Build consistency and following vendor recommended best practices commonly lead to the best experience in terms of reliability, performance, and ease of management. This is the case with most hardware and software solutions. An HCI cluster powered by VMware vSAN is no exception. The challenge is there has traditionally been no easy way to ensure configuration consistency while following the latest recommendations from the vendor.
Scripting is a great way to automate a deployment and achieve a consistent result. However, this requires staff with scripting skills and these scripts must be maintained as hardware, software, and requirements change. This method also assumes the person writing the script knows and incorporates the vendors best practices. You know what they say about assumptions...
On the other hand, many administrators prefer to build an HCI cluster manually. This requires no scripting expertise or time to write and maintain scripts. Experienced administrators can personally oversee the deployment to ensure best practices are followed. The problem is this method takes more time and it does not scale. Deploying two or three clusters manually - installing software on each host, configuring each host, and adding it to a cluster - can be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time. Deploying 15 clusters manually can be cumbersome and time consuming. The possibility of human error also rises with manual tasks. vSphere Host Profiles helps quite a bit in this scenario, but there is opportunity for more streamlining.
vSphere 6.7 Update 1 (U1) and vSAN 6.7 U1 introduce a new feature called "Cluster QuickStart" to speed up cluster configuration, help ensure consistency, and follow VMware recommendations without the need to build and maintain scripts. The recommendations are based on VMware Validated Designs, which are comprehensive, extensively-tested blueprints to build and operate a Software-Defined Data Center. Cluster QuickStart is navigated in the vSphere Client UI and automated using vSphere APIs.
Cluster QuickStart consists of three main steps:
- Cluster Basics - enabling cluster services such as vSphere HA, vSphere DRS, and vSAN.
- Add Hosts - adding hosts to the cluster and validating items such as hardware compatibility, firmware and drivers are supported, and time is synchronized across the environment.
- Configure Hosts - setting up items such as Virtual Distributed Switches, vMotion and vSAN network configuration, and claiming storage devices for vSAN disk groups.
In summary, Cluster QuickStart enables administrators to quickly set up an HCI cluster while ensuring consistency and adhering to VMware Validated Design recommendations. There is no need to develop and maintain scripts and the number of manual steps is dramatically reduced compared to previous methods. A consistent design that follows best practices leads to higher availability, better performance, and easier day-to-day operations.