VMware ESXi 5 Boot Drive

wchestnut
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Hello, Experts!

We're planning to use the free version of ESXi 5.  We're a SMB with about 60 active employees with 4 servers consisting of a Domain/File/Print, Exchange 2003, SQL 2007/SharePoint 2010 and a Web server that we'll be P2V'ing and later upgrading Exchange to 2010.

We bought two Dell PowerEdge T610 Servers each with a 3.47GHz Xeon CPU, 32GB RAM and two 600GB 15K SAS Drives in RAID 1 to store the virtual machine files.  And, we're also getting a QNAP NAS for iSCSI storage for server data files.

For performance purposes, it was recommended that we use a flash drive to install VMware, but I'm having my doubts and using it in a production environment.  We wanted to use SDHC cards but the servers came with a USB internal port instead of a CF reader.  So, I purchased a 4GB SanDisk Cruiser for each server.

I was able to install and configure the first server without a problem.  The second one, however, got stuck on the VMware boot process after the second reboot.  Since it's a new configuration, I'm re-installing everything again on the second server.

I'm worried about the flash boot drives failing in the future.  If there is a way to make an exact backup of the internal flash drive to a second one externally, then I might not be so concerned.  I'd like to make one for each server but not sure if that's possible.

Or, would we be better off not using flash drives for VMware and just using the RAID 1 volume?  I'm thinking there might not be as much of a performance hit for our smaller environment.  

I'm looking for some advice before we jump ship and commit to a virtual environment.  Thanks in advance!
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Commented:
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE Fellow)VMware and Virtualization Consultant
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Commented:
We've been deploying ESXi to high quality USB flash drives and SD cards for many years without issue. (since 2004!)

I would not waste storage on installing ESXi to local disks.

on a side note, your RAID 1 performance will be poor, you would be better using four disks in RAID 10.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE Fellow)VMware and Virtualization Consultant
Fellow 2018
Expert of the Year 2017
Commented:
SD cards and USB flash drives we use are SanDisk and HP.

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Commented:
hanccocka, awesome article -- that's exactly what I needed, thanks!

It's also good to know about your experience with flash drives.  

It was recommended to use by an outside Consultant that we go with RAID 1 with 15K drives to help keep the cost of the new servers down, plus we're intending on each server's system C: drive will be on the RAID 1 Datastore while the data files live on a Datastore on our new NAS with iSCSI Targets.  Hopefully that will work well enough for our smaller environment.

I finished re-installing and it looks like it's working now.  Thanks for the feedback!
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE Fellow)VMware and Virtualization Consultant
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Expert of the Year 2017

Commented:
just be warned if performance sucks, this is the reason!

more spindles = more disk = more IOPS = more performance.

Also using free, you'll have issues with Backups!

Also iSCSI and cheap NASes, also can perform poorly. because they uses SATA 7200rpm disks, RAID1 and our slow.

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Commented:
We're getting a QNAP TS-879U-RP which I believe is a higher-end model with 8 drive bays.  Unfortunately, we couldn't get Enterprise-class drives because of the shortage so we did get 8 Desktop-class 7.2K's for now and we'll do RAID10 with a Hot Spare.  If we find the performance isn't very good, we'll replace them with faster Enterprise-class drives when they become available again.

All of this was recommended by a guy who we have high confidence in and he's used this exact configuration in other environments and kept it relatively inexpensive while maintaining decent performance and a number of "workarounds" such as the backup issue (he's mentioned that already).  I just hope he's right!
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE Fellow)VMware and Virtualization Consultant
Fellow 2018
Expert of the Year 2017

Commented:
Personally we would not use desktop class drives! for any of our clients.

Most EE issues we get our, why does my performance in X, suck!

oh you've got SATA 7.2k desktop drives!

It's only $500 for LICENSED VMware!

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