Primary Data Briefing Note
VSAN customers now have access to file sharing services for their VMs with new functionality from Primary Data. As mentioned in a previous post, VMware is marketing VSAN as a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) product; install VMware & VSAN on a server with local hard drives and you have yourself an HCI system.
While HCI systems have many advantages, one of the disadvantages is the system limits you to the functionality of the HCI system. For example, if you find yourself in need of NFS/SMB services, you’re out of luck if the HCI system you’re using doesn’t offer them. This may explain why NFS/SMB services are one of the most requested features of VSAN customers.
Why might someone want file services for their VMs? The most obvious reason would be to share data between VMs. You could accomplish this in a different way by using one VM as an NFS/SMB server to the other VMs, but there are two issues with that. The first issue is the additional resources that this VM would take up, and resources are always at a premium – especially in HCI environments. The second issue is that you now have many VMs relying on another VM, creating a single point of failure. If that VM is damaged in any way, several VMs and the applications that run on them go down.
Enter Primary Data DataSphere. It is a unique product that Primary Data describes as a DNS server for storage. Once installed, all initial requests for I/O go through DataSphere. The product knows where each block of data is, and directs the request to the appropriate location. Once that link is established, the storage device directly services the request. This means that other than the very short delay of the initial request, there is no performance difference when using DataSphere. That is, of course, except for the performance difference of having the right data on the right storage. Primary Data can automatically migrate data that needs higher performance storage to such storage, and do the same for data requiring less performance. You can read more about how Primary Data works in this blog post.
Now Primary Data is extending those services to NFS & SMB inside a VMware environment. NFS & SMB requests can route through DataSphere. In this scenario, however, DataSphere will actually act as the NFS/SMB server and store the data on the appropriate storage. Primary Data claims it has the only such solution that allows a full scale-out NFS solution with VSAN; competing offerings are limited to two nodes, according to Primary Data.
Hypercoverged Infrastructure environments appeal to some customers due to their simplicity. Traditional shared storage is seen by some to be too complex to administer. Primary Data is now offering a way for those customers to have NFS/SMB services across their entire VSAN cluster. It will be interesting to see how else Primary Data extends the product.