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VMware to kill SD cards and USB drives as vSphere boot options

Storage capacity of your hosts could take a hit

VMware has warned users it will end support for non-persistent removable storage as a boot medium for its flagship vSphere VM-wrangler.

A post last week delivered the news.

"ESXi Boot configuration with only SD card or USB drive, without any persistent device, is deprecated with vSphere 7 Update 3," the post states. "In future vSphere releases, it will be an unsupported configuration."

"In the near future, the only supported configuration involving the usage of SD card or USB drives as boot media is a minimum of 8GB SD card or USB drive + Locally attached persistent storage device for ESX-OSData partition," the post adds.

vSphere 7.x creates four partitions, with ESX-OSData generally the largest, being used to store ESX- ESXi configurations and system state data.

ESX-OSData therefore gets a fair bit of traffic. This worries VMware because, as the post states, SD cards and USB sticks "have lower endurance and exhibit reliability and issues over time."

"SD cards and USB drives may also exhibit performance issues and may not tolerate high-frequency read-write operations. We are now witnessing boot-related problems more frequently with ESXi 7.x with the hosts using SD cards or USB drives as boot media."

SD cards are not enterprise-grade storage options as they degrade after a certain number of reads and writes. VMware allowed their use "to free up device bays and lower the cost of installing ESXi hosts." USB drives can offer better reliability, but a decline in speed could impact overall operations.

Now that Virtzilla has seen issues with this, it appears the company would rather you take a hit on hosts' storage capacity in the service of greater reliability.

As vSphere hosts are generally quite finely tuned to serve the needs of the apps they exist to run, taking one drive out of action will mean pain for some.

VMware has a little relief coming from another direction, in the form of a new tool called "Virtual Machine Desired State Configuration" that allows VMs to reboot into new configurations without manual intervention, and in line with recommendations from the vRealize Operations management and automation suite.

VMware has plenty more, and bigger, announcements, to come as its VMworld conference opens on Tuesday this week. ®

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