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sdeng
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Extending ESX 3.5 (HP Server) with SAN + second server

Hello community!

We are currently working on extending our (tiny) virtualization environment. It consists of a single server:

- HP ProLiant 2x QuadCore

- 16 GB RAM

- 3x 300 GB internal SAS

- VMWare ESX 3.5

we want to extend it with a SAN and a second server for better reliability and more storage. Our plan is to go the iSCSI way and to purchase the following components:

1) one iSCSI SAN Array:

- HP MSA2312i DualController with 8x450 GB 15k SAS

2) two switches:

- Business-class GB switches with an internal switching capacity > 20 GB/s

3) second ESX 3.5 server:

- same specs as the existing ProLiant ESX 3.5

A couple of questions arise:

1) Hardware compatibility seems given for the MSA. The ProLiant server came bundled with ESX so I assume its 100% compatible. Do I need to watch out for compatibility of the network components?

2) What do I have to watch out when choosing the switches for the iSCSI SAN? Is a huge internal switching capacity enough?

3) What performance gains would iSCSI host adapters give me and does it justify the extra cost?

4) Can I cluster both machines like having different VMs on them, but also implementing some kind of failsafe/HA mechanism so that one machine can temporarily run all VMs of both machines in the case of a hardware failure on one of the ESX?

5) What other (cheap) HA mechanisms are available? Like only using one server for production and the other as "hot standby" (starting the VMs from the SAN on the hot standby machine in case of a hardware failure on the production ESX)?

6) Do you have any general concerns with our planned setup or any tips for such a small virtualization environment?

7) Would a cheaper setup also do the job (like using a cheaper Netgear iSCSI NAS as storage for the VMs)?

Thans in advance! Kind regards,

-sd

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vmroyale
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Hello and welcome to the forums.

1) Hardware compatibility seems given for the MSA. The ProLiant server came bundled with ESX so I assume its 100% compatible. Do I need to watch out for compatibility of the network components?

The MSA2312i is supported with ESX 4.0 U1, ESX 4.0, ESX 3.5 U5, ESX 3.5 U4, ESX 3.5 U3. You didn't specify the exact Proliant you are using, but you can check it at the VMware Compatibility Guide. You can also check various IO components there - chances are good that you will be fine, but it is always good to check.

2) What do I have to watch out when choosing the switches for the iSCSI SAN? Is a huge internal switching capacity enough?

You summed it up above when you stated "business-class." Buy enterprise capable switches for your enterprise.

3) What performance gains would iSCSI host adapters give me and does it justify the extra cost?

Some, but it may not be enough to justify the cost - depends on your setup. Check out the "[Comparison of Storage Protocol Performance|http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/storage_protocol_perf.pdf]" performance study for more details. It's been a while since I last checked, but once upon a time there were no supported iSCSI HBAs for non-blade HPs on 3.5.

4) Can I cluster both machines like having different VMs on them, but also implementing some kind of failsafe/HA mechanism so that one machine can temporarily run all VMs of both machines in the case of a hardware failure on one of the ESX?

Yes. VMware HA or FT would work, but FT likely won't work on the Proliant you have.

5) What other (cheap) HA mechanisms are available? Like only using one server for production and the other as "hot standby" (starting the VMs from the SAN on the hot standby machine in case of a hardware failure on the production ESX)?

This approach would work, if you didn't have vCenter or VMware HA.

6) Do you have any general concerns with our planned setup or any tips for such a small virtualization environment?

Baseline your current systems. Know what resources are going to be required going in. Plan your backup strategy now, if you haven't already. This is not something to do after the build is complete.

7) Would a cheaper setup also do the job (like using a cheaper Netgear iSCSI NAS as storage for the VMs)?

Sure, but you almost always get what you pay for. Refer to the Compatibility Guide mentioned above, and only buy storage listed there. This is also where baselining your systems and knowing your workload requirements comes into play.

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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vmroyale
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Hello and welcome to the forums.

1) Hardware compatibility seems given for the MSA. The ProLiant server came bundled with ESX so I assume its 100% compatible. Do I need to watch out for compatibility of the network components?

The MSA2312i is supported with ESX 4.0 U1, ESX 4.0, ESX 3.5 U5, ESX 3.5 U4, ESX 3.5 U3. You didn't specify the exact Proliant you are using, but you can check it at the VMware Compatibility Guide. You can also check various IO components there - chances are good that you will be fine, but it is always good to check.

2) What do I have to watch out when choosing the switches for the iSCSI SAN? Is a huge internal switching capacity enough?

You summed it up above when you stated "business-class." Buy enterprise capable switches for your enterprise.

3) What performance gains would iSCSI host adapters give me and does it justify the extra cost?

Some, but it may not be enough to justify the cost - depends on your setup. Check out the "[Comparison of Storage Protocol Performance|http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/storage_protocol_perf.pdf]" performance study for more details. It's been a while since I last checked, but once upon a time there were no supported iSCSI HBAs for non-blade HPs on 3.5.

4) Can I cluster both machines like having different VMs on them, but also implementing some kind of failsafe/HA mechanism so that one machine can temporarily run all VMs of both machines in the case of a hardware failure on one of the ESX?

Yes. VMware HA or FT would work, but FT likely won't work on the Proliant you have.

5) What other (cheap) HA mechanisms are available? Like only using one server for production and the other as "hot standby" (starting the VMs from the SAN on the hot standby machine in case of a hardware failure on the production ESX)?

This approach would work, if you didn't have vCenter or VMware HA.

6) Do you have any general concerns with our planned setup or any tips for such a small virtualization environment?

Baseline your current systems. Know what resources are going to be required going in. Plan your backup strategy now, if you haven't already. This is not something to do after the build is complete.

7) Would a cheaper setup also do the job (like using a cheaper Netgear iSCSI NAS as storage for the VMs)?

Sure, but you almost always get what you pay for. Refer to the Compatibility Guide mentioned above, and only buy storage listed there. This is also where baselining your systems and knowing your workload requirements comes into play.

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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