Virtualization: 4 Storage Options for VMware Environments

7/9/12 1:30 PM Eva Jacob Virtualization, Storage

VMware vSphereThe world's leading platform for virtualization is VMware.

Many companies that are considering adoption of this industry-leading suite of programs question what sort of storage the platform will require.  According to VMware, their vSphere interface not only supports a variety of different types of storage, it does not even prefer one particular type to any other. 

This is not to say, however, that all ‘storage is created equal’. Every type has its own individual advantages and disadvantages.  Businesses looking to virtualization as a solution for improved resource allocation and lowered costs will need to weigh the pros and cons of various storage protocols in order to reach a conclusion about which one will best suit the needs of the organization.  VMware will function well with any of four different kinds of storage.


VMware has supported iSCSI storage since it introduced ESX 3.0 in 2006.  In an iSCSI environment, I/O operations use a block access protocol as they take place over the network.  This avoids the need to use local disks to access blocks.  When used with VMware, iSCSI storage takes SCSI commands and combines them with data into packets that are transmitted using TCP/IP packets.


Like iSCSI, NFS storage has been supported by IT company VMware since 2006.  In an NFS environment, an ESXi host mounts file devices onto the network; the role of NFS storage is to present those devices to the host.  As part of this process, the array or server using NFS causes local files and their systems to be accessible to the ESXi host or hosts.  The hosts then use a protocol based on RPC in order to read both files and the metadata associated with them.  The current version of VMware uses a TCP/IP protocol to support NFS version 3.

Fiber Channel

Fiber Channel storage stands apart from other storage protocols supported by VMware because it has been available to customers of the virtualization platform ever since ESX was first introduced.  A Fiber Channel storage protocol works in a similar manner to iSCSI, using the network to carry out I/O operations.  However, SCSI orders and data are combined by using Fiber Channel frames. 

Fiber Channel over Ethernet

This is the newest of the four protocols to be supported by VMware, which introduced ways of incorporating the protocol into its virtualized environments in 2011.  In Fiber Channel over Ethernet, I/O operations use a block access protocol to accomplish operations over the network.

Virtualization is often part and parcel of a managed services approach to IT support.  For more information about the storage solution best in your situation, contact iCorps.


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