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Scalable VMware vSAN Storage Architectures on Lenovo ThinkAgile VX

Solution Brief



This technical brief highlights the performance results of vSAN Original Storage Architecture (OSA) and vSAN Express Storage Architecture (ESA) across different scenarios, and provides design guidance when using the vSAN storage architectures. Lenovo ThinkAgile VX650 V3 and VX630 V3 models with 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors were used in the testing. The ThinkAgile VX Series is hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) based on VMware vSAN.

Change History

December, 2023 - Initial release

May, 2024 - Updated LoginEnterprise tool results with VMware Horizon VDI and HCIBench tool results with a variety of applications. Constant latency testing was also completed with 4th Gen Intel Xeon processors. Updated OSA and ESA performance figures with 25 GbE and 100 GbE.

Lenovo ThinkAgile VX Solutions for VMware vSAN

Lenovo ThinkAgile VX systems are the perfect choice for hyperconverged infrastructure and provide an outstanding platform to support the different VMware vSAN™ architectures. Lenovo and VMware's over 20 year partnership and collaboration continues to strongly drive innovation and technical enablement for vSAN-based storage solutions. This includes validation, certification, configuration and support for ThinkAgile VX systems.

Lenovo ThinkAgile VX V3 hyperconverged systems are equipped with 4th generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors and VMware vSAN 8. They are Accelerated by Intel offerings that drive greater performance for CPU and IO intensive workloads.

Lenovo ThinkAgile VX servers are available as Integrated Systems and Certified Nodes. Both are factory integrated, pre-configured systems with Lenovo hardware, VMware software, and deployment services. VX Integrated Systems provide a quick and convenient path to implement a hyperconverged solution powered by VMware vSAN and a single point of contact provided by Lenovo for purchasing, deploying, and supporting the solution. VX Certified Nodes come with optional VMware software and services.

ThinkAgile VX Integrated Systems can also be up and running quickly with a web-based deployment wizard. The installer can install and configure VMware ESXi, vCenter Server and Lenovo XClarity Integrator and either create or join a cluster.

Lenovo ThinkAgile VX systems support all vSAN architectures:

Table 1. VMware vSAN Storage Architectures
Original Storage Architecture (OSA)
  • Tiered architecture with flash cache tier and capacity tier
  • Support NVMe, SSD and HDD drives
  • Minimum 2 drives and 10GbE
  • Disk group uses one cache and multiple capacity drives
Express Storage Architecture (ESA)
  • Single tier storage pool architecture with all NVMe drives
  • Minimum 1 drive and 10 GbE
  • Minimum 3 nodes
vSAN Max Architecture
  • Disaggregated storage based on Express Storage Architecture (ESA)
  • Compute nodes are not part of the cluster
  • Minimum 6 nodes and 100 GbE is recommended
  • Ready Node configurations available

Comparison of vSAN OSA and ESA Solutions

The table below shows a basic comparison of vSAN OSA and ESA solutions.

Table 2. Comparison of VMware vSAN OSA and ESA
Features OSA ESA
Disk Type Support Cache tier - NVMe, SSD
Capacity tier - NVMe, SSD, HDD
All NVMe drives (Minimum 1 drive per host)
Network (Minimum) 10 GbE 10 GbE
Compression Encryption Datastore level Policy driven virtual machine level enabled by default
Deduplication Supported (Full Clone VDI) Not supported
Data transfer over network Not compressed Compressed
vSAN File Services Supported Supported (vSphere 8.0 U2)
Default Storage Policy RAID 1 Auto Policy Management RAID 5 for small clusters and RAID 6 for larger clusters
Maximum VMs per host 200 500 (vSphere ESXi 8.0 U2)

ThinkAgile VX and vSAN Storage Architectures




ThinkAgile VX650 V3




ThinkAgile VX630 V3




Applications where the servers would excel include:

  • Mission Critical applications
  • SAP HANA and ERP applications
  • CRM
  • Business Intelligence (BI)
  • Databases and Data Warehouse
  • Analytics
  • Virtual Desktops
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Server Consolidation
  • Virtualization

Figure 1. vSAN Original Storage Architecture (OSA)


Figure 2. vSAN Express Storage Architecture (ESA)


Figure 3. vSAN Max Architecture


The following sections provide benchmark results for Login Enterprise (VDI) and HCIBench (FIO) benchmark done on ESA and OSA configurations.

VMware Horizon VDI Performance on vSAN ESA vs. OSA

The Login Enterprise VDI benchmark was performed for the ”knowledge worker profile” on a 4 node ThinkAgile VX650 V3 Integrated System cluster with 2x Intel® Xeon® Platinum 8468 48C processors for both vSAN OSA and vSAN ESA with 1500 users. The test was done with the following software versions and configuration:

  • LoginEnterprise 5.1.2
  • VMware ESXi, 8.0.1-21495797, Instant Clone
  • VMware Horizon 8.9.0 build 21593375 v2303
  • Microsoft Windows 10 Enterprise Edition
  • Microsoft Office Professional 2007, Microsoft Edge
  • 3 VCPU + 2 GB Memory + 40 GB disk

The knowledge worker profile generates 10-15 IOPS per user during steady state and is not a storage intensive benchmark.

2 disk groups
Cache tier - 2 x ThinkSystem P5620 1.6TB Mixed Use NVMe PCIe 4.0
Capacity tier - 4 x ThinkSystem S4520 1.92TB Read Intensive SATA 6Gb HS SSD drives
8 x ThinkSystem P5620 3.2TB Mixed Use NVMe PCIe 4.0 drives
25 GbE 25 GbE
RDMA Enabled RDMA Enabled
VSIMAX = 1428 VSIMAX = 1395

The Login Enterprise VSIMax provides desktop density at 100% CPU utilization. The performance of knowledge worker profile looks similar for both ESA and OSA architectures and ESA provides slightly higher density. The office applications response time and latency with ESA is better than OSA tests. The spike in response time at 190th minute is due to saturation of CPU and new users are trying to login and launch applications. It is recommended to design and size CPU capacity at no more than 70-80% to leave headroom to accommodate peak load and failover scenarios.

Figure 4. Login Enterprise Test Results with vSAN ESA and OSA

HCIBench FIO Benchmark on vSAN OSA and ESA

The HCIBench tool (version 2.8.2 and FIO 3.3) was used for measuring performance for OSA and ESA. The constant load scenario objective is to measure actual I/O latency on the storage during normal I/O operations and it does not let system reach maximum IOPS which can result in increase in latency.

VM Configuration Constant Latency Scenario
Warm up before testing 5 mins
Memory 8 GB
No. of data disks 8
Disk size 50 GB
IO rate 100%
FIO settings ioengine=libaio
iodepth= (1-32, refer next table)
Total number of VMs 16 (4 per node)

Table below shows different IO scenarios tested with HCIBench and each scenario matches with one or more real world use cases.

Scenario Block size Iodepth Read % Write % Random % Workload Category
4K-Read 100% 4K 32 100% 0% 100% Read-intensive workload
8K-Read 70% 8K 16 70% 30% 100% NoSQL, Dey Value, Generic web workloads
16K-Read 70% 16K 8 70% 30% 70% Files and relational databases
32K-Read 50% 32K 4 50% 50% 50% SQL
128K-Write 100% 128K 1 0% 100% 0% Write-intensive workload

Constant Latency Testing with 4th Gen Intel Xeon Processors

Lenovo performed HCIBench constant latency scenario with fixed IO depth value to measure OSA and ESA throughput on 25 GbE and 100 GbE networks. The benchmark was done on 4x Lenovo ThinkAgile VX650 V3 servers, each with Intel Xeon Platinum 8468 48C processors.

3 disk groups
Cache tier - 3 x ThinkSystem P5620 1.6TB Mixed Use NVMe PCIe 4.0 x 4 HS SSD
Capacity tier - 12 x ThinkSystem PM1653 1.92TB Read Intensive SAS 24Gb HS SSD
8 x ThinkSystem P5620 3.2TB Mixed Use NVMe PCIe 4.0 x 4 HS SSD
2 x ThinkSystem Mellanox ConnectX-6 Lx 10/25 GbE SFP28 2-port
2 x ThinkSystem Mellanox ConnectX-6 Dx 100 GbE QSFP56 2-port PCIe ethernet adapters
2 x ThinkSystem Mellanox ConnectX-6 Lx 10/25 GbE SFP28 2-port
2 x ThinkSystem Mellanox ConnectX-6 Dx 100 GbE QSFP56 2-port PCIe ethernet adapters
25 GbE, 100 GbE 25 GbE, 100 GbE
RDMA Enabled RDMA Enabled
VMware ESXi, 8.0.1-21495797 VMware ESXi, 8.0.1-21495797

OSA vs ESA performance on 25 GbE and 100 GbE NIC

  • vSAN ESA leverages 100 GbE network and provides up to 250% better performance than 25 GbE for many of the scenarios except 100% read scenarios. ESA can provide more throughput by increasing IO depth and removing constant latency factor. Refer to results for HCIBench maximum throughput scenario here.
  • vSAN OSA performance on both 25 GbE and 100 GbE are similar for the scenarios 8K- Read70% and 128K-Write100%. The scenarios 16K-Read70% and 32K-Read50% provide 20-50% more throughput with 100 GbE. vSAN OSA with 3 disk groups perform better than ESA with 25 GbE network.

Figure 5. HCIBench Constant Latency Load Results – OSA RAID 1 vs ESA RAID 5 – 25 GbE vs 100 GbE

vSAN OSA Disk Group Scalability

Figure below shows 25 GbE throughput results for different number of disk groups for vSAN OSA. The throughput increases by 10-30% range for a greater number of disk groups while the write-only scenarios do not show considerable benefits. Adding more disk groups does require more cache drives and capacity drives which increases TCO.

Figure 6. OSA Disk Group Scalability on 25 GbE and RAID 1

Design Guidelines for OSA and ESA

Both vSAN OSA and ESA are scalable solutions and ESA reduces storage footprint up to 40% and also it can accommodate 60% more virtual machines. vSAN OSA supports vSphere 7 & 8 and provides support for a wide number of options with NVMe, SSD and HDD and the cache tier provides improved performance for many workloads. The vSAN cluster configuration should be balanced for CPU, memory and storage requirements based on the workloads running on them and the cluster must be either scaled up or scaled out appropriately. These aspects need to be considered during initial assessment. The table below provides a comparison between vSAN OSA and ESA features and supported configurations.

Feature OSA ESA
vSphere Support ESXi 7.x, 8.x ESXi 8.x
Drive Options
  • More choices for Cache and Capacity drives
  • Flash drives can be used for Cache, Capacity and All Flash configurations
All NVMe
  • More TCO as more drives required for RAID 1 and cache & capacity tiers.
  • 10/25 GbE NIC reduces cost
  • Less storage TCO and less drives required for RAID 5/6
  • 100 GbE NIC increases cost if workloads benefit from it.
Maximum Capacity Per Node
  • 35 drives (5 disk groups, 7 capacity drive per disk group)
  • RAID 1 reduces usable capacity
  • 32 drives
  • RAID 5 increases usable capacity
Scale Up
  • Increase Disk Groups (Cache and Capacity)
  • Increase Capacity disks and ensure enough cache capacity
Capacity can be increased by adding more drives without any dependencies
Scale Out
  • Add nodes and disks together
  • If total disk capacity reached 70% threshold and if no more drives can be added, then add more hosts
Add nodes and disk drives
Disk Maintenance
  • Removing Cache drive requires removal of disk group and creation of new disk group. The larger the disk group the more time is required to evacuate data and rebalance after maintenance.
  • Adding/removing capacity drives are easy and data migration is at the disk level
  • Need a free host with enough drives to migrate data from the failed node
Drives can be added/removed easily, and data migration is at the disk level
Compression Enabled at vSAN datastore level and causes CPU overhead and performance impact Enable/disabled at storage policy level. No overhead on performance.
Optimal Performance RAID 1 RAID 5 and RAID 6 based on cluster size

Accelerated by Intel

To deliver the best experience possible, Lenovo and Intel have optimized this solution to leverage Intel capabilities like processor accelerators not available in other systems. Accelerated by Intel means enhanced performance to help you achieve new innovations and insight that can give your company an edge.

Lenovo and VMware

With co-located engineering organizations and a history of technical collaboration, VMware and Lenovo consistently deliver innovative joint solutions for the data center. Lenovo’s leadership in reliability, customer satisfaction, and performance, combined with VMware’s leadership in software and cloud services, continues to deliver innovative data center solutions and lower TCO for our joint customers.

Why Lenovo

Lenovo is a US$70 billion revenue Fortune Global 500 company serving customers in 180 markets around the world. Focused on a bold vision to deliver smarter technology for all, we are developing world-changing technologies that power (through devices and infrastructure) and empower (through solutions, services and software) millions of customers every day.


For More Information

To learn more about workload solutions on Lenovo ThinkAgile VX630 V3 and VX650 V3, contact your Lenovo Business Partner or visit:



Lenovo ThinkAgile VX630 V3 1U Integrated Systems and Certified Nodes:

Lenovo ThinkAgile VX650 V3 2U Integrated Systems and Certified Nodes:

VMware vSAN Design Guide:

VMware ESA Ready Node Hardware Guidance:

Related product families

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