Windows 2012 as a san for esxi 5?

Posted on 2013-05-30
Last Modified: 2013-06-03
Hi -
I'm thinking of using windows 2012 as an inexpensive dedicated iSCSI san.  I don't have the budget for SAN specific hardware.

I'm looking at upgrading an iSCSI SAN I have, replacing drives with higher density, better performing drives.  While I'm doing this I'm looking at changing my OS / Delivery mechanism.

I'm currently using SanMelody with a 4tb license on top of windows 2008.  I was looking at moving to SanSymphony v, but I'm wondering about using windows 2012 to directly make the storage available through it's iSCSI initiators.

Why the change?
     I don't need the virtualization of the storage that I currently get from San Melody.  I don't need to over subscribe the storage space, nor do I need the virtual pools.  I cannot benefit right now from mirrored sans that it offers, only have the one storage san.  Datacore products ride on top of windows, and use the windows iSCSI initiator.  Why not cut out the middleman?

The storage on the windows san would look like this -
Raid 1 for the OS
Raid 1+0. 3 hardware arrays at 4 disks with 1tb drives each for 6 tb of storage total, 1 hot spare.

I use openfiler for my backup storage servers, but I haven't been thrilled with the iSCSI throughput and while I'm comfortable with linux I'm leaning to windows 2012.

I've been looking at starwind, but if windows 2012 meets my needs, why buy more?

As with everyone I'm trying to hit the sweet spot of storage, performance, price and reliability, and doing it on a very small budget.

Thanks in advance for all ideas and recommendations.

Take Care,
Question by:dpedersen13

Accepted Solution

Rsilva98 earned 300 total points
ID: 39208792
yes Just setup the iscsi target on w2k12 and create virtual disks to the iscsi

here is a step by step link

Although you can do this i dont recomended. since its not best practives to setup a SAN without having more control of it (HA,FT,deduplications, etc.)

While I'm not a big fan of software storage, there are solutions like StarWind or DataCore that can convert your windows server in a storage appliance. They also offer deduplication (efficiency heavily depends on CPU and Ram of the underlying server). You can use those software onto your existing servers, or buying cheap servers like those from supermicro.

Also you can check the VMware aplicance

VMware vSphere™ Storage Appliance.
LVL 119

Assisted Solution

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 200 total points
ID: 39209364
You may want to consider using a ZFS based solution, e.g. Solaris and ZFS, provide both iSCSI and NFS, the use of SSDs for ZIL and Arc caches, makes a very fast SAN.

or, you could use Nexenta

You do not need very fast hard disks, just many of them, so you could use inexpensive 5,400 rpm disks, using ZFS, SSDs for cache, to provide a good performing SAN.

Author Comment

ID: 39209946
Thanks for the feedback and ideas.  It's good to hear that others are using win2k12, even though it's not best practices.  For me this is looking to be a 6 month - 1 year solution.

I have vSphere essentials and I'm looking to upgrade in stages, moving from a sub-best practices environment to a closer to 0 downtime environment.

Step 1 increase storage capacity, reliability and iops.  I'm currently running 500 gb 7200 rpm  consumer grade SATA drives and will be upgrading to 1tb 7200 speed SAS enterprise drives.  While the IOPS aren't really that much better, I'm hoping moving from 2 sets of 5 disk Raid 5 to 4 sets of 4 disk Raid 1+0 will help.  

Step 2 - Move to vSphere essentials plus for the Vmware Storage appliance and other goodies, especially HA, vMotion and replication.  

Step 3 - Move to a mirrored San using a product like Datacore's San Symphony.

Depending on my budget, cash flow driven, I'd like to do each upgrade in 3 - 6 months each.

Of course, I am running nightly differential backups on all 6 servers and every 2 days for desktops but want to get to storage replication as well/

How are you using the SSDs as cache?  I'm assuming this needs to be an option on the RAID card.  is that accurate?

Thanks again,
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LVL 119
ID: 39209978
No RAID card needed for ZFS solution, just insert the SSD in the box, and configure the SSD drive as ZIL Cache and Arc Cache.

see here
LVL 55

Expert Comment

ID: 39210465
Since you have no high availability on the SAN why not just shove a load of internal disks in a single ESXi host and run all your VMs on that? As far as hardware goes that would be slightly more reliable than a VMware cluster plus a single server non-HA SAN.

Author Comment

ID: 39216238
Than you every one for your comments and expertise.  

Hanccoka - Thank you for your ideas and information.  Right or wrong, I'm stuck on a hardware raid solution.  At this point, I'm still locked into a solution using currently owned software - Windows, Datacore, open filer.  I want to move to a ssd cache solution to increase I/O I will make sure to make that part of the setup once I get past the immediate situation.  I'll also use your research in that phase as well.

andyyalder - I have considered this answer as well, might still go with it.  I have 3 hosts and with centralized storage I can manually move the VMs between them which seems to be a good solution, if I can get the san straight.

I think at this point I'm going to cautiously with rsilva98 and start with a windows storage box.   Like  said before, datacore's products basically leverage windows and place virtualized storage on top of it, and the virtualized storage isn't needed right now.  

I'm awarding points because rsilva98 gave me the experiential feedback I was looking for and all of hanccoka's solutions are perfectly good in my general situation.

Thanks again,

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