fvogel
Contributor
Contributor

VM Storage Strategy for ESX Server with external file server

Hello All,

Briefly, I am brand new to the ESX server platform but I do have experience using VM Ware Server. I am also a developer putting together a test lab and not a seasoned IT guy. My management recent purchased a very nice box and V3I 3.0.1 w/Upgrade 1. We also acquired a seperate very nice file server running win2k3 fileserver r2.

I put the ESX server together with no problem. What I'm trying to wrap my noodle around is how to manage our VMs effectivly. The plan is to store several hundred test VMs on the file server and then move configurations over the to esx server to run. Eventually the idea is to set up NFS between the two so we don't have to move stuff around so much.

I'm not ready for the NFS discussion yet.

What I need to do is figure out successful storage strategies for managing and organzing a large number of VMs so that they are easy to find, easy to know what they are, and not have a lot of unnecessary redundancy. I have asked for the lab manager software which I believe does all of this; but that isn't going to happen so I have to figure it out. The tough thing about VMs is that there is a lot of information needed to actually locate an appropriate VM. The OS, the configuration (i.e. is it a domain controller), the applications that are on it to test with, the configuration of the application, the app or os SP level, etc. This could lead to several VMs that are all similar but actually significantly differnt in terms of the tests but for all intents and purposes seem the same. Another constraint I have to deal with is I have to maintain configuration control of these VMs. I want people to check them out and use them and keep the library the same and will create a process to check in new VMs and widow off old VMs/configs that are no longer needed.

I have been overwhelmed with trying to learn the ESX server and sifting through huge documents with volumes of information on a lot of stuff i need to know, a lot of stuff i don't know that i need to know yet, and stuff that doesnt' help me. I was hoping that the community out there has some expierence with this same problem and can provide me some tips/pointers/processes or point me to some good links/white papers/documents that deal with these organizational problems head on. Also, if you think the HW configuration I described could be modified in use, i would like to know how these two boxes can be better utilized. 1 box has 4 xenon 4 processors with 32GB ram and 900GB scsi drives in raid5 the file server has 2 xenon 4 processors 8GB and 5TB raid5 configuration.

Thank you in advance,

Fred

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5 Replies
Texiwill
Leadership
Leadership

Hello,

You may wish to investigate VDI/VDM for this. YOu can setup a pool of VMs and people can use them, in effect checking them out, etc. You can setup all sorts of interesting rules for it. All VMs are accessed via Remote Desktop. You can even use Linux VMs using various RDP interfaces for Linux xrdp, etc.

Other than that there is no mechanism to 'check-out/check-in' a VM.


Best regards,

Edward L. Haletky

VMware Communities User Moderator

====

Author of the book 'VMWare ESX Server in the Enterprise: Planning and Securing Virtualization Servers', Copyright 2008 Pearson Education. As well as the Virtualization Wiki at http://www.astroarch.com/wiki/index.php/Virtualization

--
Edward L. Haletky
vExpert XII: 2009-2020,
VMTN Community Moderator
vSphere Upgrade Saga: https://www.astroarch.com/blogs
GitHub Repo: https://github.com/Texiwill
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DCasota
Hot Shot
Hot Shot

Hi,

Here a short description of the products which might be interesting for you:

  • For test scenarios Lab Manager is the right product. Testers can save a VM with a bug constellation and send a notice to the corresponding developer. The developer can reproduce the error without changing the saved state of the vm from the tester.

  • VDM is the right product for mobility and integration of external employees. If your company has sales representatives who travel a lot and you want them to use VMs, with VDM they can checkout out their VMs before travelling and the moment they return to the office they can check the VMs in.

  • Another aspect is the staging process: Maybe the new product (which is actuallay in beta state) Stage Manager is the product you're looking for. Have a look at the user's guide and at the video tutorials.

You can evaluate each product and decide, if it fits your company's needs. If you have to convince the mgmt, try to involve a VAC (VMware authorized consultant) or VMware directly, so they can help to estimate the benefits from a financial aspect (TCO, payback).

Hope this helps.

fvogel
Contributor
Contributor

Mr. Haletky,

Thanks for your reply. I'm far less concerned about the mechanics of configuration control than just getting a handle on how to organize and manage a lot of vm's. Since this is a QA lab i have lots of VM's with lots of configurations that all have to be stored in an organized way such that people can quickly dive in an find the one(s) they need. Also, I'm having trouble dealing with the fact that I know very little about the vmfs on the ESX server and I have my vm's stored on a seperate windows file server that does not have the same filesystem. In our situation we do not yet have a set-up where we run the vm's from the file server. We have to copy them from the file server to the ESX machine to run them. The network capability will come later. So I am able to maintain configuration management by managing r/w access on the file server and setting up a process to move things over to the ESX server.

Personally I expected a few people to have had to deal with this problem before and a few newbies like me to jump in and say "me too". Maybe, since this is all new to me and have not been trained on it yet, i'm not seeing some things that are obvious to people in the know; or i'm still stuck in a different paradigm so that to people here my problem doesn't make sense to them the same way that I can't figure out a solution that satisfies me. Our approach is just going to be a large directory tree organization on the filesever and people can drill down into the tree to get what they want.

Thanks again,

Fred

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Texiwill
Leadership
Leadership

Hello,

When I worked at another company we had a similar problem. A slow small ESX server but we had 50 VMs registered to it. We used a naming convention that told us exactly was in the VM so that we could start it up at any time. The only difference is that we kept them all on our SAN based VMFS. You have different options now (at the time SAN was the only mechanism).

You really want the VMs registered to your ESX server so that you can easily boot the VM, do your test, shutdown the VM. The copy from a CIFS based storage server will add quite a bit to your test times.

If you need the external storage like this and you are running windows look into SFU (Services for Unix) which contains an NFS server which ESX can use as a datastore or into an iSCSI target server (there are several for Windows). If its a Linux server, then either implement the iSCSI Enterprise Target or the builtin NFS Server. Most people design their VI with remote storage in mind to alleviate copying data just to run a VM.

But in answer to your question it appears your best bet is to start using a good naming convention that is well defined to help people find the VMs in question. The next step would be to implement some form of iSCSI/NFS or SAN storage solution to alleviate the copy aspects of your VM deployment strategy.

But there is no method I know about to implement a VMDK checkout service within ESX. You would have to implement some form of change/file control system like subversion, cvs, sccs, rcs, etc. Pick one that can handle files that are gigabytes in size. But you can do pools of VMs using VDI/VDM.


Best regards,

Edward L. Haletky

VMware Communities User Moderator

====

Author of the book 'VMWare ESX Server in the Enterprise: Planning and Securing Virtualization Servers', Copyright 2008 Pearson Education. As well as the Virtualization Wiki at http://www.astroarch.com/wiki/index.php/Virtualization

--
Edward L. Haletky
vExpert XII: 2009-2020,
VMTN Community Moderator
vSphere Upgrade Saga: https://www.astroarch.com/blogs
GitHub Repo: https://github.com/Texiwill
fvogel
Contributor
Contributor

Just going over my messages i have left. This was like my first post and i didnt know about points, so I assigned some. Thank you both for your answers.

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