February 07, 2023

Using SPBM Policies to Manage Your Virtual Volumes (vVols)

vVols SPBM policies allow customers to manage storage capabilities from within vSphere. Additionally, you no longer need to svMotion VMs to different datastores to attain different storage capabilities. 


​In the first of the SPBM series, we talked about Tag based Storage Policy Based Management (SPBM). Next, in the series, we will review how you can manage vVols using SPBM. If you are unfamiliar with vVols, take a look at core.vmware.com for an overview and more details on what and how vVols revolutionizes standard external storage.

With vVols, the capabilities of the storage array are published via the VASA provider. Each array vendor has different implementations of their VASA.  Subsequently, the capabilities of each vendor and array can have different storage policies and functionality. For example, one array may have a performance tiering capability and a QoS IOPs limit or control while another vendor may have application-specific page/block size to optimize application performance. Other capabilities may include deduplication, compression, encryption, array snapshot protection, or performance service levels.


vVols and SPBM Capabilities

Virtual Volumes

Let’s look at some of the more common capabilities and how, with vVols and SPBM, management becomes significantly easier by not requiring storage administrator involvement. With vVols, you are able to setup different performance or QoS policies within a single VVol datastore. This is possible with vVols because now the array manages capability via the SPBM policies you create. By using SPBM to manage performance, you no longer must create separate datastores for different performance tiers or other functionality.


Managing Storage Capabilities via SPBM

A separate policy can be created for specific storage capabilities and used within the same VVol datastore. When a specific policy is applied to a VM or object, the array manages the capability and ensures the VM gets the storage resources defined in that policy. By being able to use different policies within the same vVols datastore, you save time, and reduce the complexity of your storage infrastructure. There's no longer a need for separate datastore with different capabilities, it’s all managed via policies, and the array handles the placement of the objects.


SPBM Capability Examples

In the image below, you can see the various vVols storage capabilities you can control when creating an SPBM policy. Being able to limit bandwidth or IOPs for a specific VM allows you to manage VMs you may not want to use a lot of resources. You can also setup local and replicated snapshots. Snapshots and replication are some of vVols' most valuable features. Because they are array-based snapshots, it allows you to utilize array-level, meta snapshots rather than delta disk-based snapshots. By being able to control array-based snapshots, and replication at a VM level, you can now have different RPOs for different VMs or applications within the same datastore. These are features unique to vVols.




In the image below, you see the different service levels you can choose for the same vVols datastore. Drive type, cache, tier and RAID are a few examples of capabilities you can define in your policies. Each array and vendor create their VASA provider which conveys what that array is capable of providing.



With some vVols arrays, you have other SPBM features such as block size of a specific VMDK, all-flash or HDD, deduplication, or encryption. Please note that some of these features are specific to an array and not available to all vVols supporting arrays. The key aspect to recognize is all these features, regardless of the array vendor are array-based. Meaning they are not vSphere features controlling data, it is all handled on the array and managed via the SPBM policies your define!



More examples of arrays and SPBM features. You may want to enable SSD caching for a certain subset of VMs providing additional performance. 




vVols Array-Based Replication

One of the more advanced capabilities, with vendors supporting VASA 2 or greater, is array-based replication. This functionality allows you to create storage policies to protect a VM by replicating the VM to another array from within vSphere. After array partnerships have been created, there's no need for interacting directly with the arrays themselves! No need to setup array volume level replication and replicate more data or VMs than is required. This can greatly reduce storage usage and WAN utilization, in turn, reducing the complexity and cost of VM data protection. This gives you the granularity of using a policy for a single VM or multiple VMs. Imagine needing to protect critical VMs, and by simply applying an SPBM policy, those VMs are now replicated to a secondary array based on the parameters you have defined! Another unique benefit of vVols replication is support for one-to-many. You can setup multiple replication partners from a single source array/vVols datastore. These replication policies are called Replication Groups and can each have a different RPO.



Here is a video showing the creation of SPBM policies with vVols and some of the capabilities available.


In the video below are a few ways you can apply SPBM policies on vVols datastores including setting up replication for a single virtual machine.


SPBM Resources


Stay Tuned for the SPBM Blog Series

  1. Using Tag-based SPBM Policies to Manage Your Storage
  2. Storage Capabilities and Services
  3. Data Services SPBM Policies
    • Encryption
    • I/O Filters





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