Storage considerations for VMware ESXi / ESX

Posted on 2009-04-23
Last Modified: 2012-05-06

I'm going to do my first steps in Virtual Infrastructure. For this purpose I have built a server using components that are listed as supported in HCL, and actually I did a default ESXi install which went thru without any problem and everything was recognized properly (I was able to access the host via VI client as well). I'd like to deploy ESX on one server first, and will be adding additional servers and storage later so I can try all VI products later.

The product I'm going to deploy is actually VMware Infrastructure Enterprise. I do have also licenses for Virtual Center Server, View Manager 3.0, VMware ACE 2 Management Server and some other. I'd like to try how the virtualization will work for me initially in test envinronment with something like 7-10 VMs running variety of Microsoft Server OSes (2003, 2008, both x86 and x64 editions) with Exchange 2007, SQL Server, Domain Controller and some test servers to test various solutions from Microsoft. If the system is stable, I would like to use virtualized Domain Controller and Exchange server as production virtual servers and still test other solutions on the same physical server. My internal network consists of 5 PCs and one Mac, all of them running as stand-alone machines without domain and using shared folder on my W2K3 Storage Server (see "Server #2 below).

This is the first time I'm going to use VI3 (in the past I was using GSX server and VMware workstation), so there are many and many questions without answers at this time.

Server #1
Supermicro X7DCl-i motherboard
2x Xeon Quad L5410
24GB ECC Buffered RAM
Adaptec RAID 5810 8-port + Supermicro 8x2.5" HDD expander
6x Seagate Savvio 15k.2 147GB 2.5-in HDD
2x Seagate Savvio 15k.2 73GB 2.5-in HDD
6x Intel Pro Gigabit NIC

All 8 HDD channels on Supermicro expander are populated with drives, but I can add 4 more drives in case I need them as there are 4 more unused ports on my Adaptec card and there are 8 hot-swappable bays on my Supermicro chassis.

My existing storage server, Server #2
Supermicro X7SBL-LN2
Intel Core 2 E6300
Windows 2003 Std x64, not a Domain Controller (yet)
Areca ARC-1231ML 12-port RAID, 6TB RAID6 storage total
2x 250GB HDD RAID 1 via ICH9R for Windows 2003 x64

Should I use 2x 73GB drives in RAID1 for ESX system and swap, and 6x 147GB in RAID 5 or RAID10 to store VMs? The RAID controller is very fast so there is (I believe) no problems with write performance even if I use RAID5 vs RAID 10. Or maybe I should remove RAID 1 and just start with RAID 5 with 6 147GB drives for everything and later if I need more disk space for some test VMs I can add two 2.5in drives and create second LUN? I can also add 4 more large 3.5-inch HDD to available controllers port. Coming from Windows world, I always prefer to have OS stored on independant drive, separated from data (VMs in this case). Or, maybe I should install only tow drives locally in RAID 1 on Server #1 and create RAID 5 volume on Server #2 whcih will be used to store VMs? What do you recommend?

I'd like to keep my existing 6TB array formated with NTFS so I can easily access is from any computer (and probably from VMs running on Server #1. If we're going to use Server #2 to store VMs (on VMFS, I believe) and access it vis iSCSI or Fibre Channel maybe in the future, I can install second RAID controller on Server #2 and it will be used strictly for ESX.

My goal is to deploy VI in my home office (and I pay it for myself, so the money are limited), learn how it work, and use it for my internal domain, Exchange and database servers. From my understanding, I will need at least 3 servers to deploy VI - two ESX hosts and one which will be storage (iSCSI), but if there is any other possibility to run it on less servers, I will be happy to hear from you.

Thank you.

Question by:MACROLEVEL
    LVL 7

    Expert Comment

    If you are intending to test features like vMotion, HA and DRS, then the minimum number of ESX Hosts which you would require is 2.

    LVL 7

    Expert Comment

    I would also suggest that you balance your Hosts equally when choosing Resources.
    The maximum size of a VMFS3 Extent is only 2 TB (please keep this while configuring storage)
    However the VMFS3 Volume can be extended to 32 Extents each of 2 TB each.


    Author Comment


    Thank you for the information you're provided, but it does not actually answer my question. Can anybody help me please?
    LVL 6

    Accepted Solution

    For your first server.  RAID 1 with the 2 x 73GB is fine for your ESX system partitions.  ESXi takes up so little space that you will waste a lot of the space in the array but what can you do.  The only other option is to run ESXi from a USB stick then all your disks can be given over to storage for your VM's For the rest of the drives RAID 5 will be fine for what your doing.

    I'm not so sure what you mean for Server 2,  you've got 6TB of NTFS storage in there already but you are going to need VMFS storage on that second server to use VMware features (and get the most out of your licensing)  You mention a second RAID controller,  would that be connected to disks that you would format as VMFS? Remember that VMFS is a VMware file system and is completely different to any Microsoft file system.  You might have to give up some of that NTFS Storage so that you can actually run your VMware environment properly.

    So I also noted that you would like to use the full feature set.  so VMotion and DRS require that you have shared storage.  You want to cut down the number of servers your using from 3 to 2 (which is as low as you can go in order to use the features you've licensed)

    Check out this as a way of using your local storage (on the 2 servers) as a single shared storage unit. there are other companies that do virtual SAN but this one i know is free.

    Hope some of this helps,  If you have any questions or can aid me in trying to understand your issue that'd I'm happy to help out

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