Starwind have a vSAN product which allows you to get some of the benefits of a SAN (such as HA, DRS, etc) without the expense. There is no free lunch, it does this using sync’ed local disk, but it well worth a look. It also free for small installations (two server, up to 130GB).
To test this, I have a physical host with two networks configured, “InternalNetwork”, a VMPG with no NICs assigned, and “ExternalNetwork” which does have a NIC assigned to allow outbound communication where required. On this are nested two ESX hosts, with 32GB RAM, 2 vCPU’s, and four NICs each.
You also need to download a licence for Starwind (a licensekey.swk files) and the Starwind software. Upon registered, you will be sent an email containing the details.
You will also need a couple of ESXi hosts obviously and a vCenter and Domain Controller.
Boot from the ESXi image, VMware-VIMSetup-all-5.5.0-1750795-20140201-update01.iso and perform an install, configure a partition, select password, etc. Reboot when finished.
When the hosts come up, configure an IP address for each one. I am going to use 10.10.10.10/24 and 10.10.10.11/24.
Connect them to a Virtual Center instance (installation not covered here, but it could be a virtual appliance, or installation on a Windows physical server or VM). I use a VM on the “internalNetwork” (10.10.10/24) that the hosts are on.
Add a datacenter and create a cluster, and put the two hosts in the cluster.
Once the hosts have been added, you need to create a couple of VM’s, one on each host, and each one with a couple of NICs assigned, which will host the virtual SAN. These should be Windows Server 2012. Each VM should have a second disk configured which will be used to provide the VSAN services (which will then be re-shared to ESXi). So my first SAN VM is on VMFS-1 which has ~400GB free, so I will add a disk to the VM to use that.
Really, you might get better performance also adding this to a second virtual SCSI adapter, but we can do that later.
Then install the OS on each VM, and then Vmtools.
On each of your virtual SAN’s, by running diskmgmt.msc, you should then have an unknown disk of 400GB, which is the one we created on the VMFS volume earlier.
Bring the disk online, initialise it with a GPT table, and create a partition.
Each of your virtual SANs will then need to be configured with a computer name and IP address (.15 and .16 in my case for the first adapter in each VM, and 192.168.0.15 and 192.168.0.16) for the second, although the second could be on a completely different network depending on your topology).
This is probably a good time to join each server to your domain.
On each run the Starwind-v8.exe file to do the install accepting the default (unless you don’t want the management console for instance), until you get prompted for the key. At that point choose the key and follow the rest of the install (choosing not to configure the SMI-S agent).
When finished, launch the admin console, and choose “yes” to set the default location to your newly created empty drive (e:) in my case.
From there, you need to select “Add Device” (probably best not to use the “advanced” version at this point, and give it a size. I am going to make mine 128GB, and call it SAN1-1. If you go to E:, you will also see the disk image files that you just created.
At that point, you can then configure replication between the two. This is replicating SAN1-1 to SAN2.
Drill down to the imagefile, and choose “replication manager”. Choose synchronous replication and enter the address of the other vSAN. Note that if you made your SAN diskimages much bigger than 128GB, you migt hit a licence limit… When you get the “Network Options for Replication” option, you need to select “Change Network Settings” and choose your adapters for heatbeat and sync.
When the wizard has finished, you will get confirmation:
At that point, the initial synchronization will take place, and you can connect the newly replicated volume to your ESXi hosts.
To connect to the hosts, go back to your vSphere client, and for each host, add the software iSCSI adapter (from Configuraton>Storage Adapters).
Edit the properties of your iSCSI adapter and point it to the SAN VM on that host (as each host has vSAN VM installed locally).
We haven’t actually configured any security here, but StarWind supports CHAP, as does ESXi.
Once both hosts are seeing the vSAN with a STARWIND iSCSI Disk visible, you can go to configuration>Storage, click “add storage” and create a new volume.
You should see any local unused device (perhaps the boot device) and your new STARWIND iSCSI disk. Select that partition, format it, and give it a datastore name.
You now have a VMFS volume were you can place a VM, and take advantage of HA, DRS, etc!