EMC’s VNXe product line of storage arrays is geared toward the SMB. The VNXe series is “storage made simple.” It is capable of most of the things that smaller shops need in shared storage without breaking the bank or requiring hours of training on storage. EMC created this product line to make the connections between VMware (and other hypervisors) really easy to manage. You can also create replication between two VNXes. For those who have been shying away from data replication because of cost, you now have a viable solution for this.

I will take you through the process of setting up NFS datastores using the VNXe and then connecting them to a vSphere host. Keep in mind that NFS is different than Virtual Machine File System (VMFS), so you don’t get all of the perks that VMFS offers, but you also aren’t limited to the 2 TB datastore limit. Please read up on the differences between NFS and VMFS before you decide to use NFS as your file system.

The VNXe also uses the Unisphere Web UI, as do most of the other enterprise storage products from EMC.  Though some of the menus are a little different and the naming conventions are made more for the lay person, you’ll recognize the general toolbars (Figure A).
Figure A

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Follow these steps to find the VMware hosts on VNXe:

  1. Make sure your VNXe and vSphere hosts are all connected to the network, and everything is up and running.
  2. Click Hosts at the top of Unisphere UI.
  3. Click the VMware option to View And Manage All VMWare Hosts Known To The System.
  4. Click the Find ESX Hosts button at the bottom of the screen (Figure B). This should automatically discover your VMware/ESX(i) hosts in the environment.
  5. Highlight your host and then click Details to find more information.

Figure B

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Follow these steps to create the NFS datastores:

  1. Click the Storage button at the top of the Unisphere screen.
  2. Click the VMware option.
  3. Click the Create button at the bottom of the screen (Figure C).
  4. Name the datastore and give it an optional description.
  5. Click Next.
  6. Choose whether you want the file system to be NFS or VMFS. We’re choosing NFS in this case. There are advanced options about enabling deduplication and caching in this screen as well.
  7. Click Next.
  8. Choose how large you’d like to make it and whether you’d like it to be Thin Provisioned. This is actually thin provisioning it on the storage side, not the virtual machine side.
  9. Click Next.
  10. In the Configure Protection window of the wizard you can choose whether you want to configure automated snapshots, and the schedule you’d like them to work on. The default is to Configure Protection Storage. Do not configure a snapshot protection schedule.
  11. Click Next.
  12. Configure the protection storage size.
  13. Click Next
  14. Give access to the servers. The VMware hosts should be available in the menu drop-downs, so we can just select to make it available to those hosts.
  15. Click Next and then click Finish to see the results.
  16. Click Close.

Figure C

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The datastore should be immediately available on the ESXi (VMware) hosts. You may have to click the Rescan Storage button on your ESXi server if you do not see it right away.

If you like, you can also set up replication in step 15 of creating NFS datastores. It’s a pretty easy setup and an intuitive solution. I recommend making sure all of the software is up to date on your VNXe before you put anything on it, if you have that option. I’ve run into a few issues with upgrading some of the earlier versions.