Hyper-V storage: Managing storage for a Hyper-V environment

In this podcast interview, Dennis Martin discusses Hyper-V storage best practices and tools and techniques to support and improve storage management in a Hyper-V environment.

Hyper-V storage provides several advantages over managing storage in a VMware environment, most notably that managing storage for a Hyper-V environment is similar to managing storage with Windows—the way you create LUNs and load drivers is the same whether they’re running in Windows or in Hyper-V. 

In this podcast interview, Dennis Martin, president of Demartek, talks about Hyper-V storage best practices. Find out how storage management in a Hyper-V environment differs from one in a VMware environment, Microsoft and third-party tools and techniques to support storage management in a Hyper-V environment, and how to improve storage performance in a Hyper-V environment. Read his answers below or download the MP3.

Listen to the podcast on best practices for storage in a Hyper-V environment or read the transcript.

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Hyper-V storage: Managing storage for a Hyper-V environment

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How is Hyper-V storage management different from managing storage for a VMware environment?

Dennis Martin: Hyper-V, as most people know, runs on top of the regular Windows Server. So, from the hypervisor viewpoint, everything you’ve done before with Windows, as far as managing storage, all still works … exactly the same … whether [in Windows or in Hyper-V]. 

The difference is that in the VMs, you have to decide how you want storage to get over to the guest VMs that are running. There are a couple of different options. One is you can assign a virtual hard disk, and then let the VM point to that, like its local root drive. Another way you can do it is you can pass access to what we call a SCSI device, which could be a SAS array controller, [a Fibre Channel adapter or even iSCSI]. You could pass that through and then let the guest VM have access to that and manage it that way. If you’re doing it in VMware, you have one set of things you do in the VMware environment, and then it’s particular to the VMware environment, and then you have different things you could do in the guest.

The other difference is that you don’t have to put any particular file system on the LUNs that you pass to the guest, whereas in VMware, if you want VMware to manage it, you pretty much have to have a VMFS file system. So you’ve got a little more flexibility, I believe, in doing it in Hyper-V, and the management’s a little bit easier.

What tools or techniques does Microsoft include with Hyper-V to make Hyper-V storage management easier?

Martin: Some of this is what I’ve already said, in that if you know how to do it in Windows, then you know how to do it in Hyper-V—that’s the big advantage. Of course, when you go into a guest and you create a virtual machine … you have to tell whether you’re going to use direct storage from the boot drive … or you can specify these other methods. But they’re fairly straightforward. What we like to do, for data drives anyway, is to do a pass-through so that the hypervisor doesn’t really have to do much with it. It just kind of says, Here’s your adapter, go for it. So it just seems to be a lot easier. If you have a driver for Windows, then it will work. It’s pretty straightforward.

Are there any third-party tools available to help IT shops manage storage to support their Hyper-V virtual server environments?

Martin: There are lots of third-party tools that work for a lot of different things. You can certainly get third-party tools to help you do backups of VHDs if you don’t want to use the native [tools] that are in Windows, and there are third-party tools that will help you manage storage regardless of whether it’s in Hyper-V or not. So, you’ve got the full suite of third-party tools available to you. I don’t have a particular favorite one just for doing the Hyper-V stuff, but there are a great set of tools around.

What techniques can IT shops use to fine-tune performance of Hyper-V storage?

Martin: There are things you can do depending on the type of storage you’re connecting to. For example, if you’re using Fibre Channel SAN, there are things you can do with NPIV and get those things to get that sort of tuning done. You want to try and pass through as much as possible, at least for what we like to do to the guest—so let the guest do as much as it can. You’ve got similar kinds of things you can do with iSCSI. All of these are really the same things you could do with a native environment; pretty much all of those work in a Hyper-V environment as well.

This was first published in September 2011

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