It’s not uncommon for networking professionals to put together a home lab to test concepts and prepare for certifications. The VMware ESXi platform is a commonly used virtualization platform that one may come across in these home labs. In this article we will examine how to integrate a Synology NAS with an ESXi server as a home lab platform. Essentially the Synology NAS will be an iSCSI target so that you can take advantage of the disk space available on the Synology NAS to house the VM’s you deploy on the VMware ESXi server.

Before getting started let’s define some of the terminology we’ll be using for this solution.

  • iSCSI Target: This is a storage resource that located on a server. iSCSI is a protocol that’s used to link data storage devices on that server over an IP network infrastructure.
  • LUN: Logical unit number, used to identify a logical unit, which is a device addressed by the SCSI protocol.
  • NAS: Network attached storage, a network-accessible platform that gives access to storage space. In the case of this article, the Synology NAS will provide an iSCSI target so our ESXi server can use it for storage.

The following steps must be followed to configure the Synology NAS as an iSCSI target.

1. Log into DSM as admin.

2. Go to Storage Manager > iSCSI LUN, and click Create.

3. Select a LUN type

File-Level iSCSI allows you to create targets on existing storage volumes, so that storage may be shared between the two storage systems. In this case we only have this option because the NAS is used for other things such as web hosting, email services and so on.

Choosing Block-Level iSCSI does offer faster performance, but requires the usage of an entire storage volume which isn’t possible in this case.

4. Specify the LUN information:

Enter a name for the iSCSI LUN. In this case ours follows the recommended format of iqn.yyyy-mm.domain:device.ID

Also, if you’ve provisioned VMs in the past you probably already know what thin provisioning is all about. This option will allow the storage capacity of the iSCSI Target to be dynamic and allocated on-demand so you don’t carve out x amount of storage right up front.

Next, our capacity will be set to 1 GB for this example and the iSCSI Target mapping and we have selected the Create a new iSCSI Target option.

5. Click Next to continue.

6. Define the iSCSI target information.

This includes a name, iqn, and possible CHAP authentication information.

Again our name follows the recommended format of iqn.yyyy-mm.domain:device.ID and the iqn is populated already. If we enable CHAP it will require iSCSI Initiators to be authenticated before using the iSCSI Target. We don’t have a need for this at the moment so we will leave that blank.

8. Click Next to continue.

9. Now we confirm and click Apply to save our settings.

Our new LUN now appears.

And we can check our iSCSI target as well:

The next step in the process is the add the iSCSI target to our ESXi server. For this we need to jump over into our VMware vSphere client.

1. First, browse to the host in the vSphere Web Client navigator and make sure the Manage tab is selected.

2. To add a storage adapter follow these steps:

a. Click Storage>Storage adapters.

3. Add a software iSCSI adapter.

4. Select Network Port Binding and bind to the NIC for network access.

5. Add the target.

To do this, select the Targets tab and click add under Dynamic Discovery.

6. Enter the IP address of the NAS and click OK.

Once you do this you’ll want to rescan your storage adapters, pictured below. Once you’ve done so your new adapter should show up and you can use it for deploying VMs.

While this is not a practical application in an enterprise network, it makes sense to do things like this in a lab environment. It helps you squeeze more storage to test VMs and it’s a low cost way of doing so. At the same time the Synology can be used for other services since it has a pretty rich package repository.

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