Creating ESXi shared storage in VMware vSphere Hypervisor

With a few clicks in the vSphere Client, you can augment VMware data stores on local hosts with ESXi shared storage.

With virtualized servers based on the free VMware vSphere Hypervisor, you will achieve better VM reliability by changing the data store from local to ESXi shared storage.

Each virtual machine (VM) that runs on the ESXi hypervisor needs disk space. VMware stores and manages disk files on the virtual machine file system (VMFS). A VMware data store is created on new ESXi hosts by default. Once you start using more than one ESXi host in the VMware environment, you'll want to implement centralized storage instead of locally attached data stores.

Local data store on ESXi host
Figure 1. The ESXi host starts out with a local data store by default.

With a centralized storage area network (SAN), different servers can access virtual machine disk files (VMDKs), which keeps VMs available even if a host goes down.

Prepping for shared storage

VSphere Hypervisor manages ESXi storage via the vSphere Client. Select your ESXi host in the vSphere Client, enter its Configuration tab, then select Storage from the list of hardware options (see Figure 1). On a newly configured ESXi host, the current storage configuration should show only its local VMware data store.

Data store size
Figure 2. To increase the size of a data store only takes a few clicks.

To extend disk space on a data store, select the data store, enter the Properties window and click Increase to add storage (see Figure 2). If you've presented storage to the ESXi server, it will automatically appear in the increase window. Extending the data store involves simply selecting the device you want to add.

Using shared storage

If you're using more than one host, it's more convenient to put the VMFS on ESXi shared storage, such as your SAN, than on the local data store. In the Configuration tab of the ESXi host, go into Storage and click Add Storage. If the SAN offers access to storage using the Network File System (NFS) protocol, select Network File System. If your SAN offers direct logical unit number (LUN) access, select the Disk/LUN storage type. Do this on all the ESXi hosts so that they can access shared storage.

Storage types for ESXi

Figure 3. You can select which storage type to use with the ESXi host.

The name or identifier of the SAN storage device is typically a LUN ID; the exact naming depends on the type of SAN in use. Connect to the storage device then format it. This puts a VMFS onto VMware shared storage.

Uploading ISO files

Creating VMs requires access to the guest OS installation disk. Typically, you would install an OS from a DVD in the optical drive of a computer, but with VMware, you'll upload ISO files to the data store instead.

In the Summary tab on the vSphere Client, right-click the data store. Open the data store browser and create a new folder for the ISO files. After creating the destination folder, click the Upload file button and select the ISO file. Do this for all the ISO files you'll need to create virtual machines.

Once you have a VMFS and can upload ISO files to it, you can create virtual machines on the vSphere Hypervisor's ESXi hosts.

This was first published in July 2013

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