vSphere Storage Appliance – vMotions Without a Storage Array
The beauty of using software like VMware vSphere is the ability to cluster the hosts and do vMotions in case you need to do maintenance on one of the hosts.
However, in order to do this historically you needed a storage array on the backend that the hosts all connected to. VMware has created a product called the vSphere Storage Appliance. This appliance allows users to utilize local storage on physical hosts as “shared storage.”
A couple caveats to note are that you have to be running vCenter and you cannot add another member to the VSA cluster once you’ve installed it. It can either be a 2-member cluster or a 3-member cluster, so obviously the VSA is meant for smaller shops. For more details see the Installation and Administration Guide.
The first thing you need to do is download the ISO file and attach it to vCenter.
Follow these steps to complete the install:
- Drill into the CD and install the VSA Manager from the Installers folder
- Click through the Welcome screen and accept the EULA
- Click Next after ensuring the proper IP is there for your vCenter Server
- Create a username and password (vmwarevcsadmin is there by default)
- Enter a license key or leave it blank to install in evaluation mode then click Next
- Click Install
- Open a vSphere client and click on your datacenter. You will see a VSA Manager tab. Click on it to see the following wizard:
- Click New Installation and then click Next.
- Click Next through the features
- Add your hosts to the VSA cluster and click Next.
- You’ll then configure the network according to your environment and click Next
- Now configure the storage. Select the amount of storage you’d like to assign to the VSA from your local storage. These datastores will need to be empty as you will actually be reformatting them.
- Click Next through the rest of the wizard and then click Install.
- You can then click the Datastores view in your vSphere client to see that the datastores are present.
Running the VSA Cluster Service on a Separate Windows Machine
It’s also possible to install the VSA cluster service on a separate Windows machine. There’s a way to run the automated installer script as well, which will automatically use the subnet it’s on and accept various configurable options. The VSA plugin is not only available on the fat client, but will also work on the vSphere Web Client which is becoming increasing popular. As you can see from the picture below you will now have vMotion and High Availability capabilities because it replicates the data between the local storage on the hosts.
This is a relatively easy install and the Installation and Administration Guide is one of the most comprehensive guides I’ve seen come out of VMware. This storage appliance is definitely geared towards an SMB or home lab. This is a terrific appliance, though, as storage can be very expensive and can also be another point of troubleshooting. If storage has been holding you back from checking out virtualization, this is definitely a good place to start.