Hyper-V

Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI Storage Using StarWind Free SAN & NAS

Creating a Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage is one of the ways you can have traditional shared storage for a Hyper-V cluster in your environment. I want to introduce you to a free solution that you can use for your Hyper-V lab environment or for other use cases to quickly create Hyper-V cluster iSCSI storage. It is the StarWind free SAN and NAS appliance that is freely available for download from StarWind. Let’s see how you can use this to add Hyper-V cluster iSCSI storage to your Hyper-V hosts.

What is StarWind Free SAN and NAS?

StarWind Free SAN & NAS is a simple Linux OVA appliance you deploy that provides easy iSCSI and NFS connectivity to storage running on top of a datastore, raw disk maps, etc. Notice the following description given by StarWind on the StarWind Free SAN & NAS found from:

StarWind SAN & NAS Free leverages the benefits of three of your favorites: StarWind VSAN, ZFS, and Linux. It’s deployed as a ready-to-go Linux-based VM on top of VMware ESXi or Microsoft Hyper-V, pooling all your storage resources and creating a hardware compatibility list (HCL) certified high-performing storage appliance. StarWind SAN & NAS Free also integrates ZFS for ultimate data integrity and unrestricted scalability, ready to support your business growth.

While it comes free of charge, your production environment deserves only the best. It’s easy to transition StarWind SAN & NAS Free to a paid version if you require High Availability (HA), Fault Tolerance, and/or Commercial Support. Better safe than sorry, and we can ensure that your organization enjoys all the benefits a full-featured, cutting-edge, modern software-defined storage (SDS) solution can provide.

So, as you see from the description, the solution is an enterprise solution that StarWind is making freely available. If you want to have additional high availability, fault tolerance, and commercial support, you will need to upgrade to the paid version of the product. However, for many, the free SAN & NAS solution may work just fine, especially in a lab environment.

Deploying StarWind Free SAN and NAS Appliance

The process to deploy StarWind Free SAN and NAS is very simple. For my lab environment to attach the solution to Hyper-V, I am actually using VMware vSphere as the backing hypervisor for all parts of the solution, including the nested Hyper-V hosts.

When you signup for the StarWind Free SAN and NAS, you will download a .ZIP file containing the OVF files and disks needed to deploy the solution, based on an Ubuntu virtual machine. After starting the Deploy OVF Template wizard, select your extracted StarWind Free SAN and NAS files.

Upload the StarWind Free SAN NAS files to vSphere using an OVF deployment
Upload the StarWind Free SAN NAS files to vSphere using an OVF deployment

I am skipping past the next several screens as these include the generic choices for any OVA/OVF deployment, such as compute, storage, etc. In step 6, you want to pay attention to your networking. In my environment, I have created two virtual switch port groups backed by different VLANs. One is for management and the other is for cluster/data traffic. Make sure you have your networking mapped correctly.

Configure the networking for both the management and data interfaces
Configure the networking for both the management and data interfaces

In Step 7, make sure to customize the appliance template by configuring the network settings for both your management and data interfaces.

Customize the StarWind Free NAS SAN OVF template settings
Customize the StarWind Free NAS SAN OVF template settings
Ready to complete the deployment of the StarWind Free NAS SAN appliance
Ready to complete the deployment of the StarWind Free NAS SAN appliance

Review the configuration settings configured during the wizard to ensure everything is accurate. The, click Finish.

Complete the StarWind SAN & NAS First Run Wizard

After the appliance is deployed you will need to browse to the address https://<your appliance hostname or IP>:8643

When you do, you will be prompted with the StarWind SAN & NAS First Run Wizard. Using the wizard, you will configure the StarWind iSCSI storage, including storage pool, disks, connectivity, etc.

Beginning the StarWind SAN NAS first run wizard
Beginning the StarWind SAN NAS first run wizard

Upload your StarWind Free SAN & NAS license file for you to create Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage.

Upload your StarWind SAN NAS license key
Upload your StarWind SAN NAS license key

Accept the EULA.

Accept the EULA 1
Accept the EULA 1

Set the password for the administrator account. A point to note. The administrator account is user and not something like admin.

Set the administrator password for StarWind Free SAN NAS
Set the administrator password for StarWind Free SAN NAS
Choose to configure the storage setup
Choose to configure the storage setup

To create Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage using StarWind, we need to add the disks to the solution. As you can see below, there are no disks that show by default.

No disks detected for storage purposes
No disks detected for storage purposes

In VMware vSphere, I simply added another VMDK, while the wizard was running. You can then click the Rescan Storage button. This will provide a disk to use for Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage.

Disk added to use for Hyper V iSCSI storage
Disk added to use for Hyper V iSCSI storage

Next, for your Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage, create a storage pool.

Setup the pool name
Setup the pool name

Configure a layout for the pool.

Create your pool layout
Create your pool layout

You will need to scroll down on the layout page to click the Validate layout button. Until you do this, you will not be able to click Next.

Validate the pool layout
Validate the pool layout

You can also configure a hot spare if you want.

Configure hot spare options
Configure hot spare options

Set the name and size for the virtual disk used for Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage.

Create virtual disk configuration
Create virtual disk configuration

On the network adapters page, if you have configured everything correctly during the deployment of the OVF appliance, you probably won’t need to make changes here. However, you can if you need to.

Configuring storage and management networking
Configuring storage and management networking

On the summary screen, make sure everything is configured correctly.

Summary of the StarWind SAN NAS first run wizard
Summary of the StarWind SAN NAS first run wizard

The appliance installation will run and complete.

Installation is completed successfully for StarWind SAN NAS
Installation is completed successfully for StarWind SAN NAS

The appliance configuration is set and ready to use for Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage.

Appliance is ready for use
Appliance is ready for use

Browsing out to the appliance and logging in, you will see the dashboard of the StarWind Free SAN & NAS.

Logging in and viewing the StarWind Free SAN and NAS dashboard
Logging in and viewing the StarWind Free SAN and NAS dashboard

Configuring Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI Storage

Now that we have the iSCSI storage configured using the StarWind Free SAN & NAS, we can add the iSCSI storage to our Hyper-V hosts for Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage. You can configure iSCSI settings in Windows Server by typing iscsicpl.exe in a run or command line. Select Yes to start the service and set it to Automatic.

Start the iSCSI storage service and set startup behavior
Start the iSCSI storage service and set startup behavior

Click the Targets tab. Enter the IP address of your StarWind Free NAS & SAN Data interface and click the QuickConnect button.

Setting up a quickconnect target on your Hyper V host
Setting up a quickconnect target on your Hyper V host

When you click the quickconnect button to create Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage, you should see the storage discovered in the discovered targets box.

The StarWind iSCSI storage is discovered
The StarWind iSCSI storage is discovered

The Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage shows connected.

The status of the StarWind iSCSI storage is Connected
The status of the StarWind iSCSI storage is Connected

Under Volumes and Devices, click the Auto Configure button.

Autoconfigure the iSCSI storage of the StarWind SAN NAS appliance
Autoconfigure the iSCSI storage of the StarWind SAN NAS appliance
Hyper V Cluster iSCSI storage is autoconfigured in the iSCSI initiator properties
Hyper V Cluster iSCSI storage is autoconfigured in the iSCSI initiator properties

Now, open Disk Management using diskmgmt.msc. You should see the new StarWind Free SAN & NAS storage shown, but not initialized as of yet.

In disk management the storage is avialable for configuration
In disk management the storage is avialable for configuration

Right-click and choose to Initialize disk. It will bring up the Initialize Disk dialog box. Choose GPT and click OK.

Initializing the Hyper V Cluster iSCSI storage presented from StarWind
Initializing the Hyper V Cluster iSCSI storage presented from StarWind

Next, you can right-click and format the volume. Here I have quickly gone through the wizard to create a new simple volume. Click Finish.

The new volume is formatted and brought online
The new volume is formatted and brought online

Once you go through this process on one of your Hyper-V hosts, it will already be initialized and formatted on the subsequent Hyper-V hosts. Don’t bring the storage online on the remaining Hyper-V hosts. You can now use the storage for Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage shared between your Hyper-V hosts.

Below, I ran the Failover Cluster tests on the two Hyper-V hosts I have ready to create a Hyper-V cluster. The iSCSI storage presented by StarWind Free SAN & NAS passes all the iSCSI tests for the Failover Cluster, including the all-important SCSI-3 persistent reservation test.

Failover Cluster iSCSI tests complete successfully
Failover Cluster iSCSI tests complete successfully

Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage FAQs

  • What is Hyper-V Cluster shared storage? – Shared Hyper-V cluster iscsi storage is a way to have traditional storage (non-software-defined) mounted to multiple hosts. It allows seamlessly failing over virtual machines running on one Hyper-V host to another healthy Hyper-V host.
  • What is StarWind Free NAS & SAN? It is a freely available Linux appliance that allows easily provisioning iSCSI storage for the purpose of sharing between two or more hosts. It can be run in a virtualized environment.
  • How do you create Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage? You can create Hyper-V cluster iSCSI storage by ensuring the shared storage is available from all Hyper-V hosts. When the Hyper-V cluster is created, virtual machines will need to be created on this shared storage. In this way, the virtual machines can be made highly available.

Wrapping Up

The StarWind Free SAN & NAS makes a great appliance for iSCSI targets, both with VMware ESXi and Hyper-V. As shown, you can easily use the StarWind Free SAN & NAS appliance to create Hyper-V Cluster iSCSI storage.

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