Tag Archives: Storage

VCAP-CID Study Notes: Objective 3.2

Welcome to the VCAP-CID Study Notes. This is Objective 3.2 in the VCAP-CID blueprint Guide 2.8. The rest of the sections/objectives can be found here.

Bold items that have higher importance and copied text is in italic.

  • Identify the storage placement algorithm for vApp creation.
    • As scary as this sounds this is documented very well in the vCAT Architecting a VMware vCloud document on pages 46-48.
    • This is the link to the online version.
  • Explain considerations related to vApp VM virtual disk placement.
    • The same pages.
  • Explain the impact of datastore threshold settings on shadow VM creation.
    • If a vApp is a linked clone it check if the datastore holding the Shadow VM is reaching its yellow or red limit, if so then a new Shadows VM is created on a new Datastore.
  • Explain the impact of multiple vCenter Servers on shadow VM creation.
    • I explained how Fast Provisioning works in objective 2.5
  • Explain the impact of VMFS and NFS on cluster size.
    • In vSphere 5.1 (which this blueprint is based on) the maximum size of a Datastore is 64TB. NFS shares can be as large as the manufactures of the NAS box allows.
    • Resource clusters can have 32 ESXi hosts. Each host can have 256 Volumes, but only 64 hosts can access the same volume.
    • So at 64 ESXi hosts you are limited to showing them the same 256 Volumes.
    • Each Datastore Cluster can only hold 32 Datastores, so that’s 8 full Datastore clusters.
    • For NFS you can mount 256 mountpoints per host.

Skills and Abilities

  • Given service level requirements, create a tiered vCloud storage design.
    • Most likely the SLA’s around tiered storage ar based on performance guarantees.
    • If the use cases and the requirements are that you need to have faster storage for some high IO VM’s and then slower storage for low IO VM’s a tiered storage would help in those instances.
    • Most likely a 3 tier storage solution is used. Eg. Gold, Silver and Bronze.
      • Gold would perhaps use 15K disks and SSD disks for caching, or 10K disks and SSD disk for automatic caching. RAID levels depend on the storage array manufacturer and write load.
      • Silver could be a pool of 10K disks. RAID levels depend on the storage array manufacturer and write load.
      • Bronze could be a pool of 7.2 NL-SAS disk and be used mainly for archiving purposes, idle workloads and perhaps test/dev (just remember that test/dev environments are production environments for developers :))
  • Given the I/O demands of various cloud workloads, determine an appropriate vCloud storage configuration.
    • This is also based on storage tiers, or how they are configured.
    • RAID levels, in legacy storage arrays, play a role in calculating IO performance for disk arrays.
      • R1 or R10: Mirror og Mirrored Spanned drives. Write penalty is 2, so for each write issued from the servers, two need to be performed on the array. That’s because it’s a mirror.
      • R5: Uses Parity to allow failure of one drive. Write penalty is 4. That’s because with each change in the on the disk, a read on both data and parity is performed, and then write the data and the parity.
      • R6: Uses two sets of parity. Write Penalty is 6. Three reads, three writes.
      • RAID-DP: Two sets of parity like raid 6. But the write penalty is only two because of how WAFL writes data to disks.
    • How to calculateIOPS
      • First thing first, a list ofIOPS per disk speed
        • 15K Disks = 175-210 IOPS
        • 10K Disks = 125-150 IOPS
        • 7.2K Disks = 75-100 IOPS
        • 5.4K Disks = 50 IOPS
      • Also it depends if it’s a SATA or SAS drive, and if it’s an enterprise grade disk or not (higher MTBF).
      • And then Duncan Epping will explain IOPS calculations for us in this post: http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2009/12/23/iops/
  • Given service level, workload and performance requirements, create a private vCloud storage design.
    • Private Cloud most likely have workloads that are known, or even planned in advance. So there is more information about the storage requirements for the workloads.
    • This information can be used with other information (gathered in a Current State Analysis) to create a storage design that would fulfill all requirements.
    • Data that would be nice to have for a private cloud are:
      • IO profile of the workload
        • Can be used to calculate IO requirements for the environment.
      • Hard disk size and number, and growth
        • To calculate initial capacity and projected growth
      • RTO if a LUN is lost
        • How long it will take to restore all the VM’s on the datastore, and that depends on the backup solution used
    • As an example you can then create storage tiers that have different sizes to differentiate on RTO, but the same RAID setup.
  • Given service level, workload and performance requirements, create a public vCloud storage design.
    • Public Clouds have very varied workloads, and there is no way of knowing beforehand what the medium size workload is in these environments.
    • When using Fast-provisioning and Thin-provisioning larger Datastores are better
    • 2-4 TB Datastores are a good choice and use SDRS to balance workloads inside a Storage Cluster. Those Clusters can grow to 64-128 TB using this configuration.
    • Michael Webster explains this in detail in this blog post: http://longwhiteclouds.com/2013/02/18/considerations-for-designing-a-small-vcloud-director-environment-storage/


VMware Storage Basics – PSA and NMP

A few days ago I posted a blog about VMware Storage Basics, the identifiers and how paths work between them.

This post will be post two of three in explaining the VMware storage stack, ending in a post about masking paths.

So, PSA and NMP, what is that? First a short and extremely dry explanation.

PSA (Pluggable Storage Architechture)

  • is special VMKernel layer that manages storage multipathing.
  • Coordinates simultaneous operation of multiple MPPs (Multipathing plugins) and the default NMP (Native Multipath Plugin).
  • Allows 3rd party vendors to design their own MPP, with their own load balancing techniques and failover mechanisms.

NMP (Native Multipath Plugin)

  • The default MPP that comes with ESX,ESXI is the NMP. It manages some subplugins.
  • The subplugins are SATPs (Storage Array Type Plugin) and the PSPs (Path Selection Plugin).
  • Subplugins are either VMware default or 3rd party plugins (specific SATPs for specific arrays, e.g. VMW_SATP_SVC for IBM SVC Arrays).
  • It associates SATP to paths, processes I/O requests to logical devices, performs failovers using SATP.

MPP (Multipath Plugin)

  • 3rd party NMP+SATP+PSP. All in one stack.

Does that explain anything? No. Well OK, some. For my part its when I see a picture and preferrably a moving representation is when things start to seep into the grey matter.

First an overview picture – On the left you got the NMP, with its destinct subplugins, SATP and PSP. Then in the middle there is a 3rd party MPP, and last but not least is the MASK_PATH plugin.

So what do the subplugins do?


  • Manages failover of paths. Monitors, determines and implements switching between paths in case of a failure.
  • Provided for every type of array that VMware supports, e.g. VMW_SATP_LSI for LIST/NetApp arrays from Dell, IBM, Oracle and SGI to name a few.


  • Determines which path will be used for an I/O request. Thats the Fixed, Round-Robin, Most-recently-used algorithms. More on that later.

So now we got these acronyms : PSA, NMP, MPP, SATP, PSP, MRU, RR. How do they work together? Lets begin when you boot up a ESXi host.

  1. NMP assigns a SATP to every physical path to the logical device (datastore), e.g. VMW_SATP_LSI if its a IBM DS3524.
  2. NMP associates paths to logical devices – see my previous post on paths.
  3. NMP decides which PSP to use with the logical device.
  4. Storage framework (VM) tells NMP an I/O is ready to send.
  5. I/O is issued.
  6. PSP is selected. Load-balances if applicable.
  7. I/O is sent to  device.
  8. Success:Device driver (Storage array) indicates I/O is complete. Failure: NMP calls appropriate SATP.
  9. Success: NMP tells PSP I/O is complete. Failure: SATP interprets error codes and fails over to inactive paths.
  10. Failure: PSP is called again to select which path to use for I/O – excluding the failed path.

That pretty simple right? Well not exactly because there is no way to visualize that process unless you had read about the PSA before.

So here is a short video to help you out. I hope this makes the topic easier to understand.

VMware Storage Basics – Explanation + Video

I was working on masking some storage paths some days ago and after finding the VMware KB I realized that I needed to create a blog post about storage and how it relates to VMware before I go and explain how to mask paths and why its is done.

This will be the first of three posts regarding storage in VMware, leading up to a explanation of masking storage paths in VMware.

The Basics:

You can put the components in a VMware storage array connection in small list:

  1. LUN ID.
  2. Datastore UUID.
  3. LUN Paths.
  4. Adapter identifier
  5. Target identifier (Storage array)

1. Every LUN has an ID to identify between them.

  • NAA & EUI: Most common  are the NAA, that’s Network Address Authority  Identifier, or a EUI, that’s Extended Unique Identifier.

  • MPX : Local Datastores have another UUID, for example mpx.vmhba33:C0:T1:L0. This is only for local LUNs and can be used in the exact same way as the NAA identifier.
  • VML: Can be used interchangeably with the NAA identifier and the MPX identifier. Used for operations such as vmkfstools.

2 .Every VMFS volume has UUID, a Universally Unique Identifier that is assigned at creation.

3 .Then you got Paths to a LUN. Thats the connections from the ESXi host to the Storage Array.

Most commonly you have 4-8 paths, at least 2 to have some kind of failover.

Paths are identified with something like this: vmhba1:C0:T1:L1. What does these numbers mean?

  • vmhba1= Name of the storage adapter on the physical ESXi host. Most commonly you got two, vmhba1 and vmhba2.
  • C=Channel, or the storage channel. Some controllers support multiple connections to the same controller.
  • T=Target, this is a number made up by the host for the Datastore’s paths, so in a 4 path Datastore (with 2 HBAs) you would get :vmhba1:C0:T0:L1,vmhba1:C0:T1:L1,vmhba2:C0:T0:L1,vmhba2:C0:T1:L1.
  • Please note that these target number are NOT shared between hosts and can change between reboots. Really its the NAA(or EUI) that lets you know what datastore you are referring to.
  • L=LUN number. A number provided by the storage system.

4. Adapter identifier is made from the WWNN (world wide node name) and WWPN (world wide port name). The format is fc.200100e08ba5ff63:210100e08ba5ff63. you can see this in the vSphere client:

This is a ID (WWN) for the ESXi host adapter. This adapter ID is used mainly when zoning storage arrays and hosts together.

I want to explain what you see in the picture:

First you have the Paths (vmhba2:C….), as you can see this datastore has 4 paths to it (8 if the dead ones are counted…).

All paths has a different Target identifier as this Storage array has 4 HBA cards (IBM SVC).

5. Target identifier has the same format as the adapter identifier. Can also be seen in the vSphere client.

This is an ID for the storage array. Also used mainly in zoning.

Finally I wanted to add a video how these storage components work together.

*Sidenote : Most common ESXi 5.0 CLI commands to get some storage data are:

  • esxcli storage core path list : Generates a list of all LUN paths currently connected to the ESX host.
  • esxcli storage core device list: Generates a list of LUN’s currently connected to the ESX host.
  • esxcli storage vmfs extent list : Generates a list of extents for each volume as well as providing the mapping from the device name to the UUID.
  • esxcli storage filesystem list: Generates a compact list of the LUNs currently connected to the ESX host, including VMFS version.
  • ls -alh /vmfs/devices/disks:  Lists the possible targets for certain storage operations.

Next post will go deeper into VMware PSA (Pluggable Storage Arcitecture) and how it works.