Like many of you, I have an adorable home lab with a few servers, networking and storage. For my storage I have been using for many years now QNAP devices. Currently I have an TS859pro, which is an older 8 bay model with 8x2TB disks in them running raid6. In general I am happy with my QNAP, but when doing tests with virtualization, especially when you start cloning stuff, you need to be a patient person (which I am not!).
I already recently added SSD disks into my ESXi servers, so for my important VMs I get some solid disk performance (what a difference between using 1Gb iSCSI!!).
This week I also found out that QNAP has not been sitting still. With the release of their latest firmware 3.8.2 they now support VAAI (vStorage APIs for Array Integration) and while my model is End-of-Life, QNAP did also make this firmware available for my unit. Besides VAAI, Qnap also ships an plugin for vSphere, so you can directly in your vSphere client create datastores for iSCSI and NFS. While that is nice, the VAAI stuff is really the useful stuff.
I assume that most of you, like myself, just run 1Gb ethernet. This typically is by far the bottleneck for all my I/O. I do use dedicated NICs in the ESXi servers and the 2nd ethernet interface on my QNAP for iSCSI only, but still doing operation like clone/copying VMs take forever.
So I was brave and installed the new Qnap firmware today. Without doing anything else, suddenly the vSphere client was saying that Hardware Acceleration was enabled on my iSCSI datastores. So I took my simple WinXP template (3GB actual data) and tried to “create new VM from template”. In the meantime I was monitoring the traffic monitor on my Qnap. I saw almost no traffic at all and 133 seconds later the new VM was created. This is significantly faster compared to not having VAAI (234 seconds).
Network traffic with VAAI
I did some more test and strangle found that cloning from the same template that was on the NFS of the QNAP to an iSCSI datastore on the same QNAP it only took 104 seconds. I was using ethernet 1 for NFS and ethernet 2 for iSCSI, but find it strange that this copying goes faster then internally just copying the file using VAAI. Clearly QNAP can do some more optimization here.
But for a “home” nas I am really impressed with the QNAPs added functionality. They use a single software code for all their models, so even their smaller unit will have this capability (while not officially supported).
I thought I would share with you a simple way to copy a VM from your ESXi servers to your desktop. In my case, my local NAS (qnap) device had a diskfailure, so it is rebuilding its disks for the next 2 days, which slows down IO for my VMs (mainly for my work VM), so I temporary wanted to copy the VM to my local PC and run it in workstation.
Using the build-in download option in the vsphere client sucks. It was super slow. I tried using sftp, again slow (bit faster then vsphere client). My first tought was to google “enable ftp server on esxi”, which I did, and did find ways to get an ftp server installed on my ESXi boxes, but while I opened the ESXi firewall, it still had problems opening a data connection. So after 15 minutes fussing with that I quit that road.
In the forums about FTP on ESXi I came across posts to use Veeam FastSCP, so let’s give that a try. Turns out that the software does not exists anymore and is integrated in a 500mb install of Veeam Backup. I have fast internet, so sure I can download then, but then during the install.. “do you want to install local sql server or use existing??” Hello, I am just trying to copy a single VM, I do not want to screw up my local machine with all that stuff, so cancelled that as well.
Mmm.. what else to do… went googling again and then stumbled on a Freeware bit of software called FreeNFS (http://freenfs.sourceforge.net/) It seems very recent as the note from the developer is from August 14th 2012. It is the most simplest plain NFS server software for windows. its a single executable, click on it, and it runs. done
So now it was easy. As my local machine suddenly was an NFS server, I add the NFS datastore to my servers and just used a clone VM operation, to thin disk, to my local datastore
Thank you Lawrence for making this great Free NFS software! Works great with ESXi (version 5).
FreeNFS – http://freenfs.sourceforge.net/
Today a new company announced a new storage appliance. Not one of those traditional ones where you create raid group on your disks and lun on your raid groups, to then create a vmfs on and then store your VMs on it. No it directly supports storing VMs and do all the storage management per VM, like perfomance stats per VMs. The box uses a combination of SSD and SATA drives and of course you do not have to figure out where what block of data goes. The appliance is smart and will balance the high IO load data on the SSD and lower demand data on the SATA. While doing this it also data dedubes (using the SSD disks) so you get good value for money by saving (hopefully) lots of storage usage.
Duncan has written a good more detailed article about the unit, check it out http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2011/03/24/tintri-virtual-machine-aware-storage/
The box (no price mentioned on their site yet) comes with 8.5TB of usable storage (across the 1TB SSD and 7,5TB SATA).