Can't create or modify VHDs / VHDxes on Lenovo IX2 NAS.

We've got a Lenovo IX2 NAS.

We are trying to create VHDxes on it with the intent of attaching the VHDxes to some of our virtual servers so that each server has a network location to which it can save incremental Windows Image Backups.  (This works with locally attached storage.)

If I try to create a VHDx on the NAS, I get "incorrect function".  If I create a VHDx locally, then move it to the NAS and attempt to attach it via Disk Management, I get "incorrect function".  However, I can read/write/modify regular files to the NAS with no problems.  

I did some Googling and I found a thread talking about Netgear NASes in which it recommended enabling SMB2.  All I can find in the IX2's configuration is just enabling or disabling SMB--there is no mention of which version.

So, I'd like to be able to create and modify VHDxes on this NAS--is it possible or should I scrap it and buy something else?
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Cliff GaliherCommented:
Only SMB3 (not SMB1 or 2) is supported for file shares hosting VHD/VHDX files. Your equipment can't do what you want.
SINC_dmackAuthor Commented:
That's kind of what I figured.  Are there any reasonably-priced NASes that you recommend, which support SMB3?  I'd prefer a 2-bay unit.  Thanks!
Cliff GaliherCommented:
Not that I'd run live mounted disks from. The performance penalty is just too big from cheap NAS boxes, which is a great way to corrupt your VM (and the reason SMB1 and 2 aren't supported.)
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SINC_dmackAuthor Commented:
I don't actually plan to run the VMs from the NAS.  I'm just going to create VHDxes that the HyperV parent servers will map to in order to provide backups.  

Basically, I've got four HyperV parents that I'd like to back up and a pair of 6TB drives that I'd like to have mirrored in a NAS.  I'll create four 1.5TB VHDxes on the NAS.  Each HyperV parent will get mapped to one of the VHDxes and then store its Windows Image Backups to it.  

The VHDxes on the NAS will only be used once a day for each HyperV parent to do an incremental backup to it, so disk and/or NAS speed shouldn't be a problem.  (Presumably.)
SINC_dmackAuthor Commented:
On a side note, the IX2 support iSCSI.  I'm going to try enabling that to see if it will allow the storage to be accessed in a way that's compatible with VHDxes.
Cliff GaliherCommented:
In general, iSCSI is supported so you shouldn't have a problem there. Just watch your performance metrics. The Lenovo box may be underpowered if those virtual disks are seeing regular IO.  Disk queue depth is an important one to watch over time.
SINC_dmackAuthor Commented:

What I did to get it to work:
1) Deleted the share I'd created on the IX2.  
2) Enabled iSCSI.  Put a checkmark next to "enable discover with iSNS" and a bullet next to "use local iSNS server".  (I left CHAP disabled.)
3) I clicked "add an iSCSI drive" and added a drive that used up all of the available free space (except for about 87GB that it wouldn't use, for whatever reason). I named it "Backups".
4) I ran the iSCSI Initiator (under Administrative Tools) on the Windows Server '08 Standard box that acts as our file repository and print server.  
5) I followed the steps here on how to set up an iSCSI connection to the NAS:
6) Once set up with the iSCSI Initiator, the iSCSI device I'd created showed up as an unconfigured drive in Disk Management.  I created an NTFS partition on the whole thing and shared it as NAS_Backups.
7) On one of the HyperV servers, I mapped a drive letter to \\<server08box>\NAS_Backups.  I then created a VHDx on the mapped drive.  It created successfully.  I then formatted it and was able to read and write to it.

I'll get some backup sets configured which will be the final test, but at this point, it looks like I've managed to work around the lack of SMB3 on the NAS itself.

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SINC_dmackAuthor Commented:
Write speed while creating the VHDx is around 42MB/sec.  That's not great but it's faster than the ~30MB/sec that I am getting with the USB2.0 drives that are being replaced as backup devices for these servers.
Cliff GaliherCommented:
Yikes.  That is a bit complicated for your needs.  You are essentially sending backup traffic over the wire *twice* which is going to compound any performance issues you already have with that NAS, but makes troubleshooting orders of magnitude harder and has traffic flowing through your file server unnecessarily.

When you said you were going to look at iSCSI, that wasn't the direction I thought you were going!

May I suggest that instead of mounting the iSCSI disk on your file server, create two iSCSI disks (one for each Hyper-V server) and mount them in your Hyper-V servers directly.  Those servers have the iSCSI initiator just like the file server does and will mount the drives just like the file server did, and will appear as disks in disk manager and can therefore be used for backups just like the VHDXs on the share you have now.  But you avoid the double-tax of two network protocols and you don't have everything going through the file server...which just seems superfluous to me.

And no matter which way you go, you should be dedicating a NIC to iSCSI and not running iSCSI over the same network as your other LAN traffic. iSCSI is still a variant of SCSI and latency will cause failures, unlike TCP which is intended to be resilient.
SINC_dmackAuthor Commented:
I get what you're saying about adding a point of failure and causing potential latency issues by having the iSCSI connection mapped through a second server instead of directly from the HyperV parents to the iSCSI shares, but I've avoided doing that so I don't have to worry about managing multiple iSCSI shares on the NAS.  By having all of the backup destination VHDxes on one iSCSI partition, I can resize or move them at will.  If I had separate iSCSI shares for each HyperV server, it would be much harder to reallocate space should one server's backups be more space-intensive than the others.  

Right now, one of the HyperV servers is creating a VHDx on the NAS, writing to it at about 41MB/sec.  I pulled a 15GB file from the storage server (the one that is sharing the iSCSI share to the HyperV servers) to my workstation.  The file read at 48MB/sec and ping times from my workstation to the storage server never went higher than 6ms.  That makes sense, as the NAS is being written to at 41MB/sec--accounting for pretty much the full 1Gbit pipe between the storage server and the rest of the network.

The backups from the HyperV parents to the NAS will be done between midnight at 6AM (so they won't impact network traffic during work hours) and are going to be staggered so that each backup finishes before the next one starts.  I've got the first one scheduled to go off tonight; the rest, I'll add one at a time each subsequent day.

That said, I appreciate your suggestion and will keep it in mind in case there are any performance or reliability issues.
Cliff GaliherCommented:
Keep in mind that, as I said, running a VHD on a fileshare is only supported over SMB3. There are legitimate and real reasons for that.  If I read your current workaround properly, your fileshare resides on a 2008 server, which only runs SMB2.  You run a very high risk of corruption with this setup as-is, and being these are backups, the worst time to find out you have a corrupt file is when you go to restore that backup and it is too late to change your configuration.

I'd urge you to reconsider.  But...there it is.
SINC_dmackAuthor Commented:
Noted.  I've slowly been moving services off of this particular '08 server, and I think I've got it to the point where I could format it and install Server '12, which will give me proper SMB3 support.  I appreciate your concern.
SINC_dmackAuthor Commented:
It just occurred to me that I had a low-load Server '12 box available, so I moved the iSCSI initiator-based share to that box instead.  I'll recreate the backups from scratch to ensure that they're all done through SMB3 and therefore good.  Thanks!
SINC_dmackAuthor Commented:
I was able to get the existing NAS working as desired, which saved me the time and trouble of shopping for a replacement.
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