Both the VSAN Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) and the VSAN Release Catalog database which provides VSAN build recommendations should be updated periodically to ensure that you have the latest VSAN recommendations from VMware. In addition to using the vSphere UI to perform these update, customers can also automate either of these tasks using the VSAN Management API which can be consumed using any of the supported VSAN Management SDKs including PowerCLI.
The highly anticipated "modular" Next Unit of Computing (NUC) has just been announced at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) this week, dubbed the Intel NUC 9 Pro (codename Quartz Canyon) and NUC 9 Extreme (codename Ghost Canyon). Boy am I super excited for this new platform and what it could mean for the VMware Community! 😍
Immediately off the bat, you can see that this is not your typical NUC "cube" form factor. Intel has completely redesigned the system from the inside and out, more on this in a bit. The key difference between the two NUC 9 variants (Pro and Extreme) are the CPU options, which are detailed below. For the remainder of this article, I will be focusing on the Pro version of the NUC 9 and I will call out any differences where applicable.
The use of the word "Pro" is also quite fitting as Intel is positioning this system as a high-end prosumer to Mid-Enterprise device compared to the traditional NUC. The NUC 9 Pro is targeting more demanding workloads such as Digital Content Creation, CAD/Manufacturing and Financial Service applications that either require a high-end graphics card or AI module for computing. When I first heard about this system from Intel, it conceptually reminded me of Apple's recent 2019 Mac Pro, which is also designed with modularity in mind and can cater to a variety of use cases.
Speaking of use cases, although Virtualization is not a target use case for this new platform, VMware customers have been taking advantage of the Intel NUCs for a number of years now and it is still by far the most popular platform for running a vSphere/vSAN/NSX Home Lab. However, one common complaint I often hear about the current generations of NUCs has been its CPU and I think the new NUC 9 Pro/Extreme will be a nice contender for current alternatives like the popular Supermicro E200-8D. Thanks to Intel, I was able to get my hands on a pre-production NUC 9 Pro unit for testing, so lets take a closer look at what this new platform has to offer!
Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) and eventually USB 4 is a really fascinating technology and I believe it still has so much untapped potential, especially when looking at Remote/Branch Office (ROBO), Edge and IoT types of deployments. TB3 was initially limited to Apple-based platforms, but in the last couple of years, adoption has been picking up across a number of PC desktop/laptops including the latest generations of Intel NUCs which are quite popular for vSphere/vSAN/NSX Home Labs. My hope with USB 4 is that in the near future, we will start to see servers with this interface show up in the datacenter 🙂
In the mean time, I have been doing some work with TB3 from a home lab standpoint. Some of you may have noticed my recent work on enabling Thunderbolt 3 to 10GbE for ESXi and it should be no surprise that the next logical step was TB3 storage. Using a Thunderbolt interface to connect to external storage, usually Fibre Channel is something many of our customers have been doing for quite some time. In fact, I have a blog post from a few years back which goes over some of the solutions customers have implemented, the majority use case being Virtualizing MacOS on ESXi for iOS/MacOS development. These solutions were usually not cheap and involved a sizable amount of infrastructure (e.g. storage arrays, network switches, etc) but worked very well for large vSphere/MacOS based environments.