VMware Cloud on AWS – Supplemental Storage – A Few Notes …

At VMware Explore 2022 in the US, VMware announced a number of new offerings for VMware Cloud on AWS, including something we’re calling “Supplemental Storage”. There are some great (official) posts that have already been published, so I won’t go through everything here. I thought it would be useful to provide some high-level details and cover some of the caveats that punters should be aware of.

 

The Problem

VMware Cloud on AWS has been around for just over 5 years now, and in that time it’s proven to be a popular platform for a variety of workloads, industry verticals, and organisations of all different sizes. However, one of the challenges that a hyper-converged architecture presents is that resource growth is generally linear (depending on the types of nodes you have available). In the case of VMware Cloud on AWS, we (now) have 3 nodes available for use: the I3, I3en, and I4i. Each of these instances provides a fixed amount of CPU, RAM, and vSAN storage for use within your VMC cluster. So when your storage grows past a certain threshold (80%), you need to add an additional node. This is a longwinded way of saying that, even if you don’t need the additional CPU and RAM, you need to add it anyway. To address this challenge, VMware now offers what’s called “Supplemental Storage” for VMware Cloud on AWS. This is ostensibly external dat stores presented to the VMC hosts over NFS. This comes in two flavours: FSx for NetApp ONTAP and VMware Cloud Flex Storage. I’ll cover this in a little more detail below.

[image courtesy of VMware]

 

Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP

The first cab off the rank is Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP (or FSxN to its friends). This one is ONTAP-like storage made available to your VMC environment as a native service. It’s fully customer managed, and VMware managed from a networking perspective.

[image courtesy of VMware]

There’s a 99.99% Availability SLA attached to the service. It’s based on NetApp ONTAP, and offers support for:

  • Multi-Tenancy
  • SnapMirror
  • FlexClone
​Note that it currently requires VMware Managed Transit Gateway (vTGW) for Multi-AZ deployment (the only deployment architecture currently supported), and can connect to multiple clusters and SDDCs for scale. You’ll need to be on SDDC version 1.20 (or greater) to leverage this service in your SDDC, and there is currently no support for attachment to stretched clusters. While you can only connect datastores to VMC hosts using NFSv3, there is support for connecting directly to guest via other protocols. More information can be found in the FAQ here. There’s also a simulator you can access here that runs you through the onboarding process.

 

VMware Cloud Flex Storage

The other option for supplemental storage is VMware Cloud Flex Storage (sometimes referred to as VMC-FS). This is a datastore presented to your hosts over NFSv3.

Overview

VMware Cloud Flex Storage is:

  • A natively integrated cloud storage service for VMware Cloud on AWS that is fully managed by VMware;
  • Cost effective multi-cloud Cloud storage solution built on SCFS;
  • Delivered via a two-tier architecture for elasticity and performance (AWS S3 and local NVMe cache); and
  • Provides integrated Data-Management.

In short, VMware has taken a lot of the technology used in VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery (the result of the Datrium acquisition in 2020) and used it to deliver up to 400 TiB of storage per SDDC.

[image courtesy of VMware]
The intent of the solution, at this stage at least, is that it is only offered as a datastore for hosts via NFSv3, rather than other protocols directly to guests. There are some limitations around the supported topologies too, with stretched clusters not currently supported. From a disaster recovery perspective, it’s important to note that VMware Cloud Flex Storage is currently only offered on a single-AZ basis (although the supporting components are spread across multiple Availability Zones), and there is currently no support for VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery co-existence with this solution.

 

Thoughts
I’ve only been at VMware for a short period of time, but I’ve had numerous conversations with existing and potential VMware Cloud on AWS customers looking to solve their storage problems without necessarily putting everything on vSAN. There are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want to use vSAN for high capacity storage workloads, and I believe these two initial solutions go some ways to solving that issue. Many of the caveats that are wrapped around these two products at General Availability will be removed over time, and the traditional objections relating to VMware Cloud on AWS being not great at high-capacity, cost-effective storage will also have been removed.
Finally, if you’re an existing NetApp ONTAP customer, and were thinking about what you were going to do with that Petabyte of unstructured data you had lying about when you moved to VMware Cloud on AWS, or wanting to take advantage of the sweat equity you’ve poured into managing your ONTAP environment over the years, I think we’ve got you covered as well.

One Comment

  1. Sweet and concise information. Thanks heaps as always Dan. We will certainly be using this feature for our clients.
    Cheers Paul.

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