vSAN Max: Revolutionizing VMware's Storage Solution

Introducing vSAN Max: Revolutionizing VMware’s Storage Solution

In the realm of hyperconverged solutions, VMware‘s journey took a significant leap forward with the launch of the vSAN Express Storage Architecture™ (ESA) in VMware vSAN 8 merely a year ago. The ESA has been celebrated for its unparalleled ability to process and store data at unprecedented speeds and efficiency. Beyond these accomplishments, its true potency lies in enabling novel capabilities for VMware’s customers. Today, building on the foundation of the Express Storage Architecture, VMware introduces vSAN Max™, a revolutionary disaggregated storage offering that pioneers Petabyte-scale centralized shared storage for vSphere clusters. This article delves into the essence of vSAN Max and its potential to bring forth fresh capabilities, cost savings, and adaptability to workloads hosted on VMware vSphere.

The Rationale for Disaggregation

Historically, virtualization ushered in the era of a three-tier architecture, encompassing physical hosts, dedicated storage fabrics, and storage arrays. While this architecture offered resilient shared storage, it grappled with inherent limitations. Scaling performance and capacity proved challenging due to I/O path bottlenecks. The growing compute resources could easily outpace the once-adequate storage arrays, curbing flexibility for expansion. Moreover, these solutions relied on proprietary hardware and software, impeding widespread availability and cloud integration. These complexities resulted in specialized expertise requirements, hindering rapid resource provisioning.

The introduction of hyperconverged infrastructures (HCI) and vSAN addressed these challenges, amalgamating compute and storage resources on commodity hardware. vSAN revolutionized storage as a cluster resource akin to compute and memory. It emerged as a robust solution capable of on-premises, edge, and cloud deployment scenarios.

The rationale for disaggregation as an option for your environment

Thanks to VMware for the image

Disaggregated Scale-Out Storage Done Right

While HCI alleviated many obstacles, customers yearned for the benefits of HCI’s simplified management and scalability while retaining the flexibility to scale storage and compute resources independently. This is where the concept of disaggregation enters the scene. Disaggregated storage entails isolating storage from compute resources while retaining HCI’s merits, thereby facilitating centralized shared storage.

Enabling disaggregated scale-out storage for vSphere clusters proved to be a complex task. vSAN tackled this challenge distinctively by employing an object store-like approach. A decade of refining control paths, combined with the novel Express Storage Architecture, paved the way for VMware to offer a scalable, distributed storage solution integrated into the hypervisor, leveraging commodity hardware.

Unveiling vSAN Max: Empowering Storage Scalability

vSAN Max emerges as a distributed scale-out storage system tailored for vSphere clusters. Harnessing the power of the vSAN ESA, it encompasses ESA’s capabilities, functioning as a dedicated storage cluster. Leveraging vSAN’s native protocol and data path, vSAN Max ensures seamless cross-cluster communication, guaranteeing optimal performance and flexibility.

Scalability of performance and capacity is unparalleled. A vSAN Max cluster with 24 hosts can deliver up to a staggering 8.6 Petabytes of capacity and handle up to 3.4 million IOPS. Scaling is effortless – expand nodes or augment storage devices per node to accommodate evolving organizational demands. This elasticity enables independent scaling of storage and compute resources.

For those seeking site-resilient solutions, vSAN Max supports stretched cluster topologies and vSAN Fault Domains, enhancing availability and fault tolerance.

vSAN Max cluster providing storage to vSphere clusters.

Empowering Capabilities and Choice

The might of vSAN Max extends to encompass Data-at-Rest Encryption, vSAN File Services, vSAN iSCSI services, and partner-powered S3-compatible object stores. Moreover, the features making ESA robust and efficient extend to vSAN Max, ensuring a familiar experience. From automated storage policy management to high-performance snapshots, vSAN Max offers centralized shared storage akin to vSAN HCI clusters.

A notable comparison arises between vSAN Max and vSAN HCI Mesh. While both serve distinct purposes, vSAN Max’s fully disaggregated storage, centralized in vCenter Server, contrasts with the cross-cluster capacity sharing offered by vSAN HCI clusters.

Multiple client cluster types and multiple vSAN Max cluster types.

Targeting a Wide Spectrum of Environments

vSAN Max caters to any environment hosting vSphere clusters, rendering it an ideal shared storage solution. It encompasses the typical use cases addressed by storage arrays, while granting the scalability, performance, and management prowess synonymous with HCI.

Comparing vSAN HCI, cross-cluster capacity sharing, and disaggregated storage using vSAN Max.

The Path Forward with vSAN Max

In subsequent articles, we will delve into the unique capabilities of vSAN Max. Comprehensive information about vSAN Max can be found in our “vSAN Max and Disaggregated Storage” FAQ section. For design, sizing, and operational guidance, consult the “vSAN Max Design and Operational Guidance” document. To facilitate learning, all future topics on vSAN Max will be accessible on the dedicated vSAN Max landing page.

Anticipate the availability of vSAN Max in the second half of FY24, under a separate license from existing vSAN editions. Delivered as a subscription, vSAN Max’s licensing will be based on a per Tebibyte metric, encompassing all necessary cluster components. For current pricing and packaging details, refer to the vSAN Licensing Guide.

Common use cases for vSAN Max.


The advent of the vSAN Express Storage Architecture redefined data processing and storage. Now, vSAN Max leverages the ESA to introduce a fully distributed, elastic, shared storage solution for vSphere clusters. The synergy between vSAN HCI clusters and vSAN Max’s disaggregated storage clusters offers an unparalleled combination that caters to diverse data center needs and beyond.

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