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What hardware should be used in a VMware Virtual SAN environment?

The compatibility of VMware vSANs with hardware is flexible, but there are some requirements. Find out which hardware to use and which to avoid.

What hardware should be used in a VMware Virtual SAN environment?

Generally speaking, VMware Virtual SANs (vSANs) tend to be rather flexible with regard to hardware usage. To build a virtual SAN, you'll need at least three clustered hosts running ESXi 5.5 update 1 or higher. In addition, each of these hosts requires at least one network interface card (NIC) operating at a minimum of 1 GB per second. However, VMware recommends using a 10 GB NIC so you can achieve better all-around performance by adding additional NICs.

When it comes to the storage requirements for VMware vSAN, each server that will provide storage will need a SATA or SAS host bus adapter or a RAID controller. Additionally, you'll need at least one hard disk drive (HDD) and at least one solid-state drive (SSD) for each capacity-contributing node.

Although these requirements are relatively simple, it's worth noting that VMware provides all the information in one location. VMware's hardware compatibility list provides documentation of the hardware certified to work with the vSAN feature. As a general best practice, you should avoid using any hardware that isn't specifically included on the list. It's conceivable that noncertified hardware might work, but its use isn't officially supported.

There are several different servers certified for use with VMware vSANs. These include servers from Cisco (UCS C220 M3S, UCS C240 M3S), Fujitsu (Primergy RX300 S8) and Dell (T620_VSAN_LSI, T620_VSAN_H310-2, T620_VSAN_H310, R720_ESXi5.5U1_VSAN, R720-XD_ESXi5.5U1_VSAN).

The compatibility list doesn't just certify servers for use with vSANs. While the list of servers certified for virtual SAN usage is somewhat limited, the list of certified I/O controllers is rather extensive. VMware has also certified a large number of SSDs and HDDs to work with vSANs.

This was first published in March 2014

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