VMWare ESX - Server Config

Hi,

I am just deploying my first couple of ESXi Servers and wanted to check so configuration with someone.

I have installed it on a DL360G5 which has 6 disks setup as a Raid 5.

The VMWare ESX and the VM Guests are installed onto this same Raid 5, but now I am worrying about what would happen if there was an issue with the VMWare?

Would there ever be an issue that meant I had to re-install ESX and format the Raid Array? How can you access the VM's from another system if this happens?

Advice Greatly Appreciated.
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essexboy80Asked:
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ArtFunGuyCommented:
- If you format your Raid Array, you will lose everything : ESX server and VMs
- How and where have you created the datastore for your VMs?
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za_mkhIT ManagerCommented:
If you install ESXi (from CD) it normally overwrites the existing installation (and wants to format all lun volumes) ... big pain. So to do an upgrade e.g. ESX 3i to say ESXi 4, you would use VUM or the Host Update tool (new to vSphere) to upgrade your ESXi host. This keeps your data while upgrading ESXi.
Now when you install ESXi, even though the data volumes are all stored on the underlying RAID 5 set, there are at least six partitions created on the ESXi disk
Boot, Root, Swap, Log, VMFS, dump.
All your VM's will be stored on the VMFS partition.
So if ESXi installation went tit's up, then your data would be safe on the VMFS volume. If you  lose one hard drive in the RAID 5 set, everything continues to work, unless another hard drive fails too!
I would still recommend that you ensure that you backup your VMs. There are free tools such include Veeam FastSCP (that allow you to backup the entire VM ie all files that make up that VM) and then other normal backup methods such as netbackup, etc.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
It is sort of like VMware on a workstation. You can re-install VMware ESX without impacting the drive systems or the Virtual Machines (just like you can re-install VMware Workstation without impacting VM's).

With respect to formatting or otherwise changing the raid array, you would have to copy the VM's off to another machine, do your work, reinstall VMware ESX and copy the machines back. You should be able to access the VM's from another machine (there would probably be some setup issues as there can be when moving any Virtual Machine).

... Thinkpads_User
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essexboy80Author Commented:
Hi,

How can you copy the VM's off though, if I try and browse to the ESXi Servers IP I cannot see anything or even connect.

Is it better if I had a raid 1 with just the ESX Install on and a Raid 5 with the data stores?

Also a little licensing question, I know that if I buy a copy of Windows Server Enterprise 2003 1 License will allow me to install 4 Servers on the ESX Server.

But do they have to be Windows Enterprise Installs or can some be Windows Standard?

Thanks
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
You can install the VMware Infrastructure Client (Vsphere Client, depending on version) to manage the file on the Server.

With respect to your licensing question, so far as I know, you need as many licenses as installation occurences you have (4 in this case). In the same way, you cannot install 2 occurences of the same Windows workstation OS on one machine - you need two licenses. ... Thinkpads_User
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essexboy80Author Commented:
You are wrong on the license will send you the link just didn't know if I could install win standard
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Maybe I don't understand what you are doing. I am just with some other persons putting together a VMware server, and I will have two Windows Server 2008 Standard machines. I had to purchase two licenses. ... Thinkpads_User
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essexboy80Author Commented:
What version of vmware?
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
VMware is ESX 4.0  ... T
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nappy_dThere are a 1000 ways to skin the technology cat.Commented:
Thinkpads_user is correct. That is a violation of M$ to install the OS and it's license more than once, more to the point, in VMWare. You nned to have a license for each guest that is installed.

Similarly, if you have a cluster of host machines that the guest would failover to, you nned to have a license for each guest OS PLUS a license for each host that the guest OS would/could failover to..
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essexboy80Author Commented:
I think you are wrong - http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensing/virtualization.aspx

that clearly says:

Windows Server 2008 Enterprise

Run up to four software instances at a time in virtual operating system environments on a server under a single server license.

Am I not understanding this correctly?
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essexboy80Author Commented:
and a bit more from MS Windows Server 2003 R2 Licensing Guide

If you have assigned a single license of Windows Server Enterprise Edition to the server running ESX, then you may run up to four instances at a time of Windows Server. You may not run a fifth instance under the same Enterprise Edition license since that right requires that the fifth instance be running hardware virtualization software and software managing and servicing the OSEs on the server.  
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essexboy80Author Commented:
Hi,

I still don't understand how if my ESX install went tits up (hence couldn't connect via vm infra client) how I would be able to get the VM's off of the server.

Can someone please explain.

Thanks very much
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nappy_dThere are a 1000 ways to skin the technology cat.Commented:
THe best pratice is to never store your VMWare guest OS's on the same volume as your host.  It should be stored on separate storage so that if it does fail you can brang your guests up from another installation or HA box.
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essexboy80Author Commented:
So are you talking seperate Raid Volumes or are you talking about storing the VM's on something such as an external storage array?
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nappy_dThere are a 1000 ways to skin the technology cat.Commented:
I am talking about an external storage such as a SAN or NAS.
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essexboy80Author Commented:
okay i am with you.

this is my next big project to look at moving to SAN's.

I don't really know a lot about them so I need to do some reading first, any recommended reading?

also what type is the best to go for, fibre, sas, iscsi?

thanks
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nappy_dThere are a 1000 ways to skin the technology cat.Commented:
Something to muck around with on an old Dell or other desktop is http://www.freenas.org or http://www.openfiler.com

Fibre and SAS drives would be better.

Sometimes going to manufacturers websites and look at manuals on their products.
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TRFryeCommented:
Fiber channel is the way to go.  iSCSI would be next.  FC switches and HBA's can now go 8 Gig.  iSCSI is IP.  Both are great, but if you have the funds available, go with the Fiber.  The technology has been around for many years.

I use an IBM DS3400 SAN, but believe IBM is going with a the DS5000 series.  Good idea to go with increased CACHE cards, and dual controllers.  Most of the big name companies have great SAN offerings.  We are an IBM shop and pretty much use all IBM.

SAS drives are faster and more reliable than the SATA drives, but when on a SAN with the CACHE and RAID, it kind of offsets the SAS.  SAS is 15K and I believe 300 Gig.  Could be larger than that right now, but that is what I have in my trays.  SATA's get hugh.

I currently use Brocade FC switches and QLogic HBA's.  I am most familiary with Brocade.  They offer the whole sweet of Switchs and HBA's.  I believe Cisco does too.

Make sure that you get the appropriate port license when you start.  Pricing is based off the number of ports.  I have 20 port switches, but started out thinking that I only needed to use 10 of those ports.  Grew out of that number in less than a year and had to purchase the license to enable the remainder of the 10 ports.

If you have a Fiber connected tape drive, you could add this to the FC switch environment and get great transfer rates.  This is as long as your Virtual Infrastructure is setup according.

Are you looking at Boot to LUN in the SAN environment, or use the SAN for VMFS datat stores?  FC can do Boot to LUN right off, but you would need a hardware iSCSI initiator to allow this to occur.

Hope that this helps.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
essexboy80 wrote "I still don't understand how if my ESX install went tits up (hence couldn't connect via vm infra client) how I would be able to get the VM's off of the server. Can someone please explain."

There are a number of concepts at play here. If the disk drives all failing is your key concern, then the advice you are getting about disk strategies is very good.

But if your disks are good and for some reason you need to move the VM's somewhere else, you can run the VMware Infrastructure Client (VSphere Client) on a PC, connect it to the server (a plain crossover cable will do) and copy the machines to another place. My understand is that you can readily re-install VMware ESX if you need to.
... Thinkpads_User


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essexboy80Author Commented:
Hi,

But my main point is if you take this example

Raid 1 - OS
Raid 5 - Data Storage

If the server hardware physically fails how can you get the VM's from the Data Storage Array?

Thanks

Paul
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nappy_dThere are a 1000 ways to skin the technology cat.Commented:
Well, you can't directly.  You should have a backup first and formost using products such as VCB from VMWare www.vmware.com/products/vi/consolidated_backup.html or Veeam fastscp http://www.veeam.com/vmware-esxi-fastscp.html

Alternatively, you could simply reinstall over your existing server but do not erase the VMFS on which your data is stored.
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