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Home Lab: Can I configure external hard drive as a SAN for ESXi 5 storage?

Posted on 2013-01-11
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Last Modified: 2013-01-29
Hello,
I am setting the lab using ESXi 5 on my labtop. I have a external hard drive with 3 TB. I will have at least one AD, SharePoint 2010, SQL 2008, Linux. I also want to use the external hard drive as a SAN. So, I can create Lun and connect to ESXi 5 as a datastore.
Can I configure external hard drive as a SAN for ESXi 5 storage?
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Question by:dongocdung
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Expert Comment

by:Brad Bouchard
ID: 38769083
You should be able to.  What you would want to do is see if your 3TB External supports iSCSI, Fibre Channel, or some other connection method such as this and connect it to a switch that is used solely for that traffic.  If it doesn't you could probably create a NAS share on the External that will interact with VMware.

Here is an article about doing a virtual NAS.  True SANs require controller(s) and/or iSCSI/Fibre hookups.

http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/itanswers/creating-a-virtual-san-on-an-external-disk-drive/
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LVL 117
ID: 38769195
this is unlikely to work, as ESXi does not support USB storage.

Is the external hard drive USB or eSATA?

Have you installed ESXi on your laptop?

ESXi has limited support for storage and network controllers?
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Expert Comment

by:millardjk
ID: 38769967
When you say "setting up on my labtop"[sic], are you installing it direct (bare metal) or as a VM in a product like VMware Workstation?

In the former, you will not be able to use the external as a SAN unless it supports one of the network protocols: NFS or iSCSI. (After all, that's what makes a SAN a SAN)

If you are planning on a nested install, you will be able to use the external drive as DAS for a VM running any number of products that provide those network protocols, from Linux with OpenFiler or ReadyNAS through Windows with the iSCSI Target Service.

Understand, however, that a nested install will consume significant resources from your base hardware, and the 2nd-layer VMs will be slooooow. For lab/learning purposes, however, this is the way to go.
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38770324
I installed ESXi 5 under VMware Workstation 9. I am going to read the article and try to follow your comments.
The external hard drive is USB
thanks,
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LVL 117
ID: 38770329
if you are using under VMware Workstation, you can create a datastore (via VMDK) on your external USB disk, it's just a virtual disk exposted to the VM.
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38770333
I did read the article but I did not get it. I created a VM with OpenFiler installed in ESXi 5 already. Could you please the hint how to do that?
Thanks,
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Expert Comment

by:millardjk
ID: 38770341
Create a VM with OpenFiler under Workstation 9; that will make it a "peer" of the ESXi host. Create an iSCSI and/or NFS target and make it available to the ESXi host. Add it to the ESXi host as a datastore.
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LVL 117
ID: 38770348
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38772901
I did add iSCSI software adaptor and tried to login to OpenFiler but could not login to there. I got this on screen

You do not appear to have networking. Please login to start networking.
I also open another question for it below:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Networking/Network_Management/Q_27994031.html
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38772973
Now, I have OpenFiler installed and I am able to use web GUI.
How do I do to configure the external hard drive as a NAS.
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Expert Comment

by:millardjk
ID: 38773010
Add an additional VMDK to the OpenFiler VM. Mount the drive and format & add it to the share(s) on OpenFiler.
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LVL 117
ID: 38773025
make sure you store ALL your VMDK (virtual machine disks on the USB External Hard Drive), you cannot use the external hard drive directly as a NAS.
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38773063
I tried to create USB device after adding USB controller but It was grey out.
Do you know why?
I attach the screenshot here.
1-13-2013-8-34-42-PM.png
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Expert Comment

by:millardjk
ID: 38773067
don't try and use the external as a device in the VM. Leave it as a Windows device, and format it with NTFS.
Add a virtual disk to the OpenFiler VM that you store on the external drive.
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38773083
I don't know how to add virtual disk to OpenFiler VM that I store on the external drive.
When I click create the physical volume. It takes me to virtual disk of OpenFiler.
Please see the attachments.
Thanks,
Filer1.png
Filer2.png
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Expert Comment

by:millardjk
ID: 38773085
The "add hard disk" function is within Workstation, not OpenFiler.
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38773086
All my VMs are using the hard disk of the laptop.
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Expert Comment

by:millardjk
ID: 38773091
Workstation offers you the ability to add additional virtual disks to the VM; theoretically, you can have 60 of them before you exhaust the SCSI bus, which is just a bit of overkill.

Depending on the OS of the VM, it may be permitted to "hot add" a new vDisk.

Either way (hot or cold add), you have the option of adding an existing disk, or to create a new disk (you can also "pass through" a physical disk, but the USB drive isn't an option for this mode). Choose the "create new" option, specifying the external drive as the location for the VMDK.
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38773095
I get it. Do I need to create a new hard disk under ESXi VM?
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Expert Comment

by:millardjk
ID: 38773096
No. When the new disk is added to OpenFiler, it can then be shared with NFS. Once that is available, you attach to the ESXi VM to the share and create a datastore, which is different & distinct from adding a disk.
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38773100
I am confused now. First, I need to create a new virtual hard disk that is stored in the external hard drive. That new virtual hard disk is in ESXi VM, isn't it?
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38773101
In my VMware workstation has two VM. One is ESXi 5 and the othe one is for vSphere
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Accepted Solution

by:
millardjk earned 250 total points
ID: 38773105
Not if you're trying to simulate a SAN. Sure, you can add it to ESXi, but it is 'local'

At this point, you should have 2 VMs in workstation: ESXi & OpenFiler.

The OpenFiler VM gets the vdisk stored on the external drive, and ESXi uses Nfs to access the OpenFiler VM.
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38773109
My OpenFiler is a VM in ESXi 5. I might have done something wrong.
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38773125
as you said, after I created a new virtual hard disk for ESXi 5. It becomes the local hard disk.
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Author Comment

by:dongocdung
ID: 38773131
I think It is what I want. I will try your way later.
thank you for your time.
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Assisted Solution

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE) earned 250 total points
ID: 38773564
Build the OpenFiler VM in VMware Workstation as a VM, not as a VM in ESXi 5.0.
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