Recently I needed to expand my VMWare ESXI Host and I didn’t want to install a bunch of new drives and worry about managing them. The host doesn’t have a RAID controller, so it would makes things really hard to manage the drives. I already had a file server running Windows Server 2012, with plenty of available space. I read about ways to create network storage, but never played around with it or had the need for it, since I figured the 1 TB drive on my host would be fine for a long time. Well, nearly six months later, I could not create new or expand VM’s.
The next step was to figure out how much space I wanted, so I could make a virtual drive on my file server. The nice thing about Windows Server 2012 is that I can create storage pools very easily with multiple drives. I had installed six 2 TB drives in the file server, with RAID configuration, this gave me plenty of space for everything I wanted to do. I allocated 1 TB for the virtual drive to start out, which still left with plenty more space for other virtual drives.
The process is fairly easy and I have provided the steps below.
I had a storage pool already setup, so the process went a bit easier than I thought. Once you have storage pool created, you can start to allocate disc space for the iSCSI storage.
- Launch Server Manager then navigate to File and Storage Services
- Make sure you are under the volumes list on the side, at the bottom on the page you will see iSCSI Virtual Disk. This is where you will be creating a new virtual disk.
- Right click under that heading and choose New iSCSI Virtual Disk.
- The wizard will ask you which volume you want to use, this is most likely the storage pool you created or you can choose a physical disk.
- Click next, give it a name and description and a path to the virtual disk, if different from the default.
- Click next, choose the size of the virtual disk and any options you want. I chose Fixed Size, this is used if you want to pre-allocate the full size of the virtual disk.
- Click next, in most cases you will be creating a new iSCSI target, since you may not have an existing one.
- Click next, give it a name and description.
- Click next, now you will have to add the initiators that will be accessing this drive.
- Click Add, if it is another Windows device and is added to your DNS, who can Browse for it. In my case, I used the IP address of my ESXi host.
- Once added, click next, you can click next and ignore CHAP settings, unless you have this setup.
- You should be at the final page and ready to review your settings. Review carefully and click finish.
- Depending on how big the disc is and your performance on the drives, it could take awhile to initiate the virtual disk.
Once the drive has completed you can now start using the drive through your network. Depending on what you are using to connect to this drive, for example my ESXi host. Once connected, the iSCSI drive showed up as a normal datastore and I was able to transfer VM’s directly over. This is different from machine to machine and OS configurations.
A few things to note when implementing this. Obiviously, this is meant for high bandwidth networks and equipment. It can be done with normal equipment, but you are going to see performance issues. I have this setup on a gigabit LAN with NIC teaming turned on at the file server and on the ESXi host I had a dedicated NIC for the drive. So I did not notice a big impact and I was only trying to use it for file storage, so I would have more room for VM’s on my directly attached drives.