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Storage Configuration for Dell Poweredge 2900 with ESXi 4.1

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I have been asked to configure a couple of Dell Poweredge servers with ESXi 4.1. They had been used to run ESX 4.0 before, but have been wiped, and now need re-instating.

Each machine has eight 1TB SATA drives with SAS adapters, connected to a PERC6 RAID controller.

I tried initially to format the whole array as RAID6 using all eight drives, resulting in a virtual disk of 5.7TB.

ESXi 4.1 installed fine, but when I examine the server using vSphere client, the storage volume is only 1.47TB.

Is there a limitation I am hitting here?

Are there any recommendations on how this should be setup, i.e. manual partitioning of the drive, or changing the configuration at the controller?

In other systems I've looked at it was possible to create multiple virtual disks on a set of physical disks, i.e. I can divide the entire eight disk set into arbitrary virtual disk volume sizes. With the Dell however it would appear that a virtual disk can only be setup with a whole number of physical drives. In this case, I could create one virtual disk using a single 1TB drive for installing ESXi, and the remaining 7 drives to create a second virtual drive for the storage. Obviously this is a awful waste of space, and means I cannot take advantage of any drive redundancy for the boot virtual disk itself.

If it was one of the machines from my own department, I would simply put in a flash drive to install ESXi to, but I have been told this is not an option.

No one is able to tell me how the original ESX 4.0 storage was configured, only that it roughly 7TB, which suggests that all 8 drives were configured as RAID5 into a single storage volume.

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Contributor
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To do the firmware updates you can use the Dell Repsoitory Manager to create bootable media containing the firmware.

http://support.us.dell.com/support/downloads/download.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=gen&releaseid=R290698&formatc...

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Immortal
Immortal

Hello.

Yes, there is a limitiation you are running into here.  It is discussed in kb 3371739, and the solution, as you said, is to do some manual partitioning.

Good Luck!

Brian Atkinson | vExpert | VMTN Moderator | Author of "VCP5-DCV VMware Certified Professional-Data Center Virtualization on vSphere 5.5 Study Guide: VCP-550" | @vmroyale | http://vmroyale.com
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I am loathed to creating multiple virtual disks in the controller BIOS for the reasons given before.

Is there a way to partition the drive using the ESXi comand line, or some 3rd party tool like GParted?

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Immortal
Immortal

At the controller you can break up the array into virtual LUNs (virtual disks) slightly less than 2TB. Create a 10GB one for ESX. You might also want to consider installing ESXi since this will be not be available beyond the current version.

-- David -- VMware Communities Moderator
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Immortal
Immortal

I am loathed to creating multiple virtual disks in the controller BIOS for the reasons given before.


Not possible.

-- David -- VMware Communities Moderator
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Expert

Well that has been my experience in the past with other machines, but with this Dell things seem to be different.

During start-up I press CTRL-R to go into the RAID controller configuration utility.

For each virtual disk I then have to select which physical disks are going to be used for the virtual disk, and which RAID format to use.

I am therefore faced with having to create a 1TB RAID1 virtual disk using two of the drives and using the remaining six drives as a single RAID6 virtual disk. This seems an awful waste of available space to me.

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Immortal
Immortal

I would go through your documentation. You can create multiple Virtual Disks across all the drives.

-- David -- VMware Communities Moderator
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Virtuoso
Virtuoso
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I have several of these servers as well, and agree it isn't fun to setup things in their BIOS. I believe when you setup the drives in the BIOS you can change the available size. Create multiple ones in the sizes you need using the same physical disks, but make sure you select the same RAID setting for all of them.

I haven't tried it but it makes sense...

If you can't do it in the BIOS then the only other thing I can think of is using the Dell OpenManage software, which requires Windows... You can only use the Online Capacity Expansion (OCE) options to add drives to a RAID-5 for instance using this software. This would be a considerable annoyance for an ESX server...

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Nope, doesn't work. Once all physical disks have been selected once whilst creating a VD, they are not available again. So if I select the "Create VD" option and choose RAID-6 and all of the physical disks and create a 5GB volume size. It is not possible to create any further VDs. All the create options are greyed out.

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Virtuoso
Virtuoso

Do you have the latest firmware on the controller (see here)?

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The truth is the firmware is serveral versions out of date, but having read through the release notes for subsequent versions, there is nothing to suggest that the situation would improve by updating the firmware, and given that the machines have no operating system at all on the, there might be a problem installing the PERC 6/i FW update, as it looks as if the machine needs to be running Windows or Linux to run the update!!

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To do the firmware updates you can use the Dell Repsoitory Manager to create bootable media containing the firmware.

http://support.us.dell.com/support/downloads/download.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=gen&releaseid=R290698&formatc...

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Yup sorted out now, many thanks:

The complete answer:

Update the PERC 6/i controller firmware to the latest (6.3.0).

THEN!!! The CTRL-R utility works as I expected...

Clear configuration.

Create first VD as 5GB, RAID-6 on all disks.

Now the create "Additional VD" is not grey any more, so I created a further 3 VDs using the remaining space divided into three.

Install ESXi 4.1 to the 5GB VD.

After reboot and set up, examine the server using vSphere Client.

There will be four Datastores, 1 to 4. One of which will be the 5GB one containing ESXi, delete the others.

Get  properties on the remaining datastore, and click "Increase". A list  will be built showing the VDs that are now unused. Add them one at a  time to the remaining datastore, and ESXi will combine them as extents  to the 5GB partition.

Why not simply divide the whole  space into three and just create VDs? Because you need to be able to  identify where the ESXi installation is, so as not to delete it.

In  fact I could have create a separate datastore using the large VDs and  left the 5GB one on its own, but in my experience some software  engineers don't pay much attention to where their virtual machines are  created, and inadvertently build them in the small ESXi datastore. This  solution avoids that.

Many thanks to everyone for their time and help.

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Virtuoso
Virtuoso

For future reference, the ESXi installer is pretty useless (dangerous actually) with multiple LUNs behind a Perc 6i and will choose one at random, regardless of what has been chosen on-screen.  Hence it is safer to proceed with the installation with only one LUN presented and then create the other VDs once ESXi is on and running.

HTH

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Expert
Expert

That wasn't my experience. The installer allowed me to choose which of the four virtual drives to install to.

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Virtuoso
Virtuoso

Indeed it does, but it doesn't always write where you tell it...

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