Without a shared storage it is quite hard to deploy a reasonable test scenario. Within vSphere 5 VMware introduced the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA). The VSA transforms the local storage from up to 3 servers into a mirrored shared storage. This sounds really great for a testing environment because it supports plenty VMware Features like vMotion, HA and DRS.
Prior to installation there are a few things to check because the VSA has very strict system requirements. As it is only a testing environment and I do not consider getting support, so the main goal is getting the VSA up and running. The server requirements are:
- 6GB RAM
- 2GHz CPU
- 4 NICs
- Identical configuration across all nodes
- Clean ESXi 5.0 Installation
I deliberately ignored all the vendor/model or hardware raid controller requirements, as this are only soft-requirements. The HP Proliant N40L supports all above requirements, except the 2GHz CPU. But there is a little XML File which contains the host audit configuration the installer uses during the installation. I am going to tweak this file a little bit to get the installation done.
The environment I use for the installation contains 2 ESXi 5.0 hosts and a vCenter. The ESXi hosts are configured only with one IP address. No further changes are made and no VMs are running, as these are requirements. The following diagram shows the deployment.
VMware offers 3 packages to download and install the storage appliance. A combined Image including the vCenter and VSA (.iso or .zip) and a standalone installer. My vCenter is already up and running so I only need the vsamanager. The VSA download is included along with the vSphere Package.
The installation is pretty straight forward. Only the vCenters IP address and license key has to be filled in. After the installation has finished, start the vSphere Client. The VSA Manager is a Plugin which needs to be activated. To activate, go to Plugins -> Manage Plugins…
If successful, a new tab called “VSA Manager” appears at the datacenter level. As said earlier, because of the 2GHz limitation there is a little tweak to get the installation finished. If not applied, the installer stops during hardware audit: CPU speed is less than 2GHz
The installer uses a XML configuration file located at the vCenter Server:
Open this file in Notepad and set the minCpuSpeedInGHz value to 1.
Reboot vCenter Server!
After the server has been rebootet VSA audit should succeed and the installation can be completed.
The following page is for the IP configuration. Here is an explanation of the IP addresses used:
- VSA Cluster IP Address: Shared Management IP Address. This address is used by the vCenter
- VSA Cluster Service IP address: Only available in a 2-node configuration
- Management IP Address: IP address used for communication between the host and heartbeat
- Datastore IP Address: NFS datastore address mapped to each VSA Appliance
- vSphere Feature IP Address: ESXi vmk address for vMotion
- Back-end IP Address: Used for replication and cluster communication
Be aware that the management IP address, vCenter IP address and NFS address must share the same subnet.
The installation should now succeed without any errors and will end up with 2 shared datastores, both reduced by 50% of its capacity since it is mirrored. The VSA Manager tab offers a great configuration overview.
Installing the vSphere Storage Appliance on HPs N40L is a great option to get protected shard storage for your test environment. Additionally you can stop wasting local storage. As the VSA supports plenty vSphere features and products it is definitely a valid solution beside dedicated shared storage.