Tag Archives: storage

Virtualization with VMware vSphere (ESXi) Hypervisor

One of our servers, collocated in our office, crashed couple of weeks back. We took this opportunity to virtualize most of the stuff, earlier only some intances were virtualized.

Installing and setting up VMware vSphere Hypervisor is a straight forward process, even the process of creating virtual-machines.

Most of time, I spent was figuring out:

  • Storage devices and configuration
  • How many virtual machines, do we need?
  • Which operating systems, do we need?
  • Network configuration

I am not going to cover details of installation and network configuration. I might write more posts in future to cover specifics. Meanwhile, I would love to answer the comments, if I know or share anything I know.

Anyway, this is what we have now:

  • IBM x3250 M2
    • Intel Xeon (Quadcore) x64
    • 4 GB memory
    • 3TB+ storage connected to LSI RAID and SATA controller
  • Host: VMware vSphere Hypervisor – which runs out of  1.5 TB datastore, directly connected to SATA controller (different from LSI)
  • Guest VMs:
    • OpenVPN Access Server for VPN
    • Ubuntu 10.10 Server as Development sandbox
    • Zentyal(eBox) as Internet Gateway (filtering, IDs, proxy)
    • Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Server for SVN, Mails, Local Staging WebServer
    • Windows 2008 Server for ActiveDirectory, FileServer, Windows-Specific-Software (access-control-management-gui, etc.)
    • Others: Project Specific VMs

We are very happy with the improved performance and stability, and the way hardware is properly used. Thanks to VM templates, clones and snapshots, we would be able to provision above infrastructure with minimal downtime.

I would soon replace Windows Server with Zentyal (eBox), which I believe, can handle most of things. However, we would need another Windows XP box to run some software (proprietary), which only runs on windows, to manage various other devices (EPBX, Access-Control-System, etc.).

We now have relatively more scalable infrastructure, more virtual machines can be created to take care of email-server, svn-server, etc.

We are yet to invest in a sophisticated storage device such as DAS or NAS or SAN, hence we are relying on some cheap tricks here:

  • 1.5 TB disk as datastore for VMware vSphere, which stores
    • Guest Operating System VMs
    • Guest Operating System VMs Paging files
    • Virtual Disks (non critical data – programs and configs) required by host virtual-machines
  • 1.5 TB disk via Raw Device Mapping (RDM) shared among virtual machines
  • 500 GB disk via Raw Device Mapping (RDM) shared among virtual machines
  • 1.5 TB USB/Firewire – Backup storage
    • Rsync is used to backup critical data and configs from all virtual machines on daily, weekly and monthly basis.

Things I didn’t like:

  • VMware vSphere client requires Microsoft Windows
  • VMware vSphere client doesn’t allow creating RDMs from GUI, one has to use these instructions

Finally, I could execute some of things I planned more than two years back.

DeltaCopy: Backup software utility for windows

We have one Windows server, which is there for many reasons. Taking backup on windows can be pain, one has to rely on third-party software. We use DeltaCopy, which relies on rsync (an awesome piece of open-source software), statically linked Cygwin libraries/binaries.

It is easy to setup and doesn’t conflict with any existing Cygwin installation.

DeltaCopy has saved us from many disasters(disk failure, etc.), some of those happened during last one month. Had we not taken daily, weekly and monthly backup snapshots, we would have lost months of work.

Thanks to DeltaCopy and developers/company/community behind it. This post is my way of thanking them, by spreading some words.

Using DeltaCopy is very intuitive, however, feel free to leave comments, if you need any help setting it up.

OpenFiler – an opensource NAS

We wanted to have a scalable storage system. So I went ahead and checked out the cost of buying NAS from various vendors (NetApp, Dell, etc). I figured out, it was going out our of budget. Then I started learning, what it takes to build a NAS for a small teams like ours.

I started evaluating various FOSS NAS options for our office. I checked out FreeNAS and OpenFiler, finally decided on OpenFiler.
I chose OpenFiler for simple reasons – stability and production-quality. Whereas, FreeNAS has a lot more features, than OpenFiler, but doesn’t look that stable. Perhaps, in future I might go for FreeNAS for it’s various cool features (UPNP, iTunes streaming, etc).

We are using an old server based on Intel’s Server Entry Board, Pentium 4 processor, one Gigabyte memory, one IDE drive and two SATA drives. Both SATA drives are under RAID 1 configuration using OpenFiler’s software RAID. I am planning to get RAID controller card so we can use more disks.
OpenFiler boots from USB flash-drive, to make this happen it took some extra effort, Thanks to [email protected]. FreeNAS provides images for flash-devices, so it’s lot easier to boot FreeNAS from USB flash-device. BTW! Booting OpenFiler or FreeNAS from USB flash-drive would save one IDE/SATA port on motherboard, which can be used to plug-in another harddrive for better purpose (not for booting small NAS OS).

Anyway, we are using Intel NAS Performance Toolkit to benchmark our NAS server. We are also doing a lot of tests (semi)manually. The idea is to cover all cases and also come up with disaster recovery strategy.
I would post more details on our findings/benchmark-tests, so it helps you, if you plan to go for it.

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