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Setting up shared storage for VMware ESX Server

Site expert Andrew Kutz answers a user question on creating shared storage in a VMware ESX Server environment.

I am trying to find out the best solution for setting up shared storage for my ESX Servers. I have 2.5TB of useable storage that I need to make available to the ESX servers. What is the best way to configure the storage? Should I make 1 giant LUN on the SAN storage, share that and have all the VMDK files in this LUN? Should I create multiple LUNs on the SAN and make them shareable to all the ESX servers fiber cards? How do you have your shared storage setup so you can utilize Vmotion?

Great question! I just gave a presentation at the TechTarget Virtualization 101 seminar where I talked about this very issue. The answer to the question is actually the same as it would be if you were working on a physical server: What are the disk I/O characteristics of the applications you are going to be running? For example if the applications are read-intensive, like LDAP servers, then a RAID-5 works fine. However if the applications are write-intensive, then a RAID-5 that calculates parity on every write may be too expensive in terms of I/O to be a valid choice. So if all of the VMs you are running have the same disk characteristics then you can create one big LUN with one big VMFS. However if the VMs have different disk I/O characteristics, which is likely, then you should probably create at least two LUNs: one optimized for reads and one optimized for writes. You should also create VMFS file systems on each LUN.

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