Storage Design and VDI

Recently I have spent time re-thinking certain configuration scenarios and asking myself, “Why?” If there is something I do day to day during installs is this still true when it comes to vSphere? or will it still be true when it comes to future versions. Lately I have questioned how I deploy LUNs/volumes/datastores. I usually deploy multiple moderate size datastores. In my opinion this was always the best way to fit in MOST situations. I also will create datastores based on need afterward. So will create some general use datastores then add a bigger or smaller store based on performance/storage needs. After all the research I have done and asking questions on twitter* I still think this is a good plan in most situations. I went over a session TA3220 - VMware vStorage VMFS-3 Architectural Advances since ESX 3.0 and read this paper: I also went over some blog posts at and Virtualgeek.

An idea occurred to me when it comes to using extents in VMFS, SCSI Reservations/Locks, and VDI “Boot Storms”. First some things a picked up.

  1. Extents are not “spill and fill” VMFS places VM files across all the LUNs. Not quite what I would call load balancing, since it does not take IO load into account when placing files. So in situations where all the VM’s have similar loads this won’t be a problem.
  2. Only the first LUN in a VMFS span gets locked by “storage and VMFS Administrative tasks” (Scalable Storage Performance pg 9). Not sure if this implies all locks.

Booting 100’s of VM’s for VMware View will cause locking and even though vSphere is much better when it comes to how quickly this process takes. There is still an impact. So I am beginning to think of a disk layout to ease administration for VDI, and possibly lay the groundwork for improved performance. Here is my theory:

Create four LUNs with 200GB each. Use VMFS to extents to group them together. Resulting in an 800 GB datastore with 4 disk queues and only 1 LUN that locks during administrative tasks.

Give this datastore to VMware View and let it have at it. Since the IO load for each VM is mostly the same, and really at the highest during boot other tasks performed on the LUN after the initial boot storm will have even less impact. So we can let desktops get destroyed and rebuilt/cloned all day with only locking that first LUN. This part I still need to confirm in the LAB.

What I have seen in the lab is with same sized clones the data on disk was spread pretty evenly across the LUNs.

Any other ideas? Please leave a comment. Maybe I am way off base.

*(thanks to @lamw @jasonboche and @sakacc for discussing or answering my tweets)

Written on December 23, 2009