August 01, 2023

VMware Cloud on AWS - Storage Architecture - Back to Basics

VMware Cloud Flex Storage provides an additional type (NFS) of storage for VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC datastore configurations. The choices from VMware now include vSAN and VMware Cloud Flex Storage.  

Why do I say, “back to basics”? Data center storage architects have, for a very long time, had choices for selecting the storage configuration based on performance, size, and cost. Sometimes too many choices.

In contrast, initial Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) implementations of VMware Cloud on AWS were relatively straightforward when it came to storage configuration choices. You picked the host type and the host count, and the resulting storage configuration was well defined and fixed. Basically, one type of datastore was presented to the cluster. There are even simple online tools to help with the initial task of sizing and configuration.

For any other available storage configurations, there was a great blog here a couple of years ago outlining the basic storage choices for a VMC SDDC – including 3rd party solutions. At that time, for a VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC, there was only one choice directly from VMware – that was the direct attached storage using vSAN and it was based on the host choice when provisioning the compute cluster.

Towards the end of last year (2022), VMware introduced an additional storage choice for the VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC solution. This storage solution is called VMware Cloud Flex Storage.  This recently added cloud storage option from VMware provides greater flexibility and better total cost of ownership (TCO) options for virtualizing your business on VMware Cloud on AWS. The new logical view of an SDDC configurations looks something like this:

In this architecture, VMs are provisioned on a vSAN datastore, a VMware Cloud Flex Storage datastore, or a combination of both. There are multiple storage choices now from VMware and hence, the back to basics architecting shift for cloud storage architects. Which VMware provided storage solution is the right choice? The answer is going to depend on the same basic trade-offs that storage architects have considered in the past – performance, size & cost.

This should come as good news to anyone who was configuring a solution for VMware Cloud on AWS and found that the storage size was driving a host configuration of significantly more compute/memory and likely cost, than required for the workloads planned for the cloud SDDC.

For these storage intensive situations, it’s now possible to target the workloads to either the vSAN datastore or the VMware Cloud Flex Storage datastore when configuring the SDDC. There is a good article on VMware Tech Zone for more information on selecting workloads for this new storage option.

Also, there are some good tools (e.g., RVTools and Live Optics) for the VM administrator to use to capture existing configuration data to use for more advanced VMware Cloud on AWS solution sizing. The output from these tools can be used as input to the VMware Cloud on AWS sizing tools mentions above as shown here:

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So now, when configuring the solution for the VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC – storage options are another consideration (as shown below), and storage architects can now apply many of the “back to basics” considerations to help improve business TCO.

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For VMware Cloud on AWS solutions, there are now more options available to craft the ideal cloud-based environment of compute and storage for your virtualized workloads.

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