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Rely on Storage System for VM Partitioning with ESXi

For organizations considering ESXi for mainstream hypervisor usage, one important consideration is disk partitioning. One of my peers in the industry, Jason Boche (rhymes with hockey) states it best on his blog as saying that partitioning is a lost art on ESXi.

Recently, I was rebuilding my primary ESXi test environment and I landed on Jason's material and can't agree more with what he has said. Partitioning is one of the virtualization debates that can quickly become a religious issue, like deciding on a storage protocol or whether or not to virtualize vCenter. Jason goes into the details of what partitioning is done based on various disk geometry configurations, and to Jason's point -- we don't yet know if they are adequate. Changes to ESX partitioning are the norm, but without a service console in ESXi the biggest offender is removed from the partitioning criteria.

An important additional configuration point is the default VMFS volume created on the local partition. For organizations that want to utilize the free ESXi hypervisor and want to use local storage, a little forward thought on logical drive configuration can protect the VMFS volumes entirely from any partitioning with ESXi. Ideally, shared storage would be used in conjunction with the free hypervisor to remove this potential partitioning issue that can cause burdensome copy operations or backup operations. Be sure to check out this How-To document explaining how ESXi works with shared storage configurations. For (unmanaged) free ESXi installations, try to put VMFS volumes on different disk arrays than the ones that contain the ESXi partitioning. This can allow you to protect the VMFS volume from a reinstallation if necessary. VMFS volumes are forward and backward compatible within ESX and ESXi versions 3 and newer.

A lot of the local partitioning issues as well as potentially wasted space can be removed if a USB flash media boot configuration is appropriate for your ESXi installation. Here is a VMware Communities post on how to create a USB bootable flash drive for ESXi. This configuration of course is unsupported but may be adequate for a lesser tier of virtualization or a development environment.

Storage management is always one of the biggest planning points for virtual environments. Do you have any pointers for managing storage with the free ESXi hypervisor? If so, please share your comments below or send me an e-mail .

Posted by Rick Vanover on 10/22/2009 at 12:47 PM


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