Project nanoEDGE: Good Things Come in Small Packages

“Before we dive into it, what is Project nanoEdge? Project nanoEDGE provides customers a build recipe for very small, fully supported, vSAN and vSphere configurations. A configuration which can be manged and deployed using your tool choice. A configuration  which could be viewed as “good enough”. “What would a small SDDC look like if not constrained by the usual rack/rail requirements, that was good enough to run around 25 Virtual Machines or equivalent Container workloads ?”

Project nanoEdge


Simon Richardson, a Principal Systems Engineer and member of the Office of the CTO Global Field saw a problem his retail customers had, he was given the opportunity to formulate and present a solution and business case internally via an innovation process at VMware. This lead to the official adoption of Project nanoEDGE as an OCTO Project and sponsorship from Joe Baguley EMEA CTO. The OCTO Field team within the Office of CTO is comprised of Field CTOs, Chief Technologists, Field Principals, and CTO Ambassadors.​ This group includes VMware’s top field thought leaders and sought-after strategic advisors for senior IT leaders across the glo​be. Ongoing collaboration between the team and VMware R&D ensures that product roadmaps, messaging and field enablement are fully aligned with the current and future needs of our customers.​

His customers knew that their existing Infrastructure was reaching end of life, this left them with a decision on how to maintain and expand workloads at their Edge locations.

They could move workloads to the Cloud, or continue to run locally at the Edge locations, the customer knew that their usage of workloads that needed to be locally run was likely to increase, new Retail experiences were stating to demand more compute, storage and even GPU demanding workloads, yet the locations to host these workloads were getting smaller and less hospitable to traditional rack and rail type deployments. The idea of running more with less also resonated with other sectors including Manufacturing, Military, Health and Education, simply put the question being asked was “What would a small SDDC look like if not constrained by the usual rack/rail requirements, that was good enough to run around 25 Virtual Machines or equivalent Container workloads ?”

“Good enough” meant that customers were prepared to consider server form factors that traditionally would not be considered to run important workloads, by utilizing vSphere and vSAN, a solution was designed that was small, lightweight, low power and resilient to failure, yet has great performance and could easily host multiple workloads in a very small footprint.

Initial tests were performed using the Supermicro E200-8D, 128GB RAM, 2x1Gbe, 2x10Gbe, 256GB nvme and 1TB SSD all in a package that was the size of a single hardback book per server, today the Supermicro E200-8D is the smallest supported standalone vSphere Host on the VCG by volume. Although supported for vSphere, it wasn’t possible to officially gain vSAN support. Work moved to a slightly larger member of the same family the E300-9D along with a solution that was fully supported by vSAN.

Simon would like to call out the significant collaborative effort that went into Project nanoEDGE, thanks to Chris Wolf, Joe Baguley, Susan Yeagar, Shree Das, William Lam, Duncan Epping, Rik Terlip & Paul Braren

As mentioned initially Project nanoEDGE was built on components not on the vSAN HCL but the goal was to prove the concept [see compatibility guide]. Since then newer hardware has become available and with vSAN supporting newer technologies such as NVMe, the team was able to build a working Proof of Concept based on a Hardware Configuration, SuperMicro E300-9D, that is all supported on the vSAN HCL. This is done via the Build Your Own based on Certified Components model listed at the link above.

The final design proposed is a 2.5 Server design, the half Server providing the necessary components to run the witness at the Edge site without contributing storage to the cluster, this helps to keep cost and complexity down. A 2 Server cluster with local witness lowers cost by removing the need for a dedicated 10Gbe switch, as a crossover configuration can be used instead. The primary motivation for designing and enabling Project nanoEDGE is to provide a low cost “good enough” solution, 2 fully configured servers, no requirement for a 10Gbe switch, a lower price half node for witness, combined with vSAN resiliency and vSphere HA provides an EDGE solution fit for customers requirements.

When combined with the per-VM ROBO Licensing model of vSAN this solution is very compelling for the customer needs described above.

Shree Das, a Technologist and Architect within the Office of CTO Group at VMware, acquired the necessary supported hardware and then went about testing the platform.

For the testing we used the VMware tool HCIBench

Below is a link to the full Solution Architecture including the hardware details, testing methodology and results.

Link to nanoEDGE SDDC Solution Architecture

By enabling smaller form factors we allow customers choice of how and where they deploy workloads, importantly this enables consistent infrastructure with consistent operations. By providing this initial solution we have demonstrated what a vSAN Edge Ready solution design will look like, along with performance testing and a choice of licensing.

We are looking at more hardware from other vendors as it becomes available and certified for use with vSAN. An example here would be the Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350.

We are very keen to engage customers on their Edge requirements; we are keen to partner with customers to bring solutions that meet their requirements.



Q) What is nanoEDGE?

A) It’s the idea of building a small, low cost VMware SDDC that is ‘good enough’ to run multiple workloads at the Edge that is a fully supported configuration.


Q) Can I buy a nanoEDGE as a single SKU?

A) No, the purpose of nanoEDGE is to provide a recipe if you will of supported hardware, High Level Design, performance testing and appropriate licensing.


Q) Could I build a small SDDC using Hardware from Manufacturer x?

A) Yes if it is vSAN supported, if it is not yet certified speak to us and we can work on what components are needed to certify for vSAN.


Q) I’m an OEM/ODM and have my own server that would be ideal for these nanoEDGE use cases, how could I get my hardware certified?

A) Contact us and we can talk about how to start the certification process.


Q) What is so special about nanoEDGE?

A) The beauty of this project is that we are utilizing the exact software stack that is already used in your Enterprise, we are simply providing a way to shrink the footprint and cost for Edge use cases.


Q) What if I have a rack, can I use existing rack/rail type servers with this design?

A) Absolutely, nanoEDGE provides the ability to shrink the footprint for sites that may not have room for a rack, that have heat, space or other environmental issues.


Q) Do I need new licenses?

A) If you have existing vSphere, vSAN licenses these can be reused, ROBO licenses are ideal for this scenario.


Q) Who is this for?

A) Customers who want Consistent Infrastructure with Consistent Operations at the Edge.


Q) What type of customer would benefit from a low dost SDDC at the Edge ?

A) Retail Stores, Manufacturing Sites, Oil Rigs, Military. Hospitals, Schools, really any customer that needs a < 25 workloads in a small, lightweight package.


Q) I have a use case in mind that isn’t mentioned, can I talk about it ?

A) Yes, the voice of the customer is hugely important, we are keen to understand any new use cases.


Q) Why wouldn’t I just use a single server at the Edge?

A) You absolutely could, however you are losing resilience, potential Fault Tolerance and the ability to run critical workloads in a High Availability environment.


Q) Why only 2.5 Servers in the design ?

A) This provides compute on 2 servers, enough for < 25 workloads, we reduce cost by not requiring a 10Gbe switch, the half server is reduced in cost as well as it doesn’t provide vSAN Storage


Q) Ok, but could I run 3 or more servers at my Edge site?

A) Yes, we are not prescriptive on how many servers could be utilised.


Q) The vSAN Witness is local, why is that?

A) A local vSAN Witness enables offline or mobile use cases, if you chose to the witness could be remote.


Take our vSAN 6.7 Hands-On Lab here and our vSAN 6.7 Advanced Hands-On Lab here



7 comments have been added so far

  1. Brilliant!!
    I am interested in this project.
    Where can I find more information about this topic?

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