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I'm looking to replace 2x aging servers in a small branch office. 1 is a DC and 1 a file server.

I'd like to do high availability on a small budget, and in my mind I have 2 scenarios:

  • Run ESXi on both, with vSphere Storage Appliance. Have 1x DC VM and 1x file server VM.
  • Run ESXi free on both, no vSphere Storage Appliance. Have a DC and file server on each, and use DFS on all file server data for high availability.

VSA seems easy enough, and I have tons of experience with DFS, so from a technical point of view I don't really have strong leanings either way. When you boil it down the difference between these setups is the additional licensing cost to run vSphere Storage Appliance.

My real question is therefore this: is there any compelling technical reason that the solution involving VSA would be better in this instance?

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Firstly, note that I'm using the word "protection" because I can't think of a better word to use at the moment.

You're really talking about two different things, in my opinion. Using a VSA will provide "protection" at the host level but doesn't provide any "protection" at the VM or application level. A VSA protects against a failed host, but doesn't address a failed guest or a failed application or service (DFS). To "protect" the guest at the guest and application level using VMware technology you'd need to implement vSphere FT.

DFS provides "protection" at the guest and application level (file services), if one file server fails the Shares are available from the other file server.

My suggestion would be to do both: implement a VSA to protect against a host failure, implement DFS for application/file services protection, and implement two DC's.

vSphere FT and vSphere Storage Appliance are pretty expensive. You can achieve shared storage and HA by implementing a StorMagic SvSAN for a lot less money than you can implementing VMware HA, FT, and VSA.

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Thanks for the answer. I'm quite familiar with the various type of "protection" provided by the various vSphere technologies. I'm running 2 vSphere Enterprise clusters separate from this venture. Re this part: "A VSA protects against a failed host, but doesn't address a failed guest or a failed application or service" -- I'm aware of that, and I'm happy with that. I'm also not particularly concerned about protecting failures in the guest, as they are rather rare on a DC and file server which will be pretty much configured and then just run. I'm only aiming to protect against host failure. – ThatGraemeGuy May 30 '12 at 20:37
.... suddenly the comment length limit seems so short. As I was saying, host failure is all I'm worried about, and even then, HA is perfectly acceptable, I don't need FT. Hence why I boiled it down to "VSA, 1 DC/1 FS, protected by HA" vs. "No VSA, 2 DCs/2 FSs, protected by, uh, redundancy and DFS". – ThatGraemeGuy May 30 '12 at 20:39
Oh, and also forgot to mention I currently have 2 vSphere Enterprise socket licences available. Waiting for info from my vendor to confirm if I need anything additional to use VSA. – ThatGraemeGuy May 30 '12 at 20:41
Gotcha. I think the VSA is a separate purchase but I'd like to hear what you find out from your vendor. – joeqwerty May 30 '12 at 21:49
Correct, it is a separate purchase & it's licenced per server. – ThatGraemeGuy May 31 '12 at 9:29

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