Solved

Virtualising file servers

Posted on 2013-02-04
12
477 Views
Last Modified: 2013-02-05
Hi,

We're joining the virtual party a little late and we have a couple of questions regarding file servers. This question is a general question rather than one aimed at Microsoft or VMware. I'd actually appreciate answers from both sides of the fence (I appreciate other virtualisers are available!)

Also worth noting that we are a systems integrator aimed at the small businesses. Our largest site is around 45 users. Most sites are 5 - 10 users and they generally do not have the cash to buy thousands of pounds worth of software. We're trying to see if its worth us trying to offer the main benefits of virtualised servers to our customers without costing them a small fortune. Most of our sites will only have a single Microsoft SBS type server.

Firstly, I absolutely see the point of virtualising application servers and servers with a small physical footprint. We already have a couple of VM'd RDS servers on customer sites and we're soon to install another, It's file servers that we're having problems getting our heads around...

As I understand it, half the point of having a virtual server is that we can make regular offline images that can be restored to dissimilar hardware extremely quickly. This sounds good for us and our customers. However, in the case of a file server that may have 500GB or more of stored data, we wouldnt be able to quickly create images. Storage would also be an issue. We could use 3TB USB drives but surely there must be a better way to achieve this?

Does Hyper-V or VMWare have any facility to mount file storage onto the file server that isnt included in the main VM image? Or am I missing some important part of all of this? Is there a way to exclude data areas from an image backup perhaps?

Lastly, and of much lesser importance, how would you manage RAID software? From what I can tell, it becomes difficult to view & manage the RAID when you have ESXi or Hyper-V core installed as this management software cannot be installed on the hyperviser.

Thanks in advance

Stephan
0
Comment
Question by:academynetworks
  • 5
  • 4
  • 2
  • +1
12 Comments
 
LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:Larry Larmeu
ID: 38851723
There are many options for backing up VMs.  Sounds like you are interested in image backups but concerned about the data storage.  Look into "change block tracking" a function of VMware that allows image backups but only backs up the changed data between backups.  Similar to an incremental file backup.

RAID will have to be managed at BIOS level.
0
 
LVL 6

Accepted Solution

by:
mmahaek earned 250 total points
ID: 38851937
This would somewhat depend on the type of storage you are using.  For our VMware environment, we are using a fiber channel SAN, which give some extra flexibility, but what we are doing is possible with server attached RAID arrays.

When we moved from our physical file server to a virtual file server, we used what VMware refers to as a "raw device mapping."  This means that the hypervisor was able to present the disk space directly to the virtual machine without using a virtual disk format in between.  After presenting storage space to the physical server, the space can be assigned to a VM instead of going through the formatting steps to assign the space as virtual storage.

Since the space is presented directly to the VM, there shouldn't be any performance overhead for these volumes.
0
 
LVL 120

Assisted Solution

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 250 total points
ID: 38851980
I'll answer the question backwards....

RAID is managed on both Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESXi via Agents, and Management software.

As for data areas, you coul;d create a Virtual Machine, with the data stored on a specific disk, or maybe use a NAS (which is not a VM) to store the data.

As for Backups, checkout my EE Article


VMware ESX/ESXi Backup Guide
0
Three Reasons Why Backup is Strategic

Backup is strategic to your business because your data is strategic to your business. Without backup, your business will fail. This white paper explains why it is vital for you to design and immediately execute a backup strategy to protect 100 percent of your data.

 

Author Comment

by:academynetworks
ID: 38852040
Thanks all. Of all of this, the solution suggested by mmahaek seems like the best option but I presume this is only possible with SAN hardware? Any way to present a standard internal RAID in this manner? Perhaps if it was on a separate RAID to that of the virtualiser?

Thanks for the tip on the agents.

Thanks again.

Stephan
0
 
LVL 6

Expert Comment

by:mmahaek
ID: 38852047
for your question regarding RAID management, VMware works best when you have a hardware RAID controller, though you may check with your hardware vendor.  They may have a VMware plugin to manage the storage.
0
 
LVL 6

Expert Comment

by:mmahaek
ID: 38852107
For a stand-alone RAID, you can present multiple array volumes to your hypervisor.  Format one as virtual storage and add the other to your virtual machine as a secondary disk.  The link below is from VMware about the different types of disks.

http://blogs.vmware.com/apps/2011/11/virtualized-exchange-storage-vmdk-or-rdm-or.html
0
 
LVL 120
ID: 38853031
Yes, you can do this using Virtual SAN software, e.g. VMware vSphere VSA, Starwind VSA etc
0
 

Author Closing Comment

by:academynetworks
ID: 38856478
Thanks for all the answers. Doesn't seem like there is a simple solution to this.

Many of the responses seem to rely on expensive technologies such as iSCSI & fibre channel etc, neither of which I think we would implement on a site of 5 people. The main idea is to see if we can VM small sites cheaply & bring some benefit especially for DR.

If I have understood correctly, best answers seem to be to add some basic SCSI storage which supports LUNs to allow Raw Device Mapping or otherwise, to add a second VM or NAS as a really basic file server which will allow the main SBS server to stay small enough be easily imaged.

Have tried to assign points appropriately.

Thanks again

Stephan
0
 
LVL 6

Expert Comment

by:mmahaek
ID: 38856696
With five users, I don't think you will see much performance difference between a raw hard disk mapping and a virtual hard disk.  You wouldn't start seeing an impact until you have several dozen users with high concurrent activity.
0
 

Author Comment

by:academynetworks
ID: 38856743
From what you've just said, I think I've been really thick here - Think I may have been expecting a complex answer & missing the stupidly simple one. Are you saying I can simply add an additional VHD hard disk to a VM, then when looking at imaging & backing up, we can just image the OS hard disk? Then we can backup the other data hard disk using a traditional solution?

Can't believe I missed this if so....

Yours idiotically...

Stephan
0
 
LVL 6

Expert Comment

by:mmahaek
ID: 38856770
If you are only looking at five to ten users, and have a manageable amount of space, then you really don't need to worry about complex storage configuration.  For larger sites, it may be good to look at RDM for long term scalability.  The bigger performance factor is your drives and RAID array, and how fast they can serve the data.
0
 

Author Comment

by:academynetworks
ID: 38856796
That's really helpful. Many thanks. The more complex solutions are still worth knowing about though as we may have a need for those at some point.

Cheers

Stephan
0

Featured Post

Free learning courses: Active Directory Deep Dive

Get a firm grasp on your IT environment when you learn Active Directory best practices with Veeam! Watch all, or choose any amount, of this three-part webinar series to improve your skills. From the basics to virtualization and backup, we got you covered.

Question has a verified solution.

If you are experiencing a similar issue, please ask a related question

HOW TO: Upload an ISO image to a VMware datastore for use with VMware vSphere Hypervisor 6.5 (ESXi 6.5) using the vSphere Host Client, and checking its MD5 checksum signature is correct.  It's a good idea to compare checksums, because many installat…
Is your company's data protection keeping pace with virtualization? Here are 7 dynamic ways to adapt to rapid breakthroughs in technology.
Teach the user how to install log collectors and how to configure ESXi 5.5 for remote logging Open console session and mount vCenter Server installer: Install vSphere Core Dump Collector: Install vSphere Syslog Collector: Open vSphere Client: Config…
Teach the user how to use vSphere Update Manager to update the VMware Tools and virtual machine hardware version Open vSphere Client: Review manual processes for updating VMware Tools and virtual hardware versions: Create a new baseline group in vSp…

726 members asked questions and received personalized solutions in the past 7 days.

Join the community of 500,000 technology professionals and ask your questions.

Join & Ask a Question