March 13, 2024

Greater Flexibility with vSAN Max through Lower Hardware and Cluster Requirements

Important updates have been made to hardware and cluster requirements for vSAN Max deployments.  Read on to learn more!

The initial announcement of vSAN Max introduced a new way for customers to provide centralized shared storage for vSphere clusters.  Built using the vSAN Express Storage Architecture (ESA), it offers storage services that is provided entirely by the hypervisor, but using a deployment option that allows you to grow and manage your storage resources independently from your compute resources.  Customers get to enjoy extraordinary levels of scalability, flexibility, integration and familiarity when running VMware Cloud Foundation and VMware vSphere Foundation powered by vSAN Max. 

VMware Cloud Foundation on vSAN

Figure 1.  Aggregated vSAN HCI and disaggregated vSAN Max powering VMware Cloud Foundation.

To help lower the barrier of entry for our customers, we are announcing several improvements in host and cluster requirements for vSAN Max.  The most significant aspects of these changes include:

  1. Fewer hosts are needed for a vSAN Max cluster.
  2. Lower hardware and networking requirements for vSAN Max hosts.

These improvements will offer more flexibility, and open the door to smaller, simplified configurations.  A complete matrix of ReadyNode profiles for vSAN HCI and vSAN Max can be found at: “vSAN ESA ReadyNode Hardware Guidance” but the latest changes are highlighted below.

vSAN Max – A Detailed Look at What's Changed

To ensure vSAN Max can be used in a wide variety of environments, we've made the following changes that expand the range of supported configurations.  The summary below supersedes the information originally posted at: “ReadyNode Profiles Certified for vSAN Max.”

  • Reduced number of hosts for a vSAN Max cluster.  vSAN Max clusters will now be supported on as few as 4 hosts on vSAN-Max-XS and vSAN-Max-SM ReadyNodes.  A 4-host vSAN Max cluster will allow data to be stored using the ESA's space efficient RAID-5 erasure coding while still having a sufficient number of hosts to regain the data's prescribed level of resilience in the event of a sustained host failure.  vSAN Max cluster sizes of 6 hosts or more will be able to take advantage of the higher resilience capabilities of RAID-6, and is recommended for clusters with 6 or more hosts.
  • Reduced requirements for vSAN-Max-XS ReadyNodes.  The minimum capacity for the smallest of vSAN Max ReadyNodes has been reduced from 75TB to 20TB, with a minimum storage device count of just 2 NVMe devices per host. CPU requirements have also been reduced to just 24 cores per host.  When combined with the reduced host count requirement, the effective raw capacity for the smallest of vSAN Max clusters has been reduced from 450TB down to 80TB. These entry-level, value focused ReadyNodes can use as little as 10Gb networking, and are ideal for environments with lower performance and capacity demands.
  • Reduced requirements for vSAN-Max-SM ReadyNodes.  The minimum capacity for these ReadyNodes have been reduced from 150TB to just 50TB, with a minimum storage device count of just 4 NVMe devices and 32 cores per host. The minimum amount of memory for this ReadyNode profile has been reduced from 512GB of RAM to 384GB of RAM.  This ReadyNode profile will also support cluster sizes as small as 4 hosts, and supports the use of 25Gb networking.
  • Reduced requirements for vSAN-Max-MED ReadyNodes.  The capacity for these ReadyNodes have been reduced to just 100TB per host.  This ReadyNode profile also has a reduced CPU minimum, lowered from 48 cores to 40 cores.  Memory minimums have also been reduced from 768GB to 512GB of RAM, and uses 100Gb networking.
  • Reduced requirements for vSAN-Max-LRG ReadyNodes.  The larger side of the ReadyNode spectrum has also seen a reduction in minimums.  The minimum capacity per host has been reduced from 300TB to 150TB.  CPU cores have been reduced from 60 to 48, with memory also reduced from 1TB to 768GB of RAM.  These ReadyNodes will use 100Gb networking.
  • New vSAN-Max-XL ReadyNode.  We’ve introduced a fifth ReadyNode profile certified for vSAN Max that is geared for the highest levels of capacity and performance.  These hosts will have a minimum of 200TB, 64 cores, 1TB of RAM, and use 100Gb networking.  These high performing, storage dense hosts can support up to 360TB per host.

Latest vSAN Max ReadyNodes

Figure 2.  ReadyNode profiles certified for vSAN ESA when used in a vSAN Max deployment.

The relaxation of requirements for vSAN Max make the ReadyNodes and configuration guidance very similar to what you find with aggregated vSAN HCI clusters.  The vSAN Max Design and Operational Guidance has been updated to account for this improved level of flexibility, and gives the very latest guidance on recommendations for deployment, operations, and optimization to ensure that your vSAN Max deployment is smooth, efficient, and successful.

Note that vSAN ReadyNode profiles certified for vSAN ESA when used in a vSAN HCI deployment have also been updated.  For more information, see the post:  “Smaller vSAN ESA ReadyNodes to Accommodate VMware vSphere Foundation's Trial Capacity Capability.”

Why it Matters

The combination of these changes noted above now makes vSAN Max the ideal solution for almost all sizes of environments.  In its initial debut, vSAN Max provided impressive advantages in incremental and cost-effective scaling while making management easy and consistent using vCenter Server as the common interface.  But now these same traits apply to smaller environments with modest capacity requirements!  With these new minimums, a vSAN Max deployment can easily replace your aging modular storage array serving small environment using nothing more than a handful of servers and common IP-based network communication.

Recommendation:  If you want to increase one resource type substantially (equal to or greater than the next higher profile) from a ReadyNode profile, consider looking at the next higher ReadyNode profile available.  This will help keep your server resources (CPU, memory, networking, and storage devices) proportional and deliver optimal performance and resource utilization.  Selecting the next higher ReadyNode profile available will also allow the cluster to accommodate higher-demanding workloads more easily in the future.

Which to Choose?  vSAN HCI or vSAN Max?

For each cluster serving your VMware Cloud Foundation environment, vSAN can be provisioned in one of two deployment options: Aggregated clusters, known as "vSAN HCI" or disaggregated storage using vSAN Max providing storage for vSphere clusters.  A new document, "vSAN HCI or vSAN Max - Which Deployment Option is Right for You?" details some of the technical considerations that may help you determine which deployment option may be best for your environment.


Built using the Express Storage Architecture, vSAN Max delivers extraordinary levels of storage performance, resilience, and efficiency, all integrated into the hypervisor.  The lower configuration minimums for vSAN Max clusters make it more flexible than ever before.  When looking for centralized shared storage to power your VMware Cloud Foundation environment, vSAN Max reigns supreme.



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