beyond the new features in vSAN 6.6.1, we are excited to announce two new licensing enhancement, one for ROBO (Remote Office/Branch Office) and one for Horizon VDI environments. We are expanding our ROBO licensing editions by introducing vSAN Enterprise for ROBO to enable the use of native encryption and stretched clusters on a per-VM pricing model for smaller sites.

For customers that are benefiting from vSAN Advanced being included with Horizon ADV and ENT bundles, we now offer a simple upgrade path to vSAN Enterprise for organizations that want encryption and stretched clusters in a Horizon VDI environment.

These enhancements complement the VMware HCI Kit that released earlier in the year that provides a simple packaging of, vSphere and vSAN licenses, the core components needed to get started with a VMware-powered HCI solution.

 

Hit Refresh on Your Infrastructure Strategy

vSAN 6.6.1 continues the focus on simplifying hardware and software lifecycle management for hyper-converged infrastructure. The new capabilities further reduce costs by minimizing operational overhead. In particular, new VUM integration automatically recommends the best ESXi release for the specific HCI hardware in use and HCIBench integrates with the new Performance Diagnostics capabilities of vSAN Cloud Analytics to simplify testing.

As you prepare for your next storage or server refresh, now is the perfect time to hit refresh on your infrastructure strategies and look at the benefits of a hyper-converged solution.

For more information on the latest release of vSAN, read the latest Technical What’s New in vSAN Guide on storagehub.vmware.com

 

Special thanks to Jeff Hunter (@jhuntervmware) for co-authoring this blog.