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StarWind Virtual SAN® 2-node Compute and Storage Separated scenario with VMware vSphere 6.0

Published: August 3, 2018


VMware requires a shared storage to guarantee data safety, allow virtual machines migration, enable continuous application availability, and eliminate any single point of failure within an IT environment. VMware users have two options when selecting the shared storage:

  • HyperConverged solutions that allow sharing the same hardware resources for the application (i.e. hypervisor, database) and the shared storage, thus decreasing the TCO and achieving outstanding performance results.
  • Compute and Storage separated solutions that keep compute and storage layers separately from each other, thus making the maintenance easier, increasing the hardware usage efficiency, and allowing users to build the system accurately for solving their tasks.

This guide is intended for experienced VMware and Windows system administrators, and IT professionals who would like to configure StarWind Virtual SAN® Compute and Storage separated solution for vSphere deployments. It provides a step-by-step guidance on configuring a 2-node fault-tolerant vSphere cluster with StarWind Virtual SAN®.

The configuration guide with VMware vSphere 6.5 can be found following this link:

A full set of up-to-date technical documentation can always be found here, or by pressing the Help button in the StarWind Management Console.

For any technical inquiries, please visit our online community, Frequently Asked Questions page, or use the support form to contact our technical support department.

Solution Diagram

The diagram below illustrates the network and storage configuration of the resulting solution described in the guide.

Preparing Hypervisor

Creating Datacenter

NOTE: Before creating Datacenter, the vCenter server should be deployed.

1.Connect to vCenter, select the Getting Started tab.

2. Click on Create Datacenter and enter Datacenter name.

Creating Cluster

3. Click the Datacenter Getting Started tab and click Create a cluster. Enter cluster name and click OK.

Adding Hosts to Cluster

4. Open the Cluster pane and click Add host.

5. Enter the ESXi Host name or IP address and enter the administrative account.

6. Turn on vSphere HA. To do, this click Manage -> Settings -> vSphere HA-> Edit.

7. In the Cluster Settings window select the Turn on vSphere HA checkbox.

Configuring Networks

Configure network interfaces on each node to make sure that iSCSI interface is in a different subnet and connected physically according to the network diagram above. In this document, two links with 172.16.10.x and 172.16.11.x subnets per ESXi host are used for iSCSI traffic. All actions below should be taken for each ESXi server.

8. Create vSwitch for the iSCSI traffic via the first Ethernet Switch.

9. Create vSwitch for the iSCSI traffic via the second Ethernet Switch.

NOTE: iSCSI vSwitch requires creating Virtual Machine Port Group and VMKernel. VMKernel port requires assigning static IP address.

NOTE: It is recommended to set jumbo frames to 9000 on vSwitches and VMKernel ports for iSCSI traffic. Additionally, users can enable vMotion on VMKernel port.

10. Create VMKernel ports for iSCSI channels.

11. In VMkernel adapters pane, click Add host networking and Add Virtual Machine Port Group on the vSwitches for iSCSI traffic.

12. Click Finish to complete.

Preparing StarWind Servers

Install Windows Server 2016 (2012 R2) and StarWind VSAN on each host.

Make sure that server hardware used for StarWind Virtual SAN deployment satisfies the requirements listed below.

Minimum requirements:

RAM: 4 GB (plus the size of the RAM cache if applicable);
CPUs: 1 socket with 2 GHz;
Hard disk 1: 100 GB for OS (recommended);
Hard disk 2: Depends on the storage volume to be used as shared storage.

Network adapter 1: Management
Network adapter 2: iSCSI1
Network adapter 3: iSCSI2
Network adapter 4: Sync1
Network adapter 5: Sync2

It is recommended to set jumbo frames to 9000 for iSCSI and Synchronization traffic.

NOTE: StarWind host allows adding Active Directory Domain Services role if necessary, thus it can serve as a domain controller.

Downloading, Installing and Registering the Software

13. Download the StarWind setup executable file from StarWind website following the link:

14. Launch the downloaded setup file on the server where StarWind Virtual SAN or one of its components should to be installed. The setup wizard will appear.

15. Read and accept the License Agreement.

Click Next to continue.

16. Carefully read the information about new features and improvements. Red text indicates warnings for users who are updating existing software installations.

Click Next to continue.

17. Select the following components for the minimum setup:

  • StarWind Virtual SAN Service

StarWind Service is the «core» of the software. It can create iSCSI targets as well as share virtual and physical devices. StarWind Management Console installed on any Windows computer or virtual machine in the network can manage the service. Alternatively, users can manage the service from StarWind Web Console deployed separately.

  • StarWind Management Console

StarWind Management Console is a Graphic User Interface (GUI) part of the software that controls and monitors all storage-related operations (e.g. allows users to create targets and devices on StarWind Virtual SAN servers connected to the network).

18. Specify Start Menu folder.

Click Next to continue.

19. Enable the checkbox to create a desktop icon.

20. You will be asked to either request a time-limited fully functional evaluation key, a FREE version key, or a fully-commercial license key sent to you with the purchase of StarWind Virtual SAN. Select the appropriate option.

21. Click Browse to locate the license file.

22. Review the licensing information.

Click Next to apply the license key.

23. Verify the installation settings. Click Install to continue or Back to make any changes.

24. Click Finish to complete the installation process. Optionally, tick the corresponding checkbox to launch StarWind Management Console.

25. Repeat the steps above on the second host.

Provisioning Storage with StarWind VSAN

Creating StarWind HA devices

26. Launch StarWind Management Console.

NOTE: At console launch, the StarWind console icon appears in the system tray.

27. Double-click the icon to open StarWind Management Console. Optionally, right-click the icon and select Start Management Console on the shortcut menu.

28. Select the required server from the Console tree.

29. To connect it, double-click the server.

30. Open Add Device Wizard by one of the following ways:

  • Right-click a StarWind server and select Add Device (advanced) from the shortcut menu.
  • Select a StarWind server and click the Add Device (advanced) button on the toolbar.

31. Follow the instructions in Add Device Wizard, to complete the new image device creation.

Select Hard Disk Device as a type of the device to be created and click Next to continue.

32. Select the Virtual disk option as a disk device type and click Next to continue.

33. Specify Virtual Disk Location and its Size. Alternatively, Use an Existing Virtual Disk.

Click Next to continue.

34. Select Thick-provisioned.

35. Define the RAM caching policy and specify the cache size in corresponding units.

NOTE: It is recommended to assign 1 GB of L1 cache in Write-Back or Write-Through mode per 1 TB of storage capacity. The cache size should correspond to the storage working set of the servers.

36. Optionally, define the L2 caching policy and the cache size.

NOTE: The recommended size of the L2 cache is 10% of the initial StarWind device capacity.

37. Specify Target Parameters and select the Allow multiple concurrent iSCSI connections checkbox to enable several clients to connect simultaneously to the target.

38. Click Create to add a new device and attach it to the target.

Click Finish to close the wizard.

39. Right-click the required device and select Replication Manager from the shortcut menu. Click Add Replica or the Click to add replication partner link.

40. Select Synchronous “Two-Way” Replication as the replication mode. Click Next to proceed.

41. Specify a partner Host Name or IP Address and Port Number.

Click Next to proceed.

42. Select the appropriate Failover Strategy policy.

NOTE: With Heartbeat failover strategy, one node remains active, even in case of all partner nodes failure.

With Node Majority failover strategy, the system can tolerate failure of only one node. If two nodes fail, the third one will become unavailable to clients’ requests.

This document describes the creation of an HA device with Heartbeat failover strategy.

The creation of an HA device with Node Majority failover strategy is covered in the following document:

43. Create new Partner Device or Select existing Device.

Click Next.

44. Click Change Network Settings.

45. Specify Interfaces for Synchronization and Heartbeat channels.

Note: At least one Heartbeat channel must be separated from a synchronization channel due to availability issues.

46. Select Synchronize from existing Device.

47. Click Create Replica.

Click Finish to close the wizard.

48. The added devices will appear in the StarWind Management Console.

49. Repeat the steps above to create other virtual disks for use as datastores.

NOTE: For a 2-node StarWind cluster, it is recommended to create at least 2 HA devices.

Preparing Datastores

Adding Discover Portals

50. To connect the previously created devices to the ESXi host, log in to vCenter, click on the Storage -> Storage Adapters -> Configure iSCSI and select the Enabled option to enable Software iSCSI storage adapter.

51. Click Add and select Add Software iSCSI adapter. Click OK.

52. The list of available storage adapters appears. Select iSCSI Software Adapter and open the Targets tab.

53. In the Configure iSCSI window, under Dynamic Targets, click on the Add Dynamic Target button to specify iSCSI interfaces. Add dynamic targets of both storage hosts.

54. Do the same for each StarWind server by clicking Add and specifying the server IP address.

55. Select Scan for new Storage Devices and Scan for new VMFS Volumes in the Rescan dialog and click OK.

56. Now, the previously created StarWind devices are visible.

57. Repeat all the steps from this section on the other ESXi node, specifying corresponding IP addresses for the iSCSI subnet.

Creating Datastores

58. Right-click on host and select New Datastore.

59. New Datastore wizard appears. Select VMFS.

Click Next.

60. Specify Datastore name and select the device to add to the datastore and click Next.

61. Select VMFS 5 and click Next.

62. Enter Datastore Size and click Next.

63. Verify the settings and click Finish.

64. Check another host for a new datastore.

65. If the list of existing datastores does not include new datastore, click Rescan Storage...

66. Add another Datastore in the same way and select the second device for the second datastore.

67. Verify that the storages are connected to both hosts. Otherwise, rescan the storage adapter.

68. Path selection policy for datastores changes from Most Recently Used to Round Robin automatically.

69. To check it, click the Configure button, choose the Storage Devices tab, select the device, and click the Edit Multipathing button.

70. Select Round Robin MPIO policy.

Additional Tweaks

71. Click the Manage -> Settings->Security Profile->Services->SSH->Edit. Then select Start and stop with host in the Startup Policy drop-down list.

72. Connect to the host using SSH client (e.g. Putty).

73. Check the device list using the following commands:

74. For devices, adjust Round Robin size from 1000 to 1 using the following command:

NOTE. Paste StarWind device UID in the end of the command. Also, Rescan Script already contains this parameter and the system performs this action automatically.

75. Repeat the steps above on each host for each datastore.


This technical paper covers the configuration of the StarWind VSAN for a minimalistic 2-node Compute and Storage Separated scenario with VMware vSphere 6.0. In this setup, all virtual machines are stored on a shared storage provided by StarWind. VMware HA provides VMs with redundancy, while StarWind is responsible for the storage uptime. The combination of StarWind shared storage and VMware ensures high application and data availability across the entire virtualized environment. StarWind Virtual SAN provides data safety and maintains continuous application availability