Storage for Home ESXi Lab: Best recommend configuration?

I am not as verse in the storage area as I would like to be yet and would like to learn more and get everyone's input on the best setup for a home lab (as well as any other info in general).

From "getting by" to high end storage setup; is what I'd like to know...

I have 2 HP DL G5 servers (380, 360) with ESXi 5.5 on both in a cluster. I have the ESXi installed on a 8GB micro USB flash drive connected to the internal USB riser port for both servers.
I plan on expanding my lab, etc but need to get the "storage plan" in place first.

I only have about 500 GB of internal total storage tween the 2 servers as of now (but based on your recommends I'm open to buy more parts/storage, etc).


Primary purpose is for VMware (Horizon View VDI, etc) and Citrix (XenDestop/XenApp, and NetScaler, etc) testing, and secondary  use just for MS products, Linux and whatever else.

So I know there's quite a few options such as:
- VMware vSAN
- FreeNAS
- Synology external NAS
 - etc.

Then there's types of storage like SAN, NAS, and VMFS.
I get NAS is file based and SAN is block based. Please describe when you'd use one over the other in this case. I understand SAN tends to be faster?

Then there's the different protocols like:
FCoE
iSCSI
Etc

Any input or recommendations I'd greatly appreciate it!

Thank you!
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ITAddictAsked:
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
It depends on the SAN or NAS, or Hybrid SAN/NAS you have as to which iSCSI or NFS is faster.

NFS is considered to be easier to setup, because you just present the NFS export to ESXi, with iSCSI, you need to create individual LUNs and present them to ESXi.

iSCSI Networking could be considered to be more complicated to setup correctly. See my EE Article

HOW TO: Add an iSCSI Software Adaptor and Create an iSCSI Multipath Network in VMware vSphere Hypervisor ESXi 5.0

HOW TO: Enable Jumbo Frames on a VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi 5.0) host server using the VMware vSphere Client

The best thing to do is experiment with your equipment, and see which is fastest...

What is more IMPORTANT, is the number of disks, and speed of disks, in your RAID set, in your SAN or NAS, which will give you the performance or IOPS for your Lab.

Hence why vSAN is important because it's clustered local attached storage, that has no latency, unlike Network (SAN and NAS) protocols.

as for FCoE - I was reading an article which states this is DEAD! (only Cisco prompted it!), and everybody went and used iSCSI or NFS! (via 10GBe)

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ITAddictAuthor Commented:
@Andrew,

I appreciate the info! Could you further explain using multiple disks (in your RAID set)? I have heard this a lot of times, and I get by spreading the "load" IO across more disks increases performance (especially using SSD). However, can you kind of explain how you would determine the number of disks needed, etc.? Is there a high level formula or best practice such as for ever number of IOPs/GB you need X number of disks?

Also, just so we're clear, and I understood you correctly...You are saying you would NOT recommend the Synology rout, and would just stick with vSAN?
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
each spindle provides you with IOPS, e.g. 120 IOPS per disk.

So the more disks you have in a RAID set, the More IOPS overall for the datastore.

But with different RAID sets, e.g. RAID 1, RAID 10, RAID 6 all have different performance characteristics.

Synology has some budget NAS/SAN units.

BUT all network storage will suffer performance issues, because of the latency in the network, you use to attach it to the server.

Local disks ,do not have this network latency.... because they are local.
ITAddictAuthor Commented:
Thank you Andrew!
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