VSAN Pricing Comparison


Last week, VMware released vSphere 5.5 Update 1. You can find the release notes here, and the links to the download are here. Why is this such a milestone? It finally marks the release of VMware’s long-awaited entry into the world of software-defined storage, the VSAN (Virtual Storage Area Network). But before we move on to that, what else is contained in Update 1?  

Well, apart from the gamut of bug fixes, including:

  • SSO issues during upgrade from 5.1
  • Missing data in the performance chart display in the vSphere Clients
  • Java JRE update to 1.7.0_45
  • Etc.

The vCloud Hybrid Services (vCHS) client plugin is now available in the Web client. This is another realization of VMware’s statement that new functionality will only be added to the Web client and a reminder that the C++ client is soon to depart this mortal coil. Finally, you can now install vCenter Server on Windows 2012 without any errors.

However, as already alluded to, the big shout in this update is the addition of VSAN into general support from this release.

As stated in previous posts, VSAN is VMware’s most open beta to date. However, VMware has been very reticent on releasing prices, leading many observers to comment that it will be expensive.

The question is, how expensive? Currently the following has been information has been “released.”

VSAN licensing is available in both user and processor options:

  • A single processor for server-based virtualization costs $2,495
  • $50 per user for VDI/DaaS environments.

This is cheaper than I had expected—it is actually quite aggressive.

I have done some ballpark figures for a three-node Dell solution based on a PE R420. Please bear in mind that these are list costs from the Dell site, and do not contain any discounts.

  • Fully spec’d machine costs just shy of $17K list:
    • 2 x E2420 Proc
    • 12 x 16GB
    • 2 x 400GB SSD
    • 6 x1.2TB SAS
    • ESXi Enterprise Plus 2 x procs at just shy of $10K
    • 2 licenses for VSAN at just shy of $5K.

This means a list cost of $33K per node, so just short of 100K for a fully configured three-node VSAN environment, the entry level.

Now let’s do the same with a traditional SAN as the storage layer.

  • Fully spec’d machine costs, just shy of $8K list:
    • 2 x E2420 Proc
    • 12 x 16GB
    • 2 x 146GB SAS
    • ESXi Enterprise Plus 2 x procs, just shy of $10K.

Here, a server costs $18K per node, or $54K for a three-node cluster. However, we now need to add a SAN capable of providing a minimum of 12TB useable space:

  • Powervault MD3220i fully spec’d, just north of $46K:
    • 4G cache controller
    • 2 x 400GB NL SAS
    • 18 x 1.2TB SAS
    • 4 x 400GB SSD
    • 1 x PowerConnect 6248.

Over all, this has the same list price as a VSAN, but let us look at this in perspective. With the VSAN, we have scale-out ability; the next node will cost $33, but you expand your VSAN as well. If you need to expand your SAN capacity, you are looking at another $46K + $18K and the additional issues with having to now support two discrete storage devices.

Do I think that VMware has a product to worry the incumbent storage providers? Yes, most certainly. You only have to read the competitive marketing collateral to know that the vendors are taking the product seriously.

You have a completely converged infrastructure with VSAN, and a single throat to choke from an operations perspective, and sometime that is worth a lot more.

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Tom Howarth
Tom Howarth is an IT Veteran of over 20 years experience and is the owner of PlanetVM.Net Ltd, Tom is a moderator of the VMware Communities forum. He is a contributing author on VMware vSphere(TM) and Virtual Infrastructure Security: Securing ESX and the Virtual Environment, and the forthcoming vSphere a Quick Guide. He regularly does huge virtualization projects for enterprises in the U.K. and elsewhere in EMEA. Tom was Elected vExpert for 2009 and each subsequent year thereafter.

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  • Tom Howarth

    Vaughn Stewart

    March 21, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    == Disclosure – Pure Storage Employee ==


    Thanks for the post. Two questions.

    1. Shouldn’t you have compared usable capacity with the Dell storage and the VSAN? I ask specifically as VSAN requires a minimum of 220% capacity overhead (this is with the minimum data protection of N+1). The SAN likely provides RAID 5 (N+1) and RAID 6 (N+2) options.
    (Note: N+2 data protection is not available with a 3 node VSAN, you would nee a 5 node).

    2. You state that when one expends the capacity of the SAN they would also need to purchase a new vSphere server. Can you elaborate as this statement doesn’t read as accurate. If one adds more VMs they will need to add more servers. Adding capacity to existing VMs means one likely has to add nodes to VSAN before the SAN as the SAN has more usable capacity.

    Thanks for the post.

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  • Tom Howarth

    Rafael Kabesa

    April 3, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    == Disclosure – VMware Employee ==

    Dear Vaughn,

    We’re flattered you show so much interest in our product. I’m sure most readers can make there own decisions getting the correct information from the people who built VSAN.

    1. Not sure where are you getting 220%?? Yes in case of the need for a VM to obtain a policy of one failure to tolerate you need two copies of the data – but this is done on very low $/GB HDDs – and without the need to understand what RAID-5 or RAID-6 means or to deal with any of the complicated configuration that follows that. We’ll be publishing a real sizing guide soon – I’m sure you’d like to play with it.

    2. Adding capacity can be done by adding disks to the hosts. You won’t need more hosts unless you run out of compute power. SAN has more usable capacity on average, but with just 3 hosts and large 4TB disks you can get as much as 420TB Raw or 210TB usable assuming the above policy- Looks like plenty of space to me – how much does 210TB of usable capacity costs when you buy other storage solutions?

  • Tom Howarth


    April 4, 2014 at 4:45 AM

    “2. Adding capacity can be done by adding disks to the hosts. You won’t need more hosts unless you run out of compute power. ”

    Aha! How much compute power does VSAN use, especially if I take my R420 node from 4 2.5″ drives to 8 or 16?

    The new storage vendors are leveraging commodity CPU power & SSD to hit the sweet spot when it comes to $$$/U, $$$/TB, and $$$/IOP. Just a for instance, but Pure & Nimble use their CPUs to great effect….in-line de-dupe & compression result in real savings at the cost of red-lined, but single-purposed, storage CPUs.

    ” how much does 210TB of usable capacity costs when you buy other storage solutions?”

    It might be more, but there’s no free lunch here, right?

    In the example above, three node R420 with 4TB drives and 210TB usable, what’s the cost on host compute power? Does adding disk paradoxically subtract from the number of VMs I can run on the same host? If not, I wonder how would that 3 node 210TB system compete with an array purpose built to use an entire CPU?

  • Tom Howarth

    Wade Holmes

    April 6, 2014 at 6:21 PM


    **VMware employee here**

    Low CPU utilization is one of the strengths of VSAN, due to the architecture and it being a kernel module. VSAN has been designed to never used more than 10% cpu utilization with real world workloads, even when scaling a server up the maximum of 5 SSDs and 35 HDDs. In our internal testing, VSAN cpu utilization with real workloads is typically around 5%-6%.

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