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I spent a lot of time this week trying to figure out how to address what is turning out to be a significant use case for the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA), namely how can we manage a VSA cluster deployed at a remote site. This question came up quite a bit at VMworld 2011, so I suspect quite a few folks are interested in deploying the VSA at various locations, but would like a centralized way of managing it.

If you've been researching the VSA, you'll be aware that a single vCenter server can only manage a single VSA cluster. We have received multiple requests to allow a single vCenter server to manage multiple VSA clusters, and we are working on this, but my task in the meantime was to look for a viable solution for the VSA 1.0 release.

The only solution I could think of was using linked-mode vCenters. After all, we can do this with Site Recovery Manager (SRM), and if you link the vCenter on the protected site with the vCenter on the recovery site, you can manage both SRM sites with a single vSphere client.

There is one restriction with using linked-mode however, and that is that the vCenter servers must be part of an Active Directory domain. You will not be able to configure linked-mode without this. You can watch a video about linked-mode vCenter here. In 5.0, you can link up to 10 vCenter servers together and manage them via a single vSphere client.

So does it work with the VSA?

Well, yes, it does. I was able to set up linked-mode between two vCenter servers, each vCenter managing its own VSA cluster.

As I selected each vCenter, both had its own VSA tab, and I was able to examine their respective VSA clusters from a single vSphere client. Now, I didn't test every single feature, e.g. maintenance mode, change network settings, etc, but I can't see why these would not work.

What does it look like when the vCenters are linked?

Let's start by logging into the vCenter VC-1. I'm also going to select VC-1 and it's VSA tab. This shows its VSA Cluster details for site #1:

Vas-linked-2

Staying logged into VC-1, if I now select VC-2 in the inventory view, and then select it's VSA tab, I then see the VSA cluster that VC-2 is managing at site #2:

Vsa-linked-1

It appears to work just fine. And of course you can do exactly the same by logging into VC-2. In vSphere 5.0, you can link up to 10 vCenter servers together in linked-mode, meaning that 10 remote VSA clusters could be managed from a single vSphere client back at HQ.

While this might not meet every need, it should go some way towards adressing how to manage remote VSA cluster deployments.

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About the Author

Cormac Hogan

Cormac Hogan is a Senior Staff Engineer in the Office of the CTO in the Storage and Availability Business Unit (SABU) at VMware. He has been with VMware since April 2005 and has previously held roles in VMware’s Technical Marketing and Technical Support organizations. He has written a number of storage related white papers and have given numerous presentations on storage best practices and vSphere storage features. He is also the co-author of the “Essential Virtual SAN” book published by VMware Press.