VMware Hands-on Labs - HOL-2108-91-HCI

What's New with vSAN 7 Lightning Lab

What's New with vSAN 7 - Overview

Welcome to the What's New with vSAN 7 Lightning Lab.

We have developed Lightning Labs to help you learn about VMware products in small segments of time.

In this Lab, you will get an overview of the key features that have been introduced with vSAN 7.

Lab Captains:

  • John Browne, Staff Technical Support Specialist, Cork, Ireland
  • Aleksey Lib, Senior Integration Architect, California, USA
  • Diane Scott, Senior Solutions Engineer, California, USA

If you have never taken a lab, please view the Appendix - Lab Guidance to see best practices and tips on how to use the lab environment console.

Disclaimer: For over a decade, we have collaborated with Intel® to deliver innovative solutions that enable IT to continually transform their data centers. We have incorporated Intel® product and technology information within this lab to help users understand the benefits of how both hardware and software technology matter when trying to deploy in VMware’s ecosystem. We believe that this collaboration will have tremendous benefits for our customers.


VMware vSAN 7 makes it even easier to adopt Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) and build a Digital Foundation.

vSAN 7 simplifies operations by streamlining the deployment process, improving lifecycle management, reducing disruptions during maintenance operations, and improving capacity reporting. These updates help administrators more quickly and easily deploy and extend infrastructure while minimizing disruptions while keeping the environment up to date.

In this lesson, we will:

  • Utilize Cluster Quickstart to build a vSAN Cluster
  • Gain Improved Insight with vSAN Cluster Capacity Reports
  • Leverage Improved Guidance of Health Checks and Recommendations
  • Understand Improved Space Efficiency Using Storage Reclamation
  • Explore Powerful Management through PowerCLI Improvements
  • Review In-Product Support Diagnostics for Faster Time to Resolution
  • Examine Improved Resource Decommissioning Safeguards


Hardware Infrastructure Selection

Before you get started with your vSAN deployment, it’s important to consider the hardware infrastructure supporting your vSAN cluster. vSAN is only as powerful as the underlying hardware platform, and choices made during initial deployment could restrict future flexibility during later scaling of the cluster.

The server configuration should provide adequate compute capabilities for both the applications you anticipate running on the cluster, as well as the I/O and data efficiency technologies such as in-line deduplication, compression and encryption. Certain workloads are more memory intensive, including databases with a large in-memory component, or multiple workloads running simultaneously. So, consider scaling the memory size at the outset, or using advanced persistent memory options (such as Intel® Optane™ Persistent Memory, supported in 2nd Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors) to size for the future

vSAN utilizes a two-tier storage architecture, with the fastest storage drives allocated to a caching tier, while the remaining drives provide capacity storage. All data is written to the cache drives, so it is essential that these drives provide high-throughput, low latency, and high endurance. In all-flash configurations, all reads of data come from the capacity drives, so performance plays a role here as well. Since the data is distributed across the capacity drives, these data reads are distributed, and endurance is less critical in this tier. Selecting drive type with an eye to modern interfaces like NVMe provides the best flexibility to handle future capacity and workload growth.

Network performance is important to prevent bottlenecks as data is written and read from various server nodes in the cluster. As the number of nodes in a cluster scales, the network bandwidth becomes essential for overall cluster performance.


Utilize Cluster Quickstart to build a vSAN Cluster

In vSAN 7, we tackled the task of making the initial setup, as well as ongoing expansion of a cluster as intuitive as possible.  Since vSAN 6.7 U1, we introduced a new “Quickstart” guided cluster creation and extension wizard in vCenter that guides the user through the deployment process for vSAN and non-vSAN clusters.


Open Chrome Browser from Windows Quick Launch TaskBar


  1. Click on the Chrome Icon on the Windows Quick Launch Task Bar.



Login to vSphere Client


  1. On the vSphere Client Login screen, select "Use Windows session authentication"
  2. Click Login



Hosts and Clusters


  1. Select Menu
  2. Click Hosts and Clusters



Configure Cluster Quickstart


  1. Right click RegionA01
  2. Select New Cluster



Create New Cluster


  1. Enter the Name of the Cluster: vSAN-Cluster
  2. Indicate that you would like to enable DRS, vSphere HA and vSAN by enabling the toggle switches
  3. Click OK

NOTE:  When sizing an environment, careful consideration should be applied to the type of workloads that the cluster is intending to run. Some applications require higher CPU clock frequencies while other applications better utilize more CPU cores.  It is also worth considering that some applications are licensed per CPU core resulting in a business desire to opt for a CPU with a lower core count, and the lower number of cores can be effectively offset with a higher frequency on some of these applications. Remember to also include overhead for any other software or hypervisor services that may be utilized in the environment; for example, VMware NSX.



Add Hosts


  1. Select the newly created cluster, vSAN-Cluster
  2. Select Configure
  3. Select Quickstart
  4. Underneath '2. Add hosts', Click ADD

You might need to scroll to see - not shown

Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT), built into and enhanced in five successive generations of Intel® Xeon® processors, enables live migration of VMs across CPU generations, allowing you take advantage of technology advancements when you add hosts.



Add new and existing hosts to your cluster


  1. Select Existing hosts (0 from 4)
  2. Select esx-05a.corp.local, esx-06a.corp.local, and esx-07a.corp.local 

You will see it change 'Existing hosts (3 from 4)

  1. Click NEXT



Host summary


  1. Click NEXT



Review and Finish


  1. Click FINISH





  1. Scroll Down until you can see the '2. Add hosts' section (this view may cycle for a few seconds before fully displaying)
  2. Note that you are provided a 'Pre-Flight Checklist' indicating whether the requirements for the Services that you have selected (DRS, vSphere HA, and vSAN) can be met.
  3. NOTE: The vSAN HCL DB up-to-date error message is expected in the environment that has not connected and updated local VMware HCL database for 180 days. HOL environment is not connected to Internet; therefore you will need to disable vSAN HCL DB up-to-date health check before you are able to continue with the rest of the configuration.
  4. NOTE: The SCSI controller is VMware certified warning message is expected as we are running in a nested virtualized environment vs. utilizing a physical controller)




Disable vSAN HCL DB up-to-date Health Check


  1. Select vSAN-Cluster
  2. Select Monitor
  3. Select vSAN -> Skyline Health (you may have to use the vertical scroll bar to scroll down the page)
  4. Select Hardware Compatibility -> vSAN HCL DB up-to-date (you may have to use the vertical scroll bar to scroll down the page)
  5. Click on Silence Alert (you may have to use the horizontal scroll  bar to scroll to the right side of the page)
  6. When prompted with Silence Alert dialog box, select Yes to proceed. (not shown)




Configure vSAN Networking - Introduction

In the next few steps, you will be manually configuring VMkernel interfaces for each one of your ESXi hosts participating in the VSAN cluster.

These configuration steps are atypical when using VSAN Quickstart wizard (it automates creating new vSphere Distributed Switch and VMotion and VSAN portgroups (and their IP address assignments)).

These steps are necessary only due to configuration limitations of the the Hands on Lab environment.  

In this lab environment, your vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) and its portgroups are already pre-created for you and all ESXi hosts are already added to the vDS.



Configure vSAN Networking


  1. Select the ESXi host called esx-05a-corp.local
  2. Select Configure
  3. Select Networking > VMkernel adapters
  4. Select Add Networking



Configure vSAN Networking


  1. Select VMkernel Network Adapter
  2. Click NEXT



Configure vSAN Networking


  1. Click the Browse button
  2. Select the VMkernel adapter called vSAN-RegionA01-vDS-COMP
  3. Click OK then Click NEXT



Configure vSAN Networking - Add Networking


  1. Enable the vSAN service
  2. Click NEXT



Configure vSAN Networking - Add Networking


  1. Select Use static IPv4 settings

Enter the following information for the Network configuration :

IPv4 address :
Subnet mask :
Override default gateway for this adapter : Enabled
Default gateway :
DNS server addresses :
  1. Click NEXT and then Click FINISH



Configure vSAN Networking - Continue

You will need to repeat the Networking Configuration for each hosts we added in the cluster (esx-06a.corp.local and esx-07a.corp.local).

Start at page 17, if you forgot how to do it.

Enter the following information for host, esx-06a.corp.local Network configuration :

IPv4 address :
Subnet mask :
Override default gateway for this adapter : Enabled
Default gateway :
DNS server addresses :

Enter the following information for host, esx-07a.corp.local Network configuration:

IPv4 address :
Subnet mask :
Override default gateway for this adapter : Enabled
Default gateway :
DNS server addresses :



Configure cluster


  1. Select vSAN-Cluster
  2. Select Configure
  3. Select Quickstart
  4. Scroll Down until you can see the '3. Configure cluster' section from the QuickStart
  5. Click CONFIGURE



Distributed switches


A vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) has already been pre-configured in the Lab environment, therefore:

  1. Enable the checkbox for Configure networking settings later
  2. Click NEXT



Advanced options


  1. Scroll Down until vSAN Options is viewable
  2. Enable  Deduplication and compression and Disable Fault domains
  3. Click NEXT



Claim disks


  1. Select Host in the Group by drop-down menu
  2. Note that each Host has 1x Cache Device and 2x Capacity Devices (you can scroll down using your keyboard down arrow as necessary)
  3. Click NEXT

Note: These disks will form a single disk group per host for the purposes of this lab. From a performance perspective, whilst fully supported, a single disk group configuration is not recommended. In a production environment, consider two or more disk groups.  Adding more disk groups also means that in the unlikely event of a cache disk failure, the impact is limited to a single disk group rather than all the storage in that host.    



vSAN Support Insight


  1. Click NEXT

NOTE: By default, we enable vSAN Support Insight which leverages the existing vCenter Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) to collect health, performance, and configuration information for the VMware Support and engineering teams.

  1. Click NEXT for Proxy Setting





  1. Here we can see that we will be creating a vSAN datastore with a capacity of 72.00 GB and cache of 18.00 GB.  (This is an All Flash vSAN Cluster, where both the Cache and Capacity disks are SSD/Flash disks).
  2. Click FINISH



Caching Tier

Since the caching tier in vSAN is absorbing all the incoming writes, a high performance coupled with high endurance device is best suited to the cache tier. Devices such as Intel® Optane™ SSDs are an ideal choice, as they have a high performance and sustainable write capability as well as a high endurance factor of up to 60 Drive Writes Per Day. With the performance of Intel® Optane™ Technology, in most use cases a small capacity SSD is sufficient.

Figure 1: How Intel® Optane™ Technology and vSAN Work Together


Technology Considerations

NVMe is a modern protocol that was developed for SSDs. You may wish to consider a full NVMe deployment for delivering a more performant, more reliable, and future proof platform. Using Intel® 3D NAND based NVMe drives for capacity and Intel® Optane™ SSDs for cache, not only will you have a more predictable performance profile, but in most cases a lower cost versus the traditional SAS based architecture.



Monitor Progress


  1. Select Recent Tasks in the lower left-hand corner
  2. Select Running via the drop-down selector and Monitor until all tasks are complete
  3. Minimize the Recent Tasks view (not shown)

Note: This configuration may take up to 5 minutes to complete in Hands On Lab environment.



Configure hosts - Completed


Once configuration process is completed, you should see a Green Check-mark in the top right corner of Configure hosts section.



Online Health


Now that the vSAN Datastore has been enabled, let's examine the Health of the vSAN Environment:

  1. Expand Online health from the '3. Configure hosts'  from the QuickStart.


NOTE: You will notice that the 'Online Health' is Disabled since we do not have outside connection.  

  1. Click vSAN Support Insight
  2. Click on Info

NOTE:  No actual customer data is phoned home and user enterable or identifiable data (Hostnames, VM names, subnets, IP addresses, Mac addresses) are obfuscated





vSAN has over 50 Health Checks Out of Box and the ability to leverage additional Online Health Checks.  

  1. Examine the various Health Checks

Note: Hardware compatibility and Online health warnings are expected given the nested nature of the Lab and lack of external Internet access for online health checks.





  1. Click the Storage icon and expand RegionA01 if necessary
  2. Note that our vsanDatastore (1) is now present (this is a vCenter alias and can be re-named without impacting vSAN)
  3. Click the Hosts  tab to review which ESXi hosts contribute to this vSAN datastore



Lesson Complete


You have successfully enabled vSAN via the new vSphere 7 Cluster Quickstart Wizard.  This same wizard can be utilized to modify the Cluster in the future (e.g. Adding additional Hosts as one example).


Gain Improved Insight with vSAN Cluster Capacity Reports

Capacity utilization is a top of mind concern to those responsible for day-to-day administration of an environment.  vSAN 7 introduces two new features to help administrators better understand the capacity usage of a vSAN cluster.


Browser Zoom


  1. Select the Elipses in the Chrome Browser upper-right hand corner
  2. Set Zoom to 80% (this will give us more visual real estate for the next section)





  1. Select the Hosts and Clusters Icon
  2. Select the vSAN-Cluster Cluster
  3. Select Monitor
  4. Scroll Down
  5. Select vSAN -> Capacity



Usable Capacity Estimator


  1. A new “usable capacity estimator” grants the user the ability to easily see the free space available based on the use of the desired storage policy. A user is provided with an ongoing history of deduplication ratios to understand how changes in an environment may have impacted deduplication ratios.  

Note: We currently only have the Default vSAN (RAID1) policy in our lab; however, if there were additional policies like RAID5, for example, you could see the free space savings prior to actually switching to that policy.



Capacity History


  1. We’ve introduced the ability to see historical data for information such as total capacity used and remaining over the course of time.

    Note: Depending on uptime of vSAN-Cluster,  Capacity History data may not be fully populated.  



Lesson Complete

These improvements to vSAN will provide better visibility and comprehension of storage utilization for smarter decision making.  


Leverage Improved Guidance of Health Checks and Recommendations

The follow lesson reviews the improvements to Health Check and Recommendations.


Health Enhancements


The health check feature of vSAN continues to play a prominent role in its ability to ensure that an environment meets hardware and software configuration requirements.  vSAN 7 extends this feature even more, with a more robust way of handling multiple approved firmware levels for storage controllers.  A new Unicast network performance health check and test ensures that proper continuity is achieved between vSAN hosts, and will report network bandwidth results for the tests.  



Health Enhancements


  1. Select Hosts and Clusters Icon
  2. Select vSAN-Cluster
  3. Select Monitor
  4. Click vSAN > Skyline Health



Silence Health Check


vSAN 7  also introduces functionality that is now accessible in the UI.   Health checks can be silenced granularly, directly in the UI, as well as being able to purge inaccessible swap objects that are no longer needed.  

  1. Select SCSI controller is VMware certified
  2. Click Silence Alert
  3. Click Yes (not shown)





  1. Click RETEST
  2. Note that the SCSI Controller test is grayed out and no longer throwing an Alert (not shown)



Lesson Complete

These improvements improve the effectiveness of vSAN’s ability to not only recognize issues, but remediate them.


Understand Improved Space Efficiency Using Storage Reclamation

This lesson reviews improvements in space efficiency.


Improved Space Efficiency Overview


Modern guest operating systems have the ability to reclaim no longer used space once data is deleted inside of a guest operating system.  Using commands known as TRIM/UNMAP for the respective ATA and SCSI protocols, this helps the guest operating systems be more efficient with storage space usage.  vSAN 7 now has full awareness of TRIM/UNMAP commands sent from the guest OS, and can reclaim the previously allocated storage as free space.  



Lesson Complete

We are unable to show you this feature in action in our nested virtualized lab; however, we thought it was important to make you aware of this new capability.  This is an opportunistic space efficiency feature that can deliver much better storage capacity utilization in vSAN environments.  Administrators may find in some cases, dramatic space savings in their production vSAN environments.


Explore Powerful Management through PowerCLI Improvements

The following lesson reviews PowerCLI improvements.


vSAN Management using PowerCLI Overview


A robust command line interface is important for not only automation at scale, it provides programmatic consistency across any size of an environment. With PowerCLI version 11, vSAN customers will see improvements to new PowerCLI cmdlets that are intended to replace Ruby vSphere Console commands.    



Launch Windows Powershell


  1. Click the Windows Powershell icon on the Windows Quick Launch Taskbar  



Connect to vCenter


  1. Issue the following command to connect to vCenter:
connect-viserver vcsa-01a.corp.local



Examine vSAN cmdlets


  1. List the vSAN related cmdlets by typing:
help *vsan*
  1. Press any key to complete list (not shown)

Note:  These cmdlets can be used to not only check the health of vSAN but also work towards automating tasks that you would otherwise perform manually via vCenter.  There are many references online for additional information.



Test new vSAN cmdlet


  1. Type the following (note that you can use Tab completion to avoid having to type the entire command):
Get-VsanEvacuationPlan -entity esx-01a.corp.local

This new cmdlet simulates how host failures impact vSAN resource usage.  This is just one example of the many other new cmdlets that there are to explore.



Lesson Complete

PowerCLI has proven to be a flexible way to interface with vSAN, and expanding its capabilities will improve efficiencies in administration of a vSAN environment.   The ongoing PowerCLI improvements in vSAN 7  make vSAN even easier to administer using the wildly popular PowerCLI interface.


Review In-Product Support Diagnostics for Faster Time to Resolution


Improving time to resolution is a win for both the customer, and VMware. VMware has made great advances in improving the customer support experience with recent editions of vSAN.  vSAN 6.6.1 introduced “vSAN Support Insight” which is VMware’s method of automatically collecting vital infrastructure telemetry data about an environment for the VMware technical support engineers in our global support services group.  vSAN 7 continues with these improvements, introducing fine grained, deep level performance graphs for the explicit purpose of issue resolution.   


Performance for Support


  1. Select RegionA01-COMP01
  2. Select Monitor
  3. Select Support

NOTE: The VMware support diagnostics is a built-in tool to assist GSS in their troubleshooting efforts.  This is designed to replace, a deprecated, external tool known as vSAN Observer.  The tool is built-in to the UI and does not require anything to be enabled or disabled.  



Lesson Complete

These advances help reduce the need to request log support bundles from the hosts, and when they are absolutely necessary, will contain even more critical data for better root cause analysis.


Examine Improved Resource Decommissioning Safeguards


Since each vSAN host in a cluster contributes to the cluster storage capacity, entering a host into maintenance mode takes on an additional set of tasks when compared to a traditional architecture.  vSAN 7 has improved the safeguards when performing maintenance and decommissioning activities on vSAN hosts.  vSAN will now perform a full simulation of data movement to determine if the Enter Maintenance Mode (EMM) action will succeed for fail before it even starts.  This will prevent unnecessary data movement, and provide a result more quickly to the administrator.  

The use of Intel® Optane™ SSDs in the vSAN Cache tier can help accelerate data migrations during maintenance mode, resulting in a quicker maintenance mode cycle.


Enter Maintenance Mode for One Host


  1. Right-Click esx-05a.corp.local
  2. Select Maintenance Mode -> Enter Maintenance Mode
  3. Leave vSAN data migration as Ensure Accessibility (not shown)
  4. Click OK (not shown)
  5. Monitor until Host show Maintenance Mode Icon (not shown)



Attempt Maintenance Mode for another Host


  1. Right-Click esx-06a.corp.local
  2. Select Maintenance Mode -> Enter Maintenance Mode



Maintenance Mode Warning


  1. Note that you are warned about the risk of putting another host into maintenance mode (in this 3-Node Cluster, if we took 2 of the 3 Hosts offline then VM storage would be inaccessible).
  2. Click CANCEL

Note: There is a 'Go To Pre-Check'. We check to make sure you will be compliant before you attempt to move the host to Maintenance Mode.



Exit Maintenance Mode


  1. Right-Click esx-05a.corp.local
  2. Select Maintenance Mode -> Exit Maintenance Mode



Object Repair Timer


  1. Select RegionA01-COMP01
  2. Select Configure
  3. Select vSAN > Services
  4. Expand Advanced Options
  5. Click EDIT



Advanced Options


  1. When a host is in maintenance mode (unless the Full data migration option was selected) the objects on the host will be considered absent. vSAN will wait 60 minutes until initiating a rebuild of the absent objects on remaining hosts.This is because vSAN is not certain if the failure is transient or permanent. If the host will only be in maintenance mode for a few minutes it doesn't make sense to completely rebuild all the objects on a different host. If the host will be offline for more than the default 60 minutes the administrator can modify the vSAN Object repair timer. As of vSAN 7 this setting is available in the UI. This is now a cluster-wide setting and will apply to all hosts in the cluster vs. having to set this individually/separately on each host.
  2. Click CANCEL



Lesson Complete

All of these improvements are added to enhance the overall experience and predictability of host decommissioning activities like entering a host into maintenance mode.



Thank you for completing the What's New with vSAN 7  Lightning Lab!


Lab Finished

Congratulations on completing the Lab.

In this lab you have learned how vSAN 7 simplifies operations by streamlining the deployment process, improving lifecycle management, reducing disruptions during maintenance operations, and improving capacity reporting.  We have also provided some key learnings for hardware selection to build a powerful and flexible infrastructure for your vSAN cluster.  

Intel and VMware have developed an Intel® Select Solution for vSAN, as a subset of the certified vSAN Ready Nodes. These Select Solution configurations are available from multiple server partners and verified to provide a high performing infrastructure. The solution is built on 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors, Intel Optane technology, Intel Solid State Drives (SSDs), and Intel Ethernet Network Adapters to accelerate your infrastructure evaluation and deployment timeline.

If you are looking for additional information on topic:



How to End Lab


To end your lab click on the END button.  


Appendix - Lab Guidance

The Table of Contents can be accessed in the upper right-hand corner of the Lab Manual.

Lab Module List:


Location of the Main Console


  1. The area in the RED box contains the Main Console.  The Lab Manual is on the tab to the Right of the Main Console.
  2. A particular lab may have additional consoles found on separate tabs in the upper left. You will be directed to open another specific console if needed.
  3. Your lab starts with 90 minutes on the timer.  The lab can not be saved.  All your work must be done during the lab session.  But you can click the EXTEND to increase your time.  If you are at a VMware event, you can extend your lab time twice, for up to 30 minutes.  Each click gives you an additional 15 minutes.  Outside of VMware events, you can extend your lab time up to 9 hours and 30 minutes. Each click gives you an additional hour.



Alternate Methods of Keyboard Data Entry

During this module, you will input text into the Main Console. Besides directly typing it in, there are two very helpful methods of entering data which make it easier to enter complex data.



Click and Drag Lab Manual Content Into Console Active Window

You can also click and drag text and Command Line Interface (CLI) commands directly from the Lab Manual into the active window in the Main Console.  



Accessing the Online International Keyboard


You can also use the Online International Keyboard found in the Main Console.

  1. Click on the Keyboard Icon found on the Windows Quick Launch Task Bar.



Click once in active console window


In this example, you will use the Online Keyboard to enter the "@" sign used in email addresses. The "@" sign is Shift-2 on US keyboard layouts.

  1. Click once in the active console window.
  2. Click on the Shift key.



Click on the @ key


  1. Click on the "@ key".

Notice the @ sign entered in the active console window.



Activation Prompt or Watermark


When you first start your lab, you may notice a watermark on the desktop indicating that Windows is not activated.  

One of the major benefits of virtualization is that virtual machines can be moved and run on any platform.  The Hands-on Labs utilizes this benefit and we are able to run the labs out of multiple datacenters.  However, these datacenters may not have identical processors, which triggers a Microsoft activation check through the Internet.

Rest assured, VMware and the Hands-on Labs are in full compliance with Microsoft licensing requirements.  The lab that you are using is a self-contained pod and does not have full access to the Internet, which is required for Windows to verify the activation.  Without full access to the Internet, this automated process fails and you see this watermark.

This cosmetic issue has no effect on your lab.  



Look at the lower right portion of the screen


Please check to see that your lab is finished all the startup routines and is ready for you to start. If you see anything other than "Ready", please wait a few minutes.  If after 5 minutes your lab has not changed to "Ready", please ask for assistance.

Please click here to begin your Lightning Lab!



Thank you for participating in the VMware Hands-on Labs. Be sure to visit http://hol.vmware.com/ to continue your lab experience online.

Lab SKU: HOL-2108-91-HCI

Version: 20201216-150253