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Building a VSA with Open-E DSS V7 inside ESXi

When you run a VMware platform there is usually no way around a shared storage system. A SAN is very expensive and you throw away the opportunity of using local storage. Common usage of ESXi hosts and storage Systems on x86 hardware also leads to a dilemma: Standard Servers usually have plenty of CPU, Memory and local Disks. With ESXi Hosts you waste the local storage and with storage systems you waste CPU and Memory. Combining both on the same hardware leads to an efficient usage that has the option to scale automatically. Today there are already some vendors in the market that provide SAN-free solutions with high available replicated local storage. This howto shows you how to share local storage by installing Open-E DSS V7 as a VSA inside an ESXi host using local storage with RDM.

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HP N40L Shared Storage with vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA)

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.
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