vmware vsphere essentials with two servers and iscsi storage?

What would be the advantage of having two servers with external iscsi stroage running vmware vsphere essentials as opposed to two servers with their own on board storage?  iscsi storage is more complex and expensive than just purchasing the two servers with on board storage.  So is external storage really necessary?  What do I lose?  If a server goes down, I'll be able to load the VM to the other server from backup quickly, correct?  

Even though essentials doesn't include vmotion and HA, going virtual will still help reduce downtime, increase availability and performance, correct?  If so How?
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You are right.. iSCSI is more expensive and more difficult to install / maintain. But, you have a higher level of protection.. You make you're iSCSI connections / switches redundant to maintain iSCSI connection in case of cable or switch errors.

In case of a hardware crash of one server you can simply start the server directly from the other one.. It is pointing to the same virtual server on the shared storage..

The only thing now is a single iSCSI Storage box that becomes you're single point of failure..

So it is just how much can you spend on extra security / redundancy. What does it cost if half you're company (or everyone) is sitting with his / her arms over each other doing nothing..

good luck with you're decision.

kind regards,

Carlo van Orsouw
You can always switch to essentials plus for the extra HA.....
That depends; what ESX version will you be using?...ESXi? If you're using ESXi, your backup possibilities are limited. Actually, since you will have a purchased version (Essentials), you would have b/u capability, so yes, you could restore your VM (using Veeam Backup&Replication for instance) to a new/different ESX/i host.

The advantage of having shared storage is the ability to have VMotion, HA, & DRS. But, you have to have a minimum of the 'Advanced' edition for that capability. Even if you don't have that edition, you can still do a migration, albeit a cold migration either within vCenter or using the vCenter Converter Standalone tool. Shared storage is mainly used for those advanced features -> HA, DRS, VMotion; most enterprises have SLAs that are quite small and to reduce downtime, those VMware vCenter features are required.

Yes, virtualization does reduce downtime and increase availability.

Let me know if you have further questions.

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Kurt4949Author Commented:
Thanks for the quick reply's.  

So if I have two servers with internal storage plus vmware essentials then these are the advantages:

1. Backup \ Recover VM from one server to another  (we would like to backup to external usb drives)
2. Should a server fail, I can easily restore the vm's to the other server
3. I can add a 3rd server then move VM's to that machine to distribute load

Anything else?Thanks for the quick reply's.  
 So if I have two servers with internal storage plus vmware essentials  then these are the advantages:
 1. Backup \ Recover VM from one server to another  (we would like to  backup to external usb drives)
 2. Should a server fail, I can easily restore the vm's to the other  server
 3. I can add a 3rd server then move VM's to that machine to distribute  load
 Anything else?
Kurt4949Author Commented:
Not sure how that was double posted but it should of ended at "anything else?"
Keep in mind that ESX/i doesn't support USB natively. You have a couple options for your USB connection -> "passthrough" to a VM using VMDirectPath (if your host(s) support IOMMU functionality within the BIOS)
Or, you can configure passthrough to your host using this EE article by "ryder0707":

When using internal/local storage, obviously you want to configure RAIDs for failure recovery. I recommend a small (30GB) RAID1 for the ESX/i OS, then a RAID5 for your datastore. You have a limit of 2TB for a datastore/VMFS volume (see config max guide: http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vsphere4/r40/vsp_40_config_max.pdf)

Hope that helps.


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Actually, I want to take back 1 thing I said about backups...
If you use a solution like Veeam Backup, you can backup your VMs "locally". What I mean by that is, you can backup your VMs and store the files/folders on the local Windows machine Veeam is installed on. So, if it's a physical box, you can connect your USB drive to it and backup your VMs to your USB drive.

Kurt4949Author Commented:
Thanks  I'm not too worried about the usb backup.  I can attach that to a workstation or any machine and share the drive letter and backup the VMs with shadowprotect as we do now.  Hopefully I'll be able to back them up the same way with vsphere.

Are my three assumptions accurate if I have vsphere essentials:

1. Backup \ Recover VM from one server to another  (we would like to  backup to external usb drives)
2. Should a server fail, I can easily  restore the vm's to the other server
3. I can add a 3rd server then  move VM's to that machine to distribute load

Basically I have narrowed the design down to two options:

Server 1 - Domain controller \ file server \ apps
Server 2 - 2nd domain controller \ file server \ other apps
server 3 - web server


Have 2 servers instead of 3 and install EVERYTHING on various VMs.  Only reason I would go this route is so that the OS is hardware independent which should allow me to easily move the vm to the 2nd server should one go down.  However I've been told that it's a good idea to have a non virtual Domain controller so I'm leaning toward my first setup with 3 servers where most of the stuff would be non virtualized.
1. & 2. Yes, you can backup a VM to your USB drive. If you need to recover it, you can recover it to the other ESX/i host. Or, you can back up the VM to a datastore on the other ESX/i host.
3. Yes.

I recommend keeping your 2 DCs "clean" (no file services or other "apps"). I recommend running file server on 1 VM server and creating 1 *enterprise* server VM for apps, and then have a web server VM. Get a bunch of RAM for your ESX/i hosts and distribute RAM to your VMs and you'll be fine.

Kurt4949Author Commented:
Ok, i'm trying to understand your recommendation.

Server 1
   - ESXi
         - VM1 DC
         - VM2  File Server
         - VM3 App server
         -VM4 Coldfusion \ Web Server

Server 2
   - ESXi
         - VM1 DC2
         - VM2 SQL Server
         - VM3 More apps
         - VM4 PHP web server

Is something like that what you mean?  Or should the DC not be virtualized?
Nope...that's it :) DCs most certainly can be virtualized.

Here is a VMware KB:

And, from MS:

...on best practices/things to keep in mind when having DCs as VMs.

I recommend creating new VMs for your DCs, but P2V conversions work fine. I have done a dozen or so with minimal issues.

Kurt4949Author Commented:
Thanks.  Last question,  If server 1 does go down, do I need to rely on my own backup software to restore the VM's to the second server or does vsphere essentials include that functionality?
Yes...you'll have to restore a VM from your b/u solution; Essentials *PLUS* has the HA feature, whereas Essentials does not.

Kurt4949Author Commented:
Thanks that might be worth the extra money then. I guess we can use the money we would of spent on a third server on plus...
It might; just depends on your organizations requirements & SLAs. :-)

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