Here is our goal:

Setup new servers to turn our entire physical computer network into 3 physical groups, which are:

  • Server 1 - NAS - Openfiler/NexentaStor CE/FreeNAS/(Other Suggestions)

  • Server 2 - ESXi Server with the following VM's:
    • VM1 - AD/DNS/DHCP - Windows SBS 2008
    • VM2 - SQL Server 2008 r2 / Database Tier - Windows Server 2008 R2
    • VM3 - Sharepoint 2010 / Applicaton Server Tier - Windows Server 2008 R2
    • VM4 - IIS / Web Front End Tier - Windows Server 2008 R2
    • VM5 - Windows Multipoint Server 2011 - Supporting 10 Clients / Some with 2D Cad

  • 10 Clients - Atrust M220 WMS Zero Clients


For servers 1 & 2, I would like to know what configuration ensures maximum performance?

Configuration means:

  • Hot Swap Hard Disk Options
    • iSCSI targets
    • Regular volumes
    • 7500 SAS disks
    • 10/15K SAS disks
    • VM's on iSCSI target on NAS machine
    • VM's on DAS
    • RAID 0/1/5/10
    • No RAID and ZFS file system
  • Memory Configurations
    • 2/4/8/16/32 Gb DDR3 Memory
  • CPU Configuration
    • Xeon / Opteron
    • 2/4/8 Cores
    • 1/2 Physical CPU's
  • OS
    • For NAS server, Openfiler OR NexentaStor CE OR FreeNAS OR some other free option
  • 2
    This question might be a borderline "shopping recommendation", so I don't know how much help we're going to be able to be. But I guess we'll find out! Sep 22 '11 at 0:15
  • Where would this question be more appropriate, any suggestions?
    – cmaduro
    Sep 22 '11 at 0:22
  • Can only have one SBS 2008 server on the network for starters.
    – gravyface
    Sep 22 '11 at 0:22
  • @cmaduro - SF is the correct site, but none of the stack exchange sites "support" shopping questions. Sep 22 '11 at 0:33

It's quite a bit to digest. This is a solution that could work, and I am a proponent of ZFS-based solutions, but I'd initially ask why you wish to have a storage server with only one VM host. Granted, you could expand to multiple hosts over time... But looking at your setup plan, I'd almost recommend a large standalone server with robust local storage. The NAS wouldn't buy you anything with one VM host.

Think something like a current-model HP ProLiant DL380 with 8 or more disks (RAID 1+0, please), running ESXi with plenty of RAM to handle your setups without oversubscribing. Two 6-core CPUs should round it out.

  • +1 local storage. No point in a NAS with one ESXi host.
    – gravyface
    Sep 22 '11 at 0:36
  • Where would I put for example the sql server files, and the exchange files then? Would I just configure large vm disks and keep the data on the various vm's?
    – cmaduro
    Sep 22 '11 at 1:50
  • I would like to keep the option open of expanding to a second esxi server. A NAS could probably not compare to the performance you would get with a DAS setup. But even if I had another esxi server, if I had VMotion wouldnt it take care of balancing the work load between the 2 servers?
    – cmaduro
    Sep 22 '11 at 1:56
  • Well, you're talking about a different type of investment. What you're proposing now would fit easily on a single server. I'd start with DAS. And yes, you'd separate everything into individual VMs.
    – ewwhite
    Sep 22 '11 at 2:03

You will need a separate network segment for your iSCSI traffic. Don't run data and disk traffic on the same network, and preferably run dedicated switches for the Storage Area Network. Whatever you do, never mix the two types of traffic on the same physical ports.

2 ESXi servers would be a good choice for reliability reasons.

You can install ESXi onto an SD card on the host and boot from that, then run all of your disks out of the box you're configuring as a storage appliance.

1 iSCSI target for ESXi VM's

Ensure your choice of iSCSI target is on VMWare's HCLs. I've seen all kinds of problems from using OpenFiler to serve iSCSI to ESX. It doesn't work correctly and shouldn't be used.

You may have more success with a Windows 2008 R2 server running MS' iSCSI target, although I'm not sure if the free version of that is on the HCL, either.

  • Really? I've had an OpenFiler NAS with an ESXi 4.1 host running for about 5 months, with three Linux VMs, no issues.
    – gravyface
    Sep 22 '11 at 0:32
  • 1
    Yep, we had 5 hosts and 2 OpenFilers with about 4Tb of data serving up, then started hitting bizarre issues where hosts would lose all sight of their storage until all hosts were restarted. Turned out to be issues with SCSI reservation of the LUNs, locking them out. OpenFiler relies on IET which doesn't support iSCSI reservations fully, and this is a requirements for vSphere. So yeah, it works for small scale stuff but no, I wouldn't ever run it in production again. Sep 22 '11 at 0:48
  • good to know. I had alot of strange issues with Nexentastor Community Edition, disappearing LUNs, etc., which is why I went with OpenFiler, but yeah, three very small Ubuntu boxes for development/testing, etc. only.
    – gravyface
    Sep 22 '11 at 0:52
  • Where would I find this HCL? The only HCL for ESXi I can find does not specify particular pieces of hardware, only complete servers.
    – cmaduro
    Sep 22 '11 at 2:01
  • Drop-down the 'What are you looking for' box at the top of the page, and you can select devices and other products: vmware.com/resources/compatibility Sep 22 '11 at 8:42

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