Storage Review – NFS, iSCSI, VVols, OH MY!

Categories Hardware, Home Lab, Storage, vRealize Operations, vRealize Suite
Storage Review

Yikes!  It has been far too long since I wrote my last blog.  I made a resolution to be more consistent in 2018… #newyearnewme.  To kick off the year I wanted to do a quick review of what I have setup and configured for storage options in my lab… thus far. ?

Local Storage

You may recall from one of my previous blogs that I had only SSDs in my hosts.  I recently added (2) 2TB SATA drives to each of my ESXi hosts… 4 total.  The initial plan was to setup a logical RAID1 volume with these drives in each host so I would have some redundancy.  Unfortunately, the performance ended up being not so swell; I think I spoiled myself by running SSDs right out of the gate.  So I changed the config to a RAID0 volume and maximized performance and capacity.  Definitely not a best practice in a production environment, but whatever, it’s a home lab.  The only data stored on these volumes I really care about anyway is my Plex Media Server… but I have a cloud backup solution for that.

Each host has the following physical drive configuration:

  • Logical Drive 01 – Capacity 465 GB – RAID0
    • Physical Drive 01 – 250 GB – SSD
    • Physical Drive 02 – 250 GB – SSD
  • Logical Drive 02 – Capacity 3,725 GB – RAID0
    • Physical Drive 01 – 2000 GB – HDD (7200 RPM)
    • Physical Drive 02 – 2000 GB – HDD (7200 RPM)

And here is what the local datastores look like:

ESXi Local Datastores

Shared Storage

Enough about local storage… let’s move on to some more interesting options.  I recently discovered the Dell EMC UnityVSA (Virtual Storage Appliance) which can be downloaded here.  The UnityVSA is available for free, supports up to 4TB of capacity, and runs the same OS as the Dell EMC Unity storage platform.  I downloaded the OVA and deployed it in my lab so I could play around with some other storage technologies such as NFS, iSCSI, and, most importantly, VVols!  The UnityVSA supports a lot of features including the following:

  • FAST VP (Storage Tiering)
  • iSCSI
  • NFS
  • QoS
  • Replication
  • Thin Provisioning
  • VVols
  • EMC Storage Analytics (ESA)

Below is what I provisioned off the UnityVSA and presented to my hosts:

VSA Datastores

The EMC Storage Analytics (ESA) feature of the UnityVSA is a vRealize Operations Management Pack (download here) that provides in-depth visibility into the storage array.  Below are a few good screenshots of what it can provide.

ESA Storage Metrics


VSA Unity Topology

Thanks to VVols and the ESA I can see storage performance metrics way beyond what you would traditionally see with a VMFS datastore and really nothing looks/feels any different for the vSphere administrator.

Traditional VMFS File Browsing
VMFS File Browse


VVols File Browsing
VVols File Browse

They look the same!

Let me know if want to see a walkthrough of the UnityVSA setup and configuration.  Stay tuned for an upcoming vSAN home lab blog!

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