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Physical Disks or Virtual Disks?


SabatonFan80
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I've been putting off rebuilding my virtualized WHS machine for quite a while, and one of the decisions I'm trying to make is whether or not to use Physical disks or virtual disks.

 

My current VM hosting environment is VMWare Server 2.x, so physical disks weren't an option (unlike in Server 1.x.. grr!).

 

I'm also running a Hyper-V R2 server for basically every other VM besides my WHS machine. Hyper-V does allow physical disk access.

 

What are you guys on the forum using? Are there any strong opinions or a general consensus on which is better?

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As long as you use a fixed disk instead of a dynamically expanding, I don't think you will see much performance difference between the virtual and physical disks.

 

I lost the motherboard in my WHS system a while back, instead of getting that box up and running again, I just moved all the drives to my 2008 R2 box. Created a new VM pointing to all the physical disks and was up and running.

 

I really don't see any benefit in running physical vs virtual other than the fact that you could connect the drive to another system and have instant access without having to mount the VHD first. Disk Management (WHS Add-in) does show the temp of the drives where a virtual disk would not show this information.

 

There have been numerous times where the host has been restarted and the disks come back online for the host instead of staying offline. Because of this, WHS will either not start up, or will be missing a disk once up and running. Next time I will probably go with fixed size VHD, but I'm curious to read other opinions.

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I would personally go physical disks for WHS. Based on what WHS is, a backup solution, I would want to keep everything as close to bare metal as possible. If something goes wrong, you can always move the physical drives to another box without the added issue of having to re-install/configure a virtualization server. Any other VMs can go virtual with little issue.

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I've been using fixed-sized virtual disks up to this point.

 

Getting closer to the metal does make sense, although it's not really hard to mount a VHD from Hyper-V in Windows 7.

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Well, before I can give a complete answer for your situation, it depends on what VM solution you're going to use and what hardware is in play. The reason I use virtual drives is to alleviate 2 big problems with physical hard drives in WHSv1's design: a single point of failure (os drive), and disk throughput. But, all of this depends on your design. I utilize a hardware raid card to spread the volumes presented to WHS over 8 drives, and it gives WHS around 200mb/s throughput.

 

Now, does everyone need that, of course not. But if you're running multiple OS's on 1 disk, that's right away going to be your performance bottleneck. In a more simple example, 1 cpu, 4 gb ram, 1 disk w/ host OS installed and 3 2tb drives. Main OS will only be on the 1 host disk with the 3 2tb drives only for WHS. In this example, you don't gain anything by making VHD's or VMDK's that take up the whole drives. You can pass the drives through to the VM and save a layer of unneeded complexity. If you're ever going to share any of the disk with another VM or OS, then the virtual drive is the choice.

 

Perhaps lay out your hardware and I can throw out some more specific thoughts.

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