VMware Cloud™ on AWS: Scaling storage capacity with external storage through a Managed Service Provider

One of the requests we get from customers is that they would like more storage than what VMware Cloud natively provides with local instance storage. The need for extra capacity is often for the customer’s Disaster Recovery use case, but it is sometimes also for general workloads or for other reasons.

VMware Cloud uses AWS i3.metal instances with approximately 10TiB of onboard NVMe-based raw capacity. The local storage of all instances in an SDDC is presented to the user as one large VMware vSAN™ datastore. This creates a large and very performant storage solution, but customers have asked for even more capacity.

To enable additional storage capacity, we are introducing the ability to attach external NFS cloud-managed storage to a VMware Cloud SDDC through a Managed Service Provider (MSP). The first MSP to support this capability is Faction and we have worked very closely with them to make Faction storage available with the VMware Cloud offering. Learn more about Faction Managed VMware Cloud.

To give you a high-level idea of what this looks like, below is a conceptual picture that shows MSP external storage mounted over AWS Direct Connect as three NFS datastores in addition to your native VMware Cloud storage.

 

The MSP model

If you are not familiar with the MSP model on VMware Cloud, it means that the MSP owns and manages the SDDC on your behalf. You are the MSP’s customer, while VMware supports the MSP and manages the underlying SDDC running in VMware Cloud . The main point is that you purchase the SDDC from the MSP, not directly from VMware, and the MSP provides you with support and value-added services. This is great because it frees you to focus on your workloads while getting the benefits of managed services in addition to the benefits of running in the cloud with VMware Cloud. Experienced MSPs also help with best practices and architectural considerations, with some having extensive experience designing and deploying VMware Cloud environments.

External storage through an MSP

The external NFS storage capability adds MSP cloud storage to the MSP model I just described. What this means is that, in addition to your SDDC, you also purchase additional storage from the MSP – in this case Faction. The MSP is your primary point of contact for support of the SDDC and of the MSP-owned cloud storage. And, as always, VMware supports the VMware Cloud SDDC infrastructure.

External storage details

When customers hear about external storage, one of the first questions they ask is how much can they get? The answer is a lot, but let’s go through how the MSP external cloud storage actually attaches to an SDDC.

When you purchase an entitlement to a VMware Cloud SDDC with external storage from the MSP, the MSP purchases an entitlement to the SDDC from VMware and requests to enable external storage in your customer VMware Cloud org. We in turn enable external storage for the org, which means that every SDDC in the org will have exactly three NFS datastores mounted. The three NFS datastores are in addition to your vSAN capacity that is available natively with VMware Cloud.

Here is how these additional NFS datastores would look in your vCenter.

 

The three NFS datastores are connected to nearby MSP datacenters over AWS Direct Connect. For example, an SDDC in the East (N.Virginia) AWS region would connect to a nearby Faction datacenter in Reston, keeping latency to a minimum. The size of the three NFS datastores, the supported IOPS, the supported AWS regions, the supported storage vendors such as Dell EMC and NetApp, and the reliability and durability of the storage service, etc., all depend on the MSP. This Faction video provides great information on what you can expect.

Hopefully it’s evident at this point that, with external storage through an MSP, you can get a lot of storage capacity with VMware Cloud. You not only have storage capacity through vSAN, but also three NFS datastores attached to external storage that is independent of the number of VMware Cloud on AWS instances in your SDDC.

Availability

To view the latest status of features for VMware Cloud, visit: https://cloud.vmware.com/vmc-aws/roadmap.

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