Posts Tagged ‘vmdk’

History of vSphere Storage Size Limitations

June 5, 2016

data-storageThis seems like a straightforward topic. If you are on vSphere 6 you can create VMFS datastores and VM disks as big as 64TB (62TB for VM disks to be precise). The reality is, not all customers are running the latest and greatest for various reasons. The most common one is concerns about reliability. vSphere 6 is still at version 6.0. Once vSphere 6.1 comes out we will see wider adoption. At this stage I see various versions of vSphere 5 in the field. And even vSphere 4 at times, which is officially not supported by VMware since May 2015. So it’s not surprising I still get this question, what are the datastore and disk size limits for various vSphere versions?

Datastore size limit

The biggest datastore size for both VMFS3 and VMFS5 is 64TB. What you need to know is, VMFS3 file system uses MBR partition style, which is limited to 2TB. The way VMFS3 overcomes this limitation is by using extents. To extend VMFS3 partition to 64TB you would need 32 x 2TB LUNs on the storage array. VMFS5 file system has GPT partition style and can be extended to 64TB by expanding one underlying LUN without using extents, which is a big plus.

VMFS3 datastores are rare these days, unless you’re still on vSphere 4. The only consideration here is whether your vSphere 5 environment was a greenfield build. If the answer is yes, then all your datastores are VMFS5 already. If environment was upgraded from vSphere 4, you need to make sure all datastores have been upgraded (or better recreated) to VMFS5 as well. If the upgrade wasn’t done properly you may still have some VMFS3 datastores in your environment.

Disk size limit

For .vmdk disks the limitation had been 2TB for a long time, until VMware increased the limit to 62TB in vSphere 5.5. So if all of your datastores are VMFS5, this means you still have 2TB  .vmdk limitation if you’re on 5.0 or 5.1.

For VMFS3 file system you also had an option to choose block size – 1MB, 2MB, 4MB or 8MB. 2TB .vmdk disks were supported only with the 8MB block size. The default was 1MB. So if you chose the default block size during datastore creation you were limited to 256GB .vmdk disks.

The above limits led to proliferation of Raw Device Mapping disks in many pre 5.5 environments. Those customers who needed VM disks bigger than 2TB had to use RDMs, as physical RDMs starting from VMFS5 supported 64TB (pRDMs on VMFS3 were still limited to 2TB).

This table summarises storage configuration maximums for vSphere version 4.0 to 6.0:

vSphere Datastore Size VMDK Size pRDM Size
4.0 64TB 2TB 2TB
4.1 64TB 2TB 2TB
5.0 64TB 2TB 64TB
5.1 64TB 2TB 64TB
5.5 64TB 62TB 64TB
6.0 64TB 64TB 64TB


The bottom line is, if you’re on vSphere 5.5 or 6.0 and all your datastores are VMFS5 you can forget about the legacy .vmdk disk size limitations. And if you’re not on vSphere 5.5 you should consider upgrading as soon as possible, as vSphere 5.0 and 5.1 are coming to an end of support on 24 of August 2016.

NetApp VSC Single File Restore Explained

August 5, 2013

netapp_dpIn one of my previous posts I spoke about three basic types of NetApp Virtual Storage Console restores: datastore restore, VM restore and backup mount. The last and the least used feature, but very underrated, is the Single File Restore (SFR), which lets you restore single files from VM backups. You can do the same thing by mounting the backup, connecting vmdk to VM and restore files. But SFR is a more convenient way to do this.


SFR is pretty much an out-of-the-box feature and is installed with VSC. When you create an SFR session, you specify an email address, where VSC sends an .sfr file and a link to Restore Agent. Restore Agent is a separate application which you install into VM, where you want restore files to (destination VM). You load the .sfr file into Restore Agent and from there you are able to mount source VM .vmdks and map them to OS.

VSC uses the same LUN cloning feature here. When you click “Mount” in Restore Agent – LUN is cloned, mapped to an ESX host and disk is connected to VM on the fly. You copy all the data you want, then click “Dismount” and LUN clone is destroyed.

Restore Types

There are two types of SFR restores: Self-Service and Limited Self-Service. The only difference between them is that when you create a Self-Service session, user can choose the backup. With Limited Self-Service, backup is chosen by admin during creation of SFR session. The latter one is used when destination VM doesn’t have connection to SMVI server, which means that Remote Agent cannot communicate with SMVI and control the mount process. Similarly, LUN clone is deleted only when you delete the SFR session and not when you dismount all .vmdks.

There is another restore type, mentioned in NetApp documentation, which is called Administartor Assisted restore. It’s hard to say what NetApp means by that. I think its workflow is same as for Self-Service, but administrator sends the .sfr link to himself and do all the job. And it brings a bit of confusion, because there is an “Admin Assisted” column on SFR setup tab. And what it actually does, I believe, is when Port Group is configured as Admin Assisted, it forces SFR to create a Limited Self-Service session every time you create an SFR job. You won’t have an option to choose Self-Assisted at all. So if you have port groups that don’t have connectivity to VSC, check the Admin Assisted option next to them.


Keep in mind that SFR doesn’t support VM’s with IDE drives. If you try to create SFR session for VMs which have IDE virtual hard drives connected, you will see all sorts of errors.

Mounting VMware Virtual Disks

June 11, 2013

H_Storage04There are millions of posts on that topic all over the Internet. Just another repetition mostly for myself.

VMware has Virtual Disk Development Kit (VDDK) which is more of an API for backup software vendors. But it includes a handy tool called vmware-mount, which gives you an ability to mount VMware virtual disks (.vmdk) from wherever you want.

Download VDDK from VMware site. It’s free. And then run vmware-mount with the following keys:

> vmware-mount driveletter: “[vmfs_datastore] vmname/diskname.vmdk” /i:”datacentername/vm/vmname” /h:vcname /u:username /s:password

Choose drive letter, specify vmdk path, inventory path to VM (put ‘vm’ in lowercase between datacenter and vm name, upper case will give you an error) and vCenter or ESXi host name.

Note however, that you can mount only vmdks from powered off VMs. But there is a workaround. You can mount vmdk from online VMs in read-only mode if you make a VM snapshot. Then the original vmdk won’t be locked by ESXi server and you will be able to mount it.

To unmount a vmdk run:

> vmware-mount diskletter: /d

There are also several GUI tools to mount vmdks. But vmware-mount is enough for me.

Consistent VMware snapshots on NetApp

March 16, 2012

If you use NetApp as a storage for you VMware hard drives, it’s wise to utilize NetApp’s powerful snapshot capabilities as an instant backup tool. I shortly mentioned in my previous post that you should disable default snapshot schedule. Snapshot is done very quickly on NetApp, but still it’s not instantaneous. If VM is running you can get .vmdks which have inconsistent data. Here I’d like to describe how you can perform consistent snapshots of VM hard drives which sit on NetApp volumes exported via NFS. Obviously it won’t work for iSCSI LUNs since you will have LUNs snapshots which are almost useless for backups.

What makes VMware virtualization platform far superior to other well-known solutions in the market is VI APIs. VI API is a set of Web services hosted on Virtual Center and ESX hosts that provides interfaces for all components and operations. Particularly, there is a Perl interface for VI API which is called VMware Infrastructure Perl Toolkit. You can download and install it for free. Using VI Perl Toolkit you can write a script which will every day put your VMs in a so called hot backup mode and make NetApp snapshots as well. Practically, hot backup mode is also a snapshot. When you create a VM snapshot, original VM hard drive is left intact and VMware starts to write delta in another file. It means that VM hard drive won’t change when making NetApp snapshot and you will get consistent .vmdk files. Now lets move to implementation.

I will write excerpts from the actual script here, because lines in the script are quite long and everything will be messed up on the blog page. I uploaded full script on FileDen. Here is the link. I apologize if you read this blog entry far later than it was published and my account or the FileDen service itself no longer exist.

VI Perl Toolkit is effectively a set of Perl scripts which you run as ready to use utilities. We will use which lets you create VMware VM snapshots. In the first step you make snapshots of all VMs:

\”$perl_path\perl\” -w \”$perl_toolkit_path\\” –server vc_ip –url https://vc_ip/sdk/vimService –username snapuser –password 123456  –operation create –snapshotname \”Daily Backup Shapshot\”

For the sake of security I created Snapshot Manager role and respective user account in Virtual Center with only two allowed operations: Create Snapshot and Remove Snapshot. Run line is self explanatory. I execute it using system($run_line) command.

After VM snapshots are created you make a NetApp snapshot:

“\$plink_path” -ssh -2 -batch -i \”private_key_path\” -l root netapp_ip snap create vm_sata snap_name

To connect to NetApp terminal I use PuTTY ssh client. putty.exe itself has a GUI and plink.exe is for batch scripting. Using this command you create snapshot of particular NetApp volume. Those which hold .vmdks in our case.

To get all VMs from hot backup mode run:

\”$perl_path\perl\” -w \”$perl_toolkit_path\\” –server vc_ip –url https://vc_ip/sdk/vimService –username snapuser –password 123456  –operation remove –snapshotname \”Daily Backup Shapshot\”  –children 0

By –children 0 here we tell not to remove all children snapshots.

After we familiarized ourselves with main commands, lets move on to the script logic. Apparently you will want to have several snapshots. For example 7 of them for each day of the week. It means each day, before making new snapshot you will need to remove oldest and rename others. Renaming is just for clarity. You can name your snapshots vmsnap.1, vmsnap.2, … , vmsnap.7. Where vmsnap.7 is the oldest. Each night you put your VMs in hot backup mode and delete the oldest snapshot:

“\$plink_path” -ssh -2 -batch -i \”private_key_path\” -l root netapp_ip snap delete vm_sata vmsnap.7

Then you rename other snapshots:

“\$plink_path” -ssh -2 -batch -i \”private_key_path\” -l root netapp_ip snap rename vm_sata vmsnap.6 vmsnap.7
“\$plink_path” -ssh -2 -batch -i \”private_key_path\” -l root netapp_ip snap rename vm_sata vmsnap.5 vmsnap.6
“\$plink_path” -ssh -2 -batch -i \”private_key_path\” -l root netapp_ip snap rename vm_sata vmsnap.4 vmsnap.5
“\$plink_path” -ssh -2 -batch -i \”private_key_path\” -l root netapp_ip snap rename vm_sata vmsnap.3 vmsnap.4
“\$plink_path” -ssh -2 -batch -i \”private_key_path\” -l root netapp_ip snap rename vm_sata vmsnap.2 vmsnap.3

And create the new one:

“\$plink_path” -ssh -2 -batch -i \”private_key_path\” -l root netapp_ip snap create vm_sata vmsnap.1

As a last step you bring your VMs out of hot backup mode.

Using this technique you can create short term backups of your virtual infrastructure and use them for long term retention with help of standalone backup solutions. Like backing up data from snapshots to tape library using Symantec BackupExec. I’m gonna talk about this in my later posts.