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StarWind Virtual SAN® Compute and Storage Separated 3-Node Scenario with VMware vSphere 6.5


VMware requires a shared storage to guarantee the data safety and allow the virtual machines migration. It enables continuous application availability and eliminates any single point of failure within IT environment. VMware users have two options when choosing the shared storage:

  • Hyperconverged solution allows sharing the same hardware resources for the application (i.e. hypervisor, database) and the shared storage, thus decreasing the TCO and achieving the outstanding performance results.
  • Compute and Storage Separated solution keeps the compute and storage layers separately from each other, thus allows making the maintenance easier, increasing the hardware usage efficiency and building the system accurately for solving the task.

This guide is intended for experienced VMware and Windows system administrators and IT professionals who would like to configure Compute and Storage Separated solution with StarWind Virtual SAN®. It provides a step-by-step guidance for configuring a 3-node vSphere cluster using StarWind Virtual SAN® to convert storage resources of the three separated general-purpose servers into a fault-tolerant shared storage resource for ESXi.

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

Creating Cluster

3. In the Datacenter Getting Started tab, click Create a cluster. Enter the cluster Name and click Next.

Adding Hosts to Cluster

4. Open the Cluster pane and click Add Host.

5. Type the Host name or IP address of the ESXi host, enter the administrative account.

6. Click Cluster -> Configure -> Edit. In vSphere Availability area, tick the Turn on vSphere HA checkbox.

Configuring Networks

Configure network interfaces on each node to make sure that Synchronization and iSCSI/StarWind Heartbeat interfaces are in different subnets 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 the actions below should be applied to each ESXi server.

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

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

NOTE: Virtual Machine Port Group and VMKernel should be created for iSCSI vSwitch. Static IP address should be assigned to VMKernel port.

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

9. Create VMKernel ports one per each iSCSI channel.

10. In VMkernel adapters pane, click Add Networking and Add Virtual Machine Port Group on the vSwitch for iSCSI traffic.

Preparing StarWind Servers

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

StarWind hosts should be with the following parameters:

RAM: at least 4 GB (plus the size of the RAM cache if it is planned to be used);
CPUs: at least 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: Active Directory Domain Services role can be added on StarWind host if necessary, thus it can serve as a domain controller.

Downloading, Installing and Registering the Software

11. Download StarWind setup executable file from our website by following the next link:

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

13. Read and accept the License Agreement. Click Next to continue.

14. 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.

15. 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. The service can be managed from StarWind Management Console on any Windows computer that is on the network. Alternatively, the service can be managed from StarWind Web Console deployed separately.

  • StarWind Management Console

StarWind Management Console is the 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).

16. Specify the Start Menu folder. Click Next to continue.

17. Enable the checkbox to create a desktop icon.

18. A prompt will appear that allows to request a time-limited fully-functional evaluation key, or a FREE version key. Alternatively, the already purchased commercial license key for StarWind Virtual SAN can be used. Select the appropriate option.

19. Click Browse to locate the license file.

20. Review the licensing information. Click Next to apply the license key.

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

22. Click Finish to complete the installation process. Optionally, StarWind Management Console can be launched by ticking the corresponding checkbox.

23. Repeat the steps above on other hosts.

Provisioning Storage with StarWind VSAN

Creating StarWind HA devices

24. Launch StarWind Management Console.

NOTE: When launched, StarWind Management Console icon appears in the system tray.

25. To open StarWind Management Console, double-click the icon. Alternatively, right-click the icon and click Start Management Console in the shortcut menu.

26. Select the server from the Console tree.

27. Double-click the host to connect it.

28. Open Add Device Wizard in 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.

29. As Add Device Wizard appears, follow the instructions to complete creation of a new image device. Select Hard Disk Device as the type of a device to be created and click Next to continue.

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

31. Specify the virtual disk Location and Size. Alternatively, use the existing virtual disk.

Click Next to continue.

32.Select Thick-provisioned option. Click Next to continue.

33. 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. Yet, the cache size should correspond to the storage working set of the servers.

34. 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.

35. Specify the target parameters and tick the Allow multiple concurrent iSCSI connections checkbox to enable several clients to connect to the target simultaneously.

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

37. Click Finish to close the wizard.

38. Right-click the needed device and select Replication Manager from the shortcut menu. Then, click Add replica or the Click to add replication partner link.

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

40. Specify a partner Host Name or IP Address, and Port Number. Click Next to proceed.

41. Select the Failover Strategy policy.

42. Create a new partner device or select the existing device. Click Next.

43. Click Change Network Settings… .

44. Specify the interfaces for Synchronization and Heartbeat channels.

NOTE: At least one Heartbeat channel must be separated from a Synchronization channel due to availability consideration.

45. Select Synchronize from existing Device. Click Next.

46. Click Create Replica.

47. Click Finish to close the wizard.

48. Add one more replica.

49. Specify the partner Host Name or IP Address, and Port Number. Click Next to proceed.

50. Create a new partner device or select an existing device. Click Next.

51. Click Change network settings…

52. Specify the interfaces for Synchronization and Heartbeat channels.

53. Select Synchronize from existing Device.

54. Click Create Replica.

55. Click Finish to close the wizard.

56. Follow the similar procedure to create other virtual disks that will be used as datastores.

57. The successfully added devices appear in StarWind Management Console. Follow the similar procedure to create other virtual disks that will be used as datastores.

NOTE: For a 3-node StarWind cluster it is recommended to create at least 2 HA devices.

Preparing Datastores

Adding Discover Portals

58. To connect the previously created devices to the ESXi host, log in to vCenter, click Storage Adapters and +, and select the Enabled option to enable Software iSCSI storage adapter.

59. On the same page, click Targets tab. Click Add to add dynamic targets.

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

61. Rescan all storage adapters. In the Rescan Storage dialog, click OK.

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

63. Repeat all the steps from this section on all three ESXi hosts, specifying corresponding IP addresses for the iSCSI subnet.

Creating Datastores

64. Right-click on Datacenter ->Storage ->New Datastore.

65. Specify the Datastore name, select the previously discovered StarWind device, and click Next.

66. Select the VMFS 6 file system. Click Next.

67. Enter Datastore Size. Click Next.

68. Verify the settings. Click Finish.

69. Add another Datastore (DS2) in the same way but select the second device for the second datastore.

70. Verify that the storages (DS1, DS2) are connected to all hosts. Otherwise, rescan the storage adapter.

71. Path Selection Policy changing for Datastores from Most Recently Used (VMware) to Round Robin (VMware). For checking and changing this parameter manually, the hosts should be connected to vCenter.

72. Multipathing configuration can be checked only in vCenter. To check it, click the Configure button, select the Storage Devices tab, select the device, and click the Edit Multipathing button.

73. Select Round Robin (VMware) MPIO policy.

Additional Tweaks

74. On each ESXi host open Configure tab, switch to Security Profile and then click Edit to configure Services.

75. Select SSH. Click start service and set up Startup Policy on Start, then select Start and Stop with host.

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

77. Check device list using the following command:

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

NOTE. Paste UID of StarWind device in the end of the command. Also, this parameter has been already added into the Rescan Script and this action is performed automatically.

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


This technical paper has covered the configuration of StarWind VSAN for Compute and Storage Separated 3-node scenario with VMware vSphere. In this setup, all virtual machines are stored on a shared storage that is 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 availability of applications across the entire virtualized environment. VSAN nested inside a VM and running on ESXi hosts ensures data safety and maintains continuous application availability.

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