Deploying vSphere Storage Appliance 5.1 headaches

I have spent a full day deploying VSA 5.1 for the first time because of a lack of experience with the product and in my opinion some missing “Pay attention to:” items in the installation and configuration documentation.

My setup: two HP ProLiant Gen8 ESXi hosts running on vSphere 5.1 U1, both a RAID1 logical disk of 146 GB and a RAID5 logical disk of about 2.2 TB.
ESXi was installed on the RAID1 disk and the 2.2TB disk was meant for installing VSA.

I started with downloading the VSA binaries, including the VSA Manager. Ran the setup on the vCenter Server and after a while I got myself a nice VSA Manager tab in the vSphere Client. Using the wizard that popped up, I was on my way configuring VSA the way I wanted to.

As I only had two ESXi hosts, I required a third cluster member for maintaning quorum. This is done thru the VSA Cluster Service which can be installed on Windows or Linux. Or if you have three VSA hosts, you don’t need the cluster service at all.

But; before I rush to the climax: when I came to the point that the wizard was asking me how much capacity to reserve for the VSA datastores, it only showed me 146GB! What the…?

I tried several things: rebooting the ESXi hosts, restarting the vCenter Server, deleting the datastores I provisioned on the 2.2TB logical disks, creating a smaller datastore. Nothing was bringing me close to finding my missing capacity. I started Google’ing “VSA missing capacity”, “VSA multiple datastores”, “VSA not showing datastore” and so on. After some searches I found information stating that the smallest capacity counted. I rechecked the manual for this and indeed, it stated the same: Lowest capacity wins, make sure your datastores are of equal size.

Finally, I emptied the small datastores by migrating the VMs off. Unmounted the datastores and removed it using the vSphere Client. After running the VSA Manager wizard again, it finally showed me my rock-hard RAW capacity, Hoorah!

After deploying the whole thing, I recreated the small datastore for the sake of it and everything was working the way I wanted it to do in the first place.

Some remarks:

  • When deploying VSA, make sure only the datastore you want to include in VSA is active, or as the documentation states, multiple datastores of the same size. I guess if I would’ve installed ESXi on a flash drive and utilize all disks into one datastore, I would have been done with the job in less then 2 hours.
  • The vSphere Feature IP is the VSA-VMotion portgroup (which you should not create as VM portgroup, but as VMkernel Portgroup)
  • Preconfigure the portgroups needed for deployment on each ESXi host participating in your VSA cluster: VSA-VMotion, VSA-Back End, VSA-Front End, Management Network and VM Network. The names are case sensitive.
  • Install the VSA Cluster Service if you need it (two VSA hosts instead of three) before running the wizard.
  • Expanding your VSA capacity is a piece of cake!
  • Migrating VMs from your local datastore to the VSA requires VMotion. VMotion is not available in vSphere Essentials Plus. So deploy all your products within the 60 day evaluation period, or apply a test license for vSphere Enterprise Plus and vCenter Standard like I did and remove it after deployment.
  • RTFM (Read The Fucking Manual) but still; I think more guidance is needed in the documentation for people with no VSA experience.

Thanks for reading!