Regular readers will know that I’ve spent a lot of time recently posting around VSAN. But VSAN wasn’t the only announcement at VMworld 2013. We also announced the next release of vSphere – version 5.5. I now want to share with you a number of new storage enhancements which we have made in this latest release of vSphere. To begin with, we will look at a long-awaited feature, namely the ability to have virtual machine disk files that are larger than 2TB, the traditional maximum size of VMDKs.
Although we have introduced the new VMDK size, for the most part Virtual Machine behavior is unchanged. You can still do snapshots, suspends, migrations, etc, with this new size, but there are some considerations to take into account. I’ve listed them here:
What is supported?
- NFS & VMFS-5 datastores both support the new 62TB size
- If a VM is powered off, its VMDK can be extended to the new 62TB size
- vMotion is fully supported, but you will not be allowed to migrate a VM with a 2TB+ VMDK to a non vSphere 5.5 host. VMs with VMDKs < 2TB can migrate to vSphere hosts running earlier versions of ESXi (assuming that the HW version is supported)
- Storage vMotion is fully supported, but be aware that Storage vMotions of larger VMDKs can now take longer to complete (obviously).
- VM Snapshots are fully supported, but note that the larger VMDKs will now leverage the new SE Sparse Disk format introduced in vSphere 5.1 rather than the old redo log (vmfsSparse) format. Without again stating the obvious, while the creation of snapshots is very quick, consolidation of these larger snapshots can still take some time.
- Cloning works as expected, but if you have Eager Zeroed Thick disks (EZT), cloning can again take some time on the very large VMDKs as it writes zeroes to every block. VAAI (and some array based technologies) can alleviate some of this overhead
- DRS is fully supported
- vSphere HA is fully supported
- Site Recovery Manager/vSphere Replication both support the larger size VMDK
- vSphere Flash Read Cache (vFRC) supports the larger VMDK size
What is not supported?
- Management via the C# client. The larger VMDKs can only be managed via the vSphere web client
- VMFS-3 does not support the larger VMDKs. It is still limited to 2TB (- 512 byte) VMDKs
- A VMDK cannot be hot extended (grow with VM powered on) to a larger VMDK size > 2TB. This is due to concerns around a Guest OS doing ‘live’ GPT partition header updates.
- Similarly, Guest OS which use the MBR partition format cannot support the larger VMDK size
- Virtual Machines which use the BusLogic Virtual SCSI Bus Adapter does not support the larger VMDKs
- vSphere Fault Tolerance (FT) does not support the larger VMDKs
- Virtual SAN (VSAN) does not support the larger VMDKs
- Redo Log format (vmfsSparse) snapshots cannot grow larger than 2TB
Web Client Support Only
For some time now, VMware has made it clear that all new features/enhances supported via the vSphere web client. This is also true for the the new larger 62TB VMDKs. If you create a large VMDK via the vSphere web client, and then try to examine its properties via the C# client, you will see the following ‘out of range’ error:
Note that you will not be able to create the larger VMDKs with the C# client – you will have to use the web client. If you log onto an ESXi 5.5 host using the C# client, a warning is now displayed about 5.5 features only being available via the vSphere web client.
While we readily admit that a number of products such as VUM (vSphere Update Manager) and SRM (Site Recovery Manager) still need integration into the web client, this is underway and customers should familiarize themselves as much as possible with the web client.
What about non-passthru RDMs?
We have supported 64TB pass thru RDMs (physical compatibility mode) since vSphere 5.0, the same time we introduced a 64TB VMFS volume on a single LUN. With the release of vSphere 5.5, we also have support for very large non-pass thru RDMs (virtual compatibility mode). These vRDMs in vSphere 5.5 can now assume the same size as a VMDK (~62TB).