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Old 02-08-2012, 09:49 AM   #1
thund3rstruck
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Question Virtualizing File Servers --Brilliant Idea or Destined to Fail?


Just looking for some expert feedback/recommendations. I have always run file servers from physical machines and never from a virtual machine. However, I managed to get my greasy hands on a new server capable of running VMWare ESX 4.1 and I'm itching to get that setup. Problem is this machine has 8000GB of RAID storage that must also be file shares.

The plan is to load up VMWare ESX and then create a new Win2008/Samba/FreeNAS/OpenFiler/etc file server virtual machine to share out that juicy 8000GB of storage. Then I'd go about copying over all the rest of our virtual machines.

I'm just a bit worried about the performance of a virtual file server compared to a physical server that does nothing except serve up files and handle ACLs.

Does anyone have any advise or know if I'm violating any Industry Best Practices by virtualizing file servers? Is this a foolish idea or a rare flash of brilliance!?

Thanks in Advance!

Cheers!
 
Old 02-08-2012, 12:42 PM   #2
travisdh1
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My answer is..... it depends. Mostly on how much memory and what type/how many cpus you also have in the box. We just built an Openfiler box at work here on an AMD E-350 APU, and I really wouldn't want that box to try to do any more than serve files. If you've got more along the lines of 2 6-core processors with 16-32GB of memory then it'd be a waste of hardware to not virtualize. More likely is something in between those two extremes however, in which case virtualizing enough to actually use the hardware (lots of monitoring the system as you add more virtualized hosts to the system).

I don't think you'll see a huge impact on the fileservers performance by having it in a virtualized environment as the drives themselves will probably be the determining factor in how fast the server can go.
 
Old 02-08-2012, 02:30 PM   #3
thund3rstruck
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travisdh1 View Post
I don't think you'll see a huge impact on the fileservers performance by having it in a virtualized environment as the drives themselves will probably be the determining factor in how fast the server can go.
Thanks! Its a modest system (1x Quad-core CPU, 16 GB RAM, 4x2000GB SATA-HDDs in RAID 5). Thanks, I'm going to cross my fingers and give it a shot!

--UPDATE--

This turned out to be a moot point because the ESX server software didn't recognize the RAID CARD or the existing RAID Array volume. We had to relocate all the storage to an external NAS.

Last edited by thund3rstruck; 02-10-2012 at 10:24 AM. Reason: Update
 
Old 02-13-2012, 01:24 PM   #4
travisdh1
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Thanks for updating us!

That's good stuff to know if we ever decide to use VMware.
 
Old 02-13-2012, 04:42 PM   #5
thund3rstruck
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travisdh1 View Post
Thanks for updating us!

That's good stuff to know if we ever decide to use VMware.
It turns out that this "server" was running an NVidia MediaSheild RAID controller, which I understand is not a real RAID controller, its actually some kind of embedded motherboard controller that mimics a RAID but isn't actually a real hardware RAID. VMWare only supports actual server RAID controllers.

I'm actually much more satisfied with how things turned out (even though we now have two more servers we have to run 24/7) because I think its much more elegant to have a single OpenFiler or FreeNAS storage server where you can centralize the entire organization's data on a consolidated massive data volume (8TB-20TB).

This trouble I had was all my fault... don't let that discourage anyone from using VMware (We are just getting started with ESXi server and so far it's outstanding)
 
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Old 02-21-2012, 01:55 AM   #6
tallship
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thund3rstruck View Post
It turns out that this "server" was running an NVidia MediaSheild RAID controller, which I understand is not a real RAID controller, its actually some kind of embedded motherboard controller that mimics a RAID but isn't actually a real hardware RAID. VMWare only supports actual server RAID controllers.

I'm actually much more satisfied with how things turned out (even though we now have two more servers we have to run 24/7) because I think its much more elegant to have a single OpenFiler or FreeNAS storage server where you can centralize the entire organization's data on a consolidated massive data volume (8TB-20TB).

This trouble I had was all my fault... don't let that discourage anyone from using VMware (We are just getting started with ESXi server and so far it's outstanding)
Well, a couple of things. First, you said it was capable of running VMware - sorry to hear the RAID Controller was a deal breaker, but you didn't have enough memory anyway to do what you wanted - you *could* have, but really, you didn't have enough.

On the other hand, you could have picked up a RAID controller for not too much, and OpenFiler would have been really nice as an iSCSI SAN, and you could have yanked 12GBytes of your RAM and sold it on ebay (You don't need more than 4GB with OpenFiler as an iSCSI - but you need lots for NAS and other filesystems).

Finally, no. There's nothing wrong with a file server on a VM. Nothing at all. Some things to remember

  • VMware is a memory hog
  • don't run ESX 4.1 - Run ESXi 5.0 with the new vmfs
  • Your VM doesn't have any disks anyway - you're using your iSCSI SAN on OpenFiler and you're kickin' butt coz your disks are RAIDed and spinnin' real fast and has a 10GigE bonded NIC!
So really, 10 different fileservers as VMs can be even more powerful and less expensive than a single bare metal box that has to serve files and deal with other OS operational issues.

(And once again, there is no such person as "Registered Linux User# 351364", BTW)

I hope that helps

Kindest regards,

.
 
Old 02-21-2012, 06:25 AM   #7
thund3rstruck
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Originally Posted by tallship View Post
Well, a couple of things. First, you said it was capable of running VMware - sorry to hear the RAID Controller was a deal breaker, but you didn't have enough memory anyway to do what you wanted - you *could* have, but really, you didn't have enough.
Of course I had enough. I'm running ESXi v5 right now on 16GB of RAM an it hosts 16 servers, 6-8 of which run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tallship View Post
On the other hand, you could have picked up a RAID controller for not too much, and OpenFiler would have been really nice as an iSCSI SAN, and you could have yanked 12GBytes of your RAM and sold it on ebay (You don't need more than 4GB with OpenFiler as an iSCSI - but you need lots for NAS and other filesystems).

Finally, no. There's nothing wrong with a file server on a VM. Nothing at all. Some things to remember

  • VMware is a memory hog
  • don't run ESX 4.1 - Run ESXi 5.0 with the new vmfs
  • Your VM doesn't have any disks anyway - you're using your iSCSI SAN on OpenFiler and you're kickin' butt coz your disks are RAIDed and spinnin' real fast and has a 10GigE bonded NIC!
So really, 10 different fileservers as VMs can be even more powerful and less expensive than a single bare metal box that has to serve files and deal with other OS operational issues.
My original question must have been misleading in some regard. I still stood up the vSphere server for this customer and it works great. We just didn't lay its storage out on a RAID like originally requested and instead we created 4 separate storage volumes to host all the VMs. The customer decided to keep the file server as a separate physical server because of the issues I reported above. I had originally pitched them the idea of consolidating everything onto a single server but that turned out to not be feasible for them given their current infrastructure and resources.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tallship View Post
(And once again, there is no such person as "Registered Linux User# 351364", BTW)
As I mentioned in my previous post, counters are meaningless. I'm not going to re-sign up to what-ever counter every 6 months. I have the graphic I was assigned in 2002 when I registered and I'm keeping that one.

Regards!
 
Old 02-21-2012, 10:33 AM   #8
tallship
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Of course I had enough. I'm running ESXi v5 right now on 16GB of RAM an it hosts 16 servers, 6-8 of which run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I'm sorry if I misread your first post, but it appeared to me that you had intended to virtualize Openfiler w/file systems mounted on NAS, and SAMBA, and a I thought a few other things too.

OpenFiler runs fine with just a single dual core processor and 4GB RAM w/just iSCSI, but if you watch your memory consumption with the configuration it appeared that you were originally going for, you would have noticed a much greater amount of consumption.

You would have experienced some performance issues in that scenario, loading up a few more servers on top of that.


Quote:
Originally Posted by thund3rstruck View Post
As I mentioned in my previous post, counters are meaningless.
That's not what you said. But if it were, it would belie the significance you place on it by proudly displaying a counter number (not registered to you) in your sig.

I hope that helps

.
 
Old 02-21-2012, 10:59 AM   #9
thund3rstruck
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tallship View Post
I'm sorry if I misread your first post, but it appeared to me that you had intended to virtualize Openfiler w/file systems mounted on NAS, and SAMBA, and a I thought a few other things too.

OpenFiler runs fine with just a single dual core processor and 4GB RAM w/just iSCSI, but if you watch your memory consumption with the configuration it appeared that you were originally going for, you would have noticed a much greater amount of consumption.

You would have experienced some performance issues in that scenario, loading up a few more servers on top of that.
No harm no foul. The customer now has a server for NAS and a seperate one for virtualization. Works out better this way, in my opinion, even though they had to pony up for another server.


Quote:
Originally Posted by tallship View Post
That's not what you said. But if it were, it would belie the significance you place on it by proudly displaying a counter number (not registered to you) in your sig.

I hope that helps

.
If its not what I said then it's what I meant. I'm not going re-register every x months on some stupid counter. Its just a sig.... not a "proud badge". It's something to occupy screen space.

In any event, cheers! and thanks for the feedback. And again, I have the registration graphic I was given which I can display to anyone who wants to see it.
 
  


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