I need to set up an SQL Server cluster for very low transaction volume functional testing. That requires a Windows Failover cluster and according to TechNet and Michael Otey that requires a SAN. Just to test my luck, I tried it with shared drives and the installer balks.

I'm in a VMWare environment and Virtual SAN is certainly one option but I'd rather not buy something for this early, low-volume test. Googling has not turned up any open-source SAN software but maybe my search terms aren't right. Can anyone recommend a way to support virtual failover cluster for low-volume testing?

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    Any Linux distribution can set up iSCSI shares. That might fit the bill, although I've no idea what the Microsoft definition of a SAN is in this context and what features they need. – Sven May 7 '16 at 11:50
  • Does VMWare not offer an evaluation copy of Virtual San? – Greg Askew May 7 '16 at 18:34
  • @Sven Historically, the MS definition of a SAN is 'supports SCSI3 locking'. I've worked around this problem through iSCSI. Though, not in the last 5 years. – sysadmin1138 May 7 '16 at 18:51
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    SQL Server can work with SMB3 share which is as simple as it can be. msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh759341.aspx?f=255 Windows own iSCSI target is anemic but is OK for tests. Referenced StarWind can be used to build HA storage both iSCSI and SMB3 for free with only two nodes. channel9.msdn.com/Blogs/MVP-Business-Solutions/… Windows Server 2016 will do similar with Datacenter edition only and more nodes in a cluster. – BaronSamedi1958 May 8 '16 at 13:40
  • Also for SQL Server I'd suggest to take a look at AlwaysOn AGs they are new in even Standard version of SQL Server. msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff877884.aspx – BaronSamedi1958 May 8 '16 at 13:40

Your easiest solution would be to set up a third server (another virtual machine will do fine as long as it has enough storage available) to act as an iSCSI server, offering one or more of its disks as iSCSI targets; this can be easily done both on Windows (since Server 2012) and Linux.

Once you have created your iSCSI target(s), you can connect both your server VMs to it (an ISCSI target can indeed be shared between multiple systems, as long as some arbitration system (such as Windows failover clustering) is in place to handle concurrent access); then you can use this shared storage to build your failover cluster.

These articles offer some more guidance on using iSCSI on Windows:


A proper iSCSI-based cluster would need some careful planning to ensure enouth network bandwidth is always available for storage I/O, and to reduce single point of failures; this would ordinarily require more than a single NIC and a single network, and would be even more complex to achieve in a virtualized environment. But for a test implementation, you can just use the same NICs and the same network for all traffic.


You may use one of the following solution:

  1. VMware should give you this functionality out the box: http://blogs.vmware.com/apps/2015/02/say-hello-vmotion-compatible-shared-disks-windows-clustering-vsphere.html
  2. Starwinds will create a virtual shared storage for your own use with some limitations: https://www.starwindsoftware.com/starwind-virtual-san-free
  3. And finally, why not build your own SAN storage? FreeNAS works with iSCSI and highly recommended: http://freenas.org/

Read the manuals and you'll figure out how to install and configure them.

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    The second one is the simplest and quickest a believe, at least for me. Works like a charm. – Net Runner May 10 '16 at 8:29

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