vSAN Hardware & Software Compatibility Issues

I've seen many comments from open forums about how vSAN has an extremely stringent hardware, software and firmware requirement. Opinions tend to be split between it being a good thing and a bad thing.

Lets ponder upon this. Have you ever wondered why traditional SAN were often deemed super reliable and resilient?

Maybe, just maybe, it was because the fact that for every storage vendor, they were only ever the need to support one or two different controller type (per family). Storage software were then easily adapted to just a few limited controller types. Same goes with any other component in the subsystem (NICs, FC ports, etc), none of which changes across the hundreds and thousands of storage sold.

Now let's look at the world of vSAN where you have the flexibility of buying any servers from 15 different vendors, each vendor having multiple controller options (HPE themselves have a few SmartArray controllers compatible with each server), multiple NIC options (the choices of Broadcom, Intel, Mellanox, not to mention 1G, 10G, 25G, etc) and drives (Samsung, Toshiba, WD, Seagate and not to mention the capacities). That equates to thousands of permutations and configurations that needs to be supported. The flexibility of building your own brings with it a different challenge and for us to keep vSAN running optimally in different permutations, we have to keep certain things constant hence the need for stringent guidelines on drivers, firmware and the lot.

While it may seem overwhelming, in actuality it really isn't. There is a very comprehensive vSAN specific HCL site that you can use to easily validate the software and drivers. We even mark it off as inbox for VMware written drivers and async for OEM drivers. On top of that, vSAN Health dashboard in vCenter polls constantly for latest drivers/firmware and let's the user know if there are new recommendations.

If that seems too much a hassle, and you would prefer a more SAN like experience with vSAN, some customers have opted to go with an appliance approach in the form of VxRail. With an appliance, there is no need to fuss over getting the right drivers or software. The vendor will provide an update bundle pre-certified.

Having said all that, keeping a tight ship is key to making everything perform optimally and without a hitch. For lab purposes, or testing in non-production environments, you can always run with non-conforming software and drivers. Still works like as always…