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I posted a similar question to SuperUser and got not response, so I apologize if I've broken rules by posting here, but I'm at a crossroads on my server setup and need a bit of help.

I am new to EXSI and I want to have disks available to various Linux virtual hosts, but do not want the storage inside .vmdk files. Why? If I rip the disk out of the ESXI box or nuke ESXI, I want to be able to put the disks in another Linux box and have the filesystems readable.

Here is my situation. I have a supermicro board/case running ESXI 5.5. I have one 85G drive attached to the sata controller on the board that I boot ESXI from (datastore1). I have a couple of test virtual hosts on that drive as well. I then have an LSI 8-port controller with 2 1T drives on it in raid1 that I want to use strictly for data. If I take this array out of this ESXI box, I want those disks to be readable in any other Linux box I choose to put them in.

I don't know if I need to create a new datastore leave the new disks alone and try and make the vhosts see them (which I doubt is possible) or if I just need to create a separate datastore and make that storage available to my virtual machines. I do not want to screw myself over by having the storage inside a vmdk that prevents it from being mounted natively inside another Linux box.

Reading through the vmware documentation I have created a separate datastore for the 1T drives and it is available as (datalsi1) in the host. Where I am confused is if I have already messed up by creating the separate datalsi1 datastore and should have just left the array outside of any datastore.

The vmware documentation is not clear whether the 1T raid array has to be a datastore before the virtual machines can use it for storage or if virtual hosts could see the array otherwise. (I was planning on mounting it as /home or a /home/data so it would be available to any Linux virtual machine I create. The /home/data mount is probably the better choice.)

Does the 1T array have to be made a datastore, or can virtual hosts find that storage on the LSI controller without it?

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My strong advice to you is to use your VMware estate as the vendor intended and encapsulate your virtual machines in VMDK files. This is for support, portability, consistency, reliability and performance reasons.

If I rip the disk out of the ESXI box or nuke ESXI, I want to be able to put the disks in another Linux box and have the filesystems readable.

This is missing the point of virtualization using VMware. If you're planning to use VMware VMs, there's no notion of "screwing yourself over" because there's a healthy ecosystem of support and products that "talk" VMware.

You could consider presenting block storage to your VMs via iSCSI or having non-OS files served by NFS. But based on what you're describing, ESXi and VMware may not be right for you... Maybe try Linux Containers (LXC)?

  • Well, that is somewhat what I'm arriving at the long way around. I love the concept of the hypervisor, but my primary goal is to preserve my data in a manner that I'm not locked into the "healthy vmware ecosystem". I've run standalone servers for almost 20 years without issue, which is what makes me wary from a data standpoint adding an additional layer of the vmdk around it. I did get a like for creating a RMD pointer to the array instead of creating the datastore Raw Device Mapping – David C. Rankin Mar 14 '16 at 5:23
  • Thank you for the answer and comment on SU. I see what you are saying, I guess I just need to commit one way or the other. Either I blow ESXI away and go back to Archlinux as the base OS, or a stay the course with ESXI and accept the .vmdk wrapper (I know I can still mount the partitions, in another box, but I was trying to avoid the vmdk wrapper). What prompted the ESXI move was the supermicro box. I've never had 4 quad core processors, and gobs of RAM with hot swappable bays, etc.. before. ESXI does open up a lot of possibilities. Thanks. – David C. Rankin Mar 14 '16 at 5:29
  • If you're all-Linux, you may want to look at LXC Containers. Isolation, portability and a way to make better use of the resources you have available to you. – ewwhite Mar 14 '16 at 5:31

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