VMware® Virtual SAN™ 6.2 Stretched Cluster & 2 Node Guide

Jase McCarty
Storage and Availability Business Unit
v 6.2.0 / March 2016 / version 0.30


VMware Virtual SAN 6.1, shipping with vSphere 6.0 Update 1, introduced a new feature called VMware Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster. Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster is a specific configuration implemented in environments where disaster/downtime avoidance is a key requirement. This guide was developed to provide additional insight and information for installation, configuration and operation of a Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster infrastructure in conjunction with VMware vSphere. This guide will explain how vSphere handles specific failure scenarios and discuss various design considerations and operational procedures.

Virtual SAN Stretched Clusters with Witness Host refers to a deployment where a user sets up a Virtual SAN cluster with 2 active/active sites with an identical number of ESXi hosts distributed evenly between the two sites. The sites are connected via a high bandwidth/low latency link.

The third site hosting the Virtual SAN Witness Host is connected to both of the active/active data-sites. This connectivity can be via low bandwidth/high latency links.


Streched Cluster Configuration

Each site is configured as a Virtual SAN Fault Domain. The nomenclature used to describe a Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster configuration is X+Y+Z, where X is the number of ESXi hosts at data site A, Y is the number of ESXi hosts at data site B, and Z is the number of witness hosts at site C. Data sites are where virtual machines are deployed. The minimum supported configuration is 1+1+1 (3 nodes). The maximum configuration is 15+15+1 (31 nodes).

In Virtual SAN Stretched Clusters, there is only one witness host in any configuration. A virtual machine deployed on a Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster will have one copy of its data on site A, a second copy of its data on site B and any witness components placed on the witness host in site C. This configuration is achieved through fault domains alongside hosts and VM groups, and affinity rules. In the event of a complete site failure, there will be a full copy of the virtual machine data as well as greater than 50% of the components available. This will allow the virtual machine to remain available on the Virtual SAN datastore. If the virtual machine needs to be restarted on the other site, vSphere HA will handle this task.

Support Statements

vSphere versions

Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster configurations require vSphere 6.0 Update 1 (U1) or greater. This implies both vCenter Server 6.0 U1 and ESXi 6.0 U1. This version of vSphere includes Virtual SAN version 6.1. This is the minimum version required for Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster support.

vSphere & Virtual SAN

Virtual SAN version 6.1 introduced features including both All-Flash and Stretched Cluster functionality. There are no limitations on the edition of vSphere used for Virtual SAN. However, for Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster functionality, vSphere DRS is very desirable. DRS will provide initial placement assistance, and will also automatically migrate virtual machines to their correct site in accordance to Host/VM affinity rules. It can also help will locating virtual machines to their correct site when a site recovers after a failure. Otherwise the administrator will have to manually carry out these tasks. Note that DRS is only available in Enterprise edition and higher of vSphere.

Hybrid and All-Flash support

Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster is supported on both hybrid configurations (hosts with local storage comprised of both magnetic disks for capacity and flash devices for cache) and all-flash configurations (hosts with local storage made up of flash devices for capacity and flash devices for cache).

On-disk formats

VMware supports Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster with the v2 on-disk format only. The v1 on-disk format is based on VMFS and is the original on-disk format used for Virtual SAN. The v2 on-disk format is the version which comes by default with Virtual SAN version 6.x. Customers that upgraded from the original Virtual SAN 5.5 to Virtual SAN 6.0 may not have upgraded the on-disk format for v1 to v2, and are thus still using v1. VMware recommends upgrading the on-disk format to v2 for improved performance and scalability, as well as stretched cluster support. In Virtual SAN 6.2 clusters, the v3 on-disk format allows for additional features, discussed later, specific to 6.2.

Features supported on VSAN but not VSAN Stretched Clusters

The following are a list of products and features support on Virtual SAN but not on a stretched cluster implementation of Virtual SAN.

  • SMP-FT, the new Fault Tolerant VM mechanism introduced in vSphere 6.0, is supported on standard VSAN 6.1 deployments, but it is not supported on stretched cluster VSAN deployments at this time. *The exception to this rule, is when using 2 Node configurations in the same physical location.
  • The maximum value for NumberOfFailuresToTolerate in a Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster configuration is 1. This is the limit due to the maximum number of Fault Domains being 3.
  • In a Virtual SAN Stretched Cluster, there are only 3 Fault Domains. These are typically referred to as the Preferred, Secondary, and Witness Fault Domains. Standard Virtual SAN configurations can be comprised of up to 32 Fault Domains.
  • The Erasure Coding feature introduced in Virtual SAN 6.2 requires 4 Fault Domains for RAID5 type protection and 6 Fault Domains for RAID6 type protection. Because Stretched Cluster configurations only have 3 Fault Domains, Erasure Coding is not supported on Stretched Clusters at this time.


Download a full VMware Virtual SAN 6.2 Stretched Cluster Guide.

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