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Unfortunately I'm still dealing these days with the deployment of VMware Server 2.0.2 hosted on Ubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS. Internal testing has shown big problems when running on a 64bit host but everything's fine on a 32bit host and that's what I have to use.

While I'm used to deploy Xen guests on bare blocks devices (usually in the form of LVM2 volumes), VMware Server uses files on the host as storage backend. I am using a logical volume for the /var/lib/vmware mountpoint.

I seem to remember reading an article about getting better performance from "simpler" filesystems for such situations, and its reasoning made sense to me. It would leave protection from corruption to VMware's syncing of every block ("optimize for safety" in the virtual disk configuration) instead of leveraging journaling filesystems or stuff like that.

That could suggest ext2 actually makes sense during regular use and it could provide the best performance - I have not tested this and am just guessing. The problem with ext2 lies in fsck - it would take ages compared to a journaled filesystem.

We then revert to our beloved ext3 and/or the newer ext4, but which one of the two? with what options?

Has anyone done, or found somewhere, some testing on filesystems used for /var/lib/vmware ? Do you have any recommendation?

EDIT: this specific system uses 4x 7200rpm disks on a raid5 hardware controller with writeback battery-backed cache, if that matters.

2nd EDIT: I cannot change host hardware details, including raid setup :(

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Don't use VMWare Server. It is EoS in a few months. –  MDMarra Jan 29 '11 at 17:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I'll make a couple suggestions. :D

  • Regarding the disk architecture, I would not suggest running raid 5. Your write performance is going to flatline very quickly. Rather, Raid-10 would be a much better solution if you are concerned with performance.
  • Regarding the filesystem, I have never used VMware server in the context of performance, but I would suggest the OS default. In the case of 10.04, EXT4. XFS would definitely give you better performance, but I would be worried about the support around XFS.
  • If possible, I would run ESXi rather than vmware server 2.0.2. If you have a problem with x64 architecture, ESXi 3.5 runs on 32-bit hardware, otherwise the performance of 4.1 would be the best choice. And it's free.
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+1 on most points: 1) raid5 is nice for files, terrible for imagefiles. 2) ext3 has almost exactly the same performance as ext2, and ext4 is better than those in most cases (in many cases, better than xfs), 3) vmware server 2 has terrible scalability problems, (much worse than vmware server 1), go with ESXi –  Javier Jan 28 '11 at 19:09

I'd suggest the XFS filesystem if you absolutely must run VMWare Server. Since you have a BBWC on the controller, you can create the filesystem with normal options and just make sure to mount with noatime and nobarrier.

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