(virtualised) Storage Recommendations

Hi all

Went though this all with my supplier who recommended this spec, but I forgot to write it down during the phone call and I want to double check your opinions, on what to place where!

2 Servers each with 2xXeon 5620 2.6Ghz QC, 16GM RAM, 1 x 160GB SSD, 6x NIC, 2xPSU

iSCSI SAN with 1xXeon X3460 2.8Ghz QC, 8GB RAM, 4x1TB NL SAS 7.2K, 2 x300GB SAS 15K, 512MB BBWC, 6 x NIC, 2xPSU, Windows Storage Server 2008 Embedded, Starwind Enterprise CDP Editon

The 2 physical servers will be running VMWare Essentials, with the following VM's all based on Windows Server 2008 R2:

Server 1
1 x DC (DHCP, DNS, NTP, etc)
1 x Exchange 2010
Server 2
1 x SQL (Sage 200 + Bespoke CRM)
1 x File/Print Server

May consolidate File/Print with DC.

Given the above, how do you think I should structure this?

Here are my thoughts:

160GB SSD's - VMware Hypervisors
4 x 1TB NL SAS 7.2K - RAID 5 for VMDK (OS Images), Shared Data, Exchange Mailboxes
2 x 300GB SAS 15K - RAID 1 for SQL DBs + Exchange Logs

Future plan is to acquire another iSCSI SAN to provide HA, possibly at a DR site along with another (at least 1) physical node.

Comments/thoughts appreciated.
Who is Participating?
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
What are the make and model of servers?

SSDs for the installation of ESXi - no. Use good quality SD cards and USB pens. Waste of money, and I'm not sure if supported. Install to SD/USB and hard drives normally.

Normally the datastore that created for virtual machines, is one array. RAID 10 is preferable for read and write performance, at the compromise of storage, otherwise RAID 5 is okay.

More spinny disks as possible in the array, the more the better.

I don't like the 7.2k SAS drives, All 10k or 15k, in one large array, you need these to be as fast as possible, because you are using Windows 2008 Storage Server, and then StarWind on top, to create iSCSI LUNs, on a NTFS filesystem.

So make sure your StarWind Storage for iSCSI LUNs in on a FAST Array of RAID 10, SAS 10k or 15k disks.
SSDs are a waste of money for hypervisors, they just get loaded into RAM at boot and then just sit there. Compact Flash or USB sticks with ESXi are the way it's going.

16GB RAM not generally a good idea, for performance you want all 3 memory channels of the CPU (or both CPUs) populated. 24GB sounds better, 4GB sticks are best buy at the moment.

Just 4 VMs so even with HA (if you went for Essentials Plus) you'd only need 1 Windows Enterprise license per server since that covers 4 VMs max under MS licensing.
hongeditAuthor Commented:
Hi Andy

Appreciate the insight there, very interesting.

Nothing much I can do in the immediate term, as the kit is being delivered any minute now and will be racked and starting install today.

I will look into the USB stick thing and in the future I can possibly whip out the SSD's, and redeploy them elsewhere.

RAM-wise, we were always looking to upgrade as and when required anyway - so will keep this in mind also.

Didnt get Essentials Plus due to capital cost, but an upgrade license will probably be on the cards when the DR site comes along next year.

I should mention, this current spec is quite overspecced for the current requirements. My instructions were to get in a base system that can be left alone for the next 2 years, and last for at least 5 (and double the users) with minimal disruption in terms of hardware upgrades.

What are your thoughts on the rest of the storage layout?
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
What you must check is that the servers that have been specified are on the Hardware Compatibility List. If you are thinkling of using VMware Essentials Plus.

I don't see what make and model of servers you are using here.


As for memory in the servers, as andyalder has mentioned you really need to upgrade the RAM ro at least 24GB.

We do all our installations for ESXi, on good quality flash drives or SSD (Sandisk or HP).

As for the SAN, you have chosen a software iSCSI SAN, is there a reason, why you have not considered a hardware SAN, is it budget?
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
I slipped on a key, ESXi installs on usb or SD (Sandisk ore HP), we only use SSD for VMs requiring high IOPS, and then we use Fusion-IO drives (althoughn testing consumer Intel and KIngston at present).
hongeditAuthor Commented:
The Servers are both identical and are on the HCL.

I will make the 24GB upgrade my top priority...as soon as the dust has settled a bit :o)

The SAN box comes with Windows 2008 Storage Server Embedded. The use of Starwind Enterprise CDP was also acquired becuase of various reasons

Replication between SAN boxes (when 2nd is acquired)
The ability to VMFS + Thin Provisioning
Other value-adds of which specifics I cant recall...they are all in the proposal doc which is back in the office somewhere

What I really want your opinion on though is this bit:

160GB SSD's - VMware Hypervisors
4 x 1TB NL SAS 7.2K - RAID 5 for VMDK (OS Images), Shared Data, Exchange Mailboxes
2 x 300GB SAS 15K - RAID 1 for SQL DBs + Exchange Logs

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