ESXi 4 / Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe / Server configuration

The_Real_Clipper
The_Real_Clipper used Ask the Experts™
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Hi,

I am planing the build of a home server, and wish to virtualize it. The hardware is as follows :
- Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe
- AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+ / 8GB RAM
- 1xSATA 160GB, 5xSATA 1TB

The usage will be mainly storage, with a few servers (low usage):
- File Server (NFS/CIFS)
- LAMP Server
- Postfix/IMAP/SquirrelMail

I do not have a hardware RAID controller, but wish to have RAID5 on my big SATA disks (fakeraid/software raid). I know VMWare does not support that but the Host OS or ESXi will be installed on the non-RAID 160GB disk anyway.  I would like your comments on the following possible setup :

- On the 160GB disk
   - Host OS, running fakeraid/softraid for the 5x1TB disks and running NFS Server
   - VMWare Server
- On the 5x1TB disks RAID array
   - the VMWare Guest OS machines, with minimal datastores (they will access the rest of data through NFS/CIFS)

OR

- On the 160GB disk
   - ESXi 4 (seeing the 5x1TB disks as distinct disks)
   - One VMWare Guest FreeNAS, building RAID on the 5x1TB disks, and serving NFS
   - The other VMWare Guest OS, with minimal datastores (they will access the rest of data through NFS/CIFS)
- On the 5x1TB disks RAID array
   - Just plain data/files

Any other ideas/suggestions welcome. At this point in time I don't even know whether ESXi works on M2N SLI Deluxe, or if FreeNAS (FreeBSD 7.2) works as a guest in either VMWare Server or ESXi. Also for option 1, I don't know if a guest OS is able to connect as a client to the host OS NFS Server.

Thanks for your help
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nappy_dThere are a 1000 ways to skin the technology cat.
Commented:
  • Another suggestion is to check out XenServer.  I run primarily VMWare in the sites I support but have been considering Xen for other sites as it is more lenient with hardware support over VMWare.  I would also suggest you verify that your Asus board is supported by VMWare
  • What is the Host OS going to be if you went with option one as it would have to be 64Bit to support your 8GB or RAM?
Please note that the maximum extent size of a VMFS is 2 TB.
You can have 32 Extents but I recommend against using it.

Currently do you have any Windows OS (XP/Vista) installed on the Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe or are you planning to procure it ?
za_mkhIT Manager
Commented:
I would say if this home server is serving you only, maybe, and just maybe, a linux distro on which you run VMWare Server could be an option?
That way, you can potentially use your software raid if a suitable linux driver exists for it?
I'm with Nappy_D - check out XenServer too. I was pretty impressed by it when I was testing..
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Author

Commented:
@nappy_d:

I have a bit of VMWare Server knowledge already, but zero about Xen. Does it support any kind of guest OS ? I have seen a few posts on the net about VMWare running on this ASUS mobo. It's not "officially" on the HCL but either I can boot or I cannot. I will find out quickly :-)

Actually the 3Ware card you mentionned is a 4 ports. I have 5 disks and therefore it brings me to the 8 ports. That's getting quite expensive. Also, there are already 6 SATA ports on that mobo, it would be lame to not use them at all I think.

The host OS would be Centos 5 / 64. I have successfully run VMWare Server with that OS on another Asus mobo already.

@arunraju:

I know, that's why I specified "with minimal datastores". The goal is to have unlimited data size access through NFS, to avoid having to grow the VMFS and pass over their limitations.

Oh... I understand now what you mean. If I run FreeNAS as a guest machine, will I not be able to access the physical disks directly and build a software RAID from there ? Will I have to create some mapping to do so ? I never thought about that.
Top Expert 2009
Commented:
Generally we dont recommend software raid. But looking at your requirement, here is my suggestion

- Install ESXi 4 on the 160GB disk
- If you are lucky, create 5 separate datastore for each detected 1TB disk via VI client
- Create a vm(name VMstorage) on the 160GB disk to install FreeNas/Openfiler
- Create 5 separate 1TB virtual disks on each datastore, and assign each as additional disk to the VMstorage
- Start your VMstorage, and create software raid 5 using all the 5 extra disks
- Create another VM in the 160GB disk, present the raid disks to your other VM

By the way, i'm pretty sure your system will work, check out http://www.vm-help.com//esx40i/esx40_whitebox_HCL.php
Unless the model if different, finger cross :)

Good luck!
If you run FreeNAS as a Guest, then you would need to map VMDK files to the Guest.

An alternative would be to install FreeNAS on another physical Server box if feasible and manage your Storage from there.

Author

Commented:
@ryder0707:
Hey, pretty good tip, sounds like a workable solution. Actually I found this which is very close to what I want, except I will have a single server :
ESXi on the cheap
Since FreeNAS is serving iSCSI too, I might even have the choice between NFS and iSCSI for each VM.

Top Expert 2009

Commented:
You got it right about iscsi, if your guest OS is Windows based, you can download the Microsoft iscsi iniator software to see the disk
It is easy to do this with OpenFiler, i even shared iscsi disk using OpenFiler to test vmotion between 2 esx hosts
Not familiar about FreeNas but i'm sure it can do the same thing as OpenFiler and you can get nfs client for windows if you decide to you nfs
The choice is yours!
Cheers!

Author

Commented:
I have ordered all missing hardware. Thanks for your tips. Last question, is there any PCI WiFi adapter supported by ESXi ? I cannot find any of them on the HCL. If none are supported I will have to buy a WiFi-Ethernet bridge.
Thanks
 

Author

Commented:
I'm currently building ryder0707's solution and have no problem so far. I'm close to have a running environment as described. Thanks to all.

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