Traditional SAN and virtual SAN (vSAN): What to choose?

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Traditional SAN and virtual SAN (vSAN): What to choose?

When it comes time to deploy a platform for new projects, set up a CRM server, or build a data center fit for a standard hypervisor, every IT manager or storage administrator is faced with the question of which type of storage to use: traditional SAN appliance or virtual SAN?

In this article, we’ll take a look at two SAN solutions, distinguish between them, and give you an answer on which one to choose for your projects.


  • What is the Storage Area Network (SAN)?
  • When utilizing a typical SAN device?
  • What are the usual costs of SAN appliances?
  • What is a vSAN appliance?
  • Use cases for virtual SAN (vSAN) devices
  • When should you utilize a vSAN appliance?
  • Cost of a virtual SAN (vSAN) device
  • What is the difference between a regular SAN and vSAN?
  • Which SAN to choose?
  • Conclusion

What is the Storage Area Network (SAN)?

In essence, SANs are high-performance iSCSI or Fiber Channel block-mode physical datastores that may be used to host hypervisors, databases, and applications. Traditional Storage Area Network devices, which are generally available in a 4-bay tower to 36-bay rackmount configurations, offer high-performance storage space for structured applications using the iSCSI and/or Fiber Channel (FC) protocols.

Structured workloads include the following:

  • Databases: MySQL, Oracle, NoSQL, PostgreSQL, etc.
  • Applications: SAP HANA or other major CRM or EHR software.
  • Large deployments of standard hypervisors such as VMware ESX/ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, Windows Server Standard (or Datacenter) 2016/2019, KVM, Citrix (formerly XenServer), or StoneFly Persepolis

For a better understanding of the difference between block storage and file storage, you can read this.

When utilizing a typical SAN device?

On-premises SAN systems are ideal for large deployments of critical applications with a low tolerance for delay.

In addition to addressing latency problems, local SAN appliances offer you more control in terms of administration, operation, and security of physical devices, which is required by many regulating companies. With commensurate performance, SAN systems may scale from hundreds of gigabytes to petabytes of storage capacity. If your workloads have the ability to rise to this scale, on-premises SAN hardware is the superior alternative in terms of return on investment (ROI).

That isn’t to say that 4-bay towers or 6-bay devices aren’t appropriate for SMB environments. It all comes down to the company budget, latency requirements, and the project(s) at hand.

NetApp SAN, Voyager, Dell PowerVault, StoneFly ISC, and other on-premises SAN hardware are examples.

What are the usual costs of SAN appliances?

The level of cost of an on-premises SAN device is determined by the provider you choose, the OS you install, and, of course, the hardware specs you choose: system RAM, processor, network connections, RAID controller, hard drives, and other components are all important.

Most vendors, including Dell, HPE, and NetApp, offer pre-configured products with limited customization options. As a consequence, you can find the price range on their web pages or in their catalogs.

Other vendors let you customize your SAN hardware by selecting the characteristics that best meet your requirements. Before shipping you the plug-and-play appliance, they produce, test, and configure it. As a result, you could be given the qualities you desire within your budget.

What is a vSAN appliance?

Virtual SANs (vSANs) are iSCSI volumes that have been virtualized and installed on common hypervisors. Find out more here.

The developer business VMware is responsible for popularizing the term vSAN in general. But VMware vSAN is not the only option provided. NetApp vSAN, StarWind vSAN, StoneFly vSAN, StorMagic vSAN, and others are examples of vSAN devices that are available.

Use cases for virtual SAN (vSAN) devices

Standard SAN and vSAN devices are similar in terms of use cases. The configuration is the sole variation between them.

In other words, vSAN equipment may be utilized for structured workloads just like classic SAN appliances (examples listed above).

When should you utilize a vSAN appliance?

The deployment of vSAN technology is very adaptable. A vSAN appliance can be installed locally, in the cloud, or on a distant server. This offers up a variety of applications; nevertheless, the flexible deployment has a number of drawbacks, including administration, cost, availability, latency, and so on.

vSAN, depending on the vendor, promises scalable performance and a high return on investment when placed on local hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), according to the supplier chosen (VMware vSAN is usually costly).

When should you utilize a vSAN appliance?

Latency is a factor when using public clouds or distant servers. If it’s in a nearby location, latency may not be an issue – as many companies who run their workloads entirely in the cloud have discovered. Furthermore, several business clients have relocated to the cloud before returning to on-premises.

The causes differ from one situation to the next. Just because vSAN isn’t working for someone else doesn’t imply it probably wouldn’t work for you. However, just because something works for others does not guarantee that it will perform for you. So, once again, your projects, finance, and performance and latency needs will determine whether or not a vSAN appliance is the best option for you.

Cost of a virtual SAN (vSAN) device

The cost of vSAN appliances varies depending on the manufacturer, deployment, and assigned resources such as system memory, CPU, and storage capacity.

If vSAN is installed in the cloud, the price of the cloud, the frequency with which vSAN is installed, and the frequency with which it is used are all factors to consider.

The budget of the infrastructure and hypervisor influences the ROI if it is put on an on-premises HCI appliance.

What is the difference between a regular SAN and vSAN?

Aside from the obvious difference that one product is a physical object and the other is a virtual version, there are a few other significant differences:

Conventional SAN:

  • To assign storage capacity for structured workloads, outside network-attached storage (NAS), or data storage volumes are required.
  • If migration is required, it is often complicated and error-prone.
  • This is permanent machinery. You can’t expand processor power or system ram, but you can add storage arrays to grow storage.
  • With an internal SAN, you won’t have to worry about outbound bandwidth costs, server security, or latency issues.

Virtual SAN:

  • Provides a storage pool with accessible storage resources for virtual machines to share (VMs).
  • When necessary, migration is relatively simple.
  • Volumes in vSAN are adaptable. You may quickly add extra CPU, memory modules, or storage to dedicated resources.
  • In a totally server-less setup, vSAN may be implemented in public clouds.

Which SAN to choose?

There is no common solution to this issue. Some operations or requirements are better served by standard SAN, whereas others are better served by vSAN.

So, how can you know which is right for you? The first step is to have a better grasp of your project, performance needs, and budget. Obtaining testing results might also be beneficial.

Consulting with professionals is another approach to ensure you’ve made the appropriate selection. Request demonstrations to learn more about the capabilities of the product you’re considering and the return on your investment.

Which SAN to use


The question isn’t which is superior when it comes to vSAN vs SAN. It’s more about your needs and which one is ideal for your projects.

Both solutions offer benefits and drawbacks. Traditional SANs are best suited for large-scale deployments, whereas vSANs offer better flexibility and deployment options, making them suitable for a wide range of use cases, enterprises, and industries.

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