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I have an Ubuntu Server running KVM. I'd like to get the benefits of ZFS so I was thinking of installing a virtual machine under KVM running Nexenta (or NexentaStor), allowing that virtual machine to have raw access to a couple of physical hard disks, and then having it share its file system with NFS so that Ubuntu can access it.

I've never tried setting up KVM so that the virtual machine has access to physical drives. Does this sound feasible, and is there anything I need to watch out for? Has someone already documented something like this? Does Nexenta/ZFS function basically as well in the virtual environment as if they were running base bones? I can take a small performance hit, but I don't want it to not be as reliable because of the virtualization. Thanks.

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Running Nexenta in a virtual environment is usually done as a strategy for consolidating existing storage. Say, for example, you had several iSCSI boxes that you wanted to bring under one management set and consolidate that storage into a contiguous namespace. You could run Nexenta in a VM and use the iSCSI initiator to connect to those various iSCSI targets in your infrastructure. You can then add those devices to a pool (even raid/mirror them for greater redundancy). Then you can carve up the storage in the pool and share it out however you like. I know that strategy works very well.

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This is definitely possible under VMWare, specifically due to the hardware passthrough abilities... Take a look at the blog post at:

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For the sake of better I/O and more solid resource management I would advise using ESXi instead. It is a Hypervisor tailored for maximum VM performance, and allows for outstanding resource management. NexentaStor is demanding at times, and I tend to lean towards more robust solutions where my VM is going to be a high I/O system.

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Given your base set of goals, I would strongly recommend looking at the KVM port that Joylent made to Open Indiana (same kernel that NexentaStor is using. This would let you place ZFS at the hypervisor level and run your linux VMs on top of it without kludgey hacks like running a VM to serve over NFS to other VMs.

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