Nexenta NexentaStor is an enterprise grade NAS appliance that provides block (iSCSI) and file (SMB, NFS) services. It’s also great for homelabbers as a restricted ‘community’ edition is available, which makes for a great alternative to FreeNAS. Being a VMware partner, deployment on ESXi is pretty smooth, too.
I’m going to run through deployment of Nexentastor version 4. I have played with 5- and it’s worth noting that’s it’s vCenter integration is pretty awesome, but it seems to be more geared towards presenting NexentaStor with virtual disks (VMDKs) stored on an ESXi datastore(s); version 4 is much more open to the idea of being presented with an HBA and letting the OS work it’s ZFS magic directly on physical disks.
How to Get NexentaStor
NexentaStor is available in three variations- community, trial and enterprise
Fully featured with plugins, varying levels of support, licensed per raw TB. I asked for a quote for a homelab- definitely not a toy.
As above but with 45 day time limit.
No plugins, support from community forums only and restricted to 18TB raw capacity. Note that a community edition of v5 is also available but is limited to 10TB raw capacity.
Download the 4.0.4 community edition here.
Setup NexentaStore as an ESXi VM
The first task is to make an HBA available for virtual machine use. In vCenter, select the host with physical HBA and disks available, select the configure tab, then PCI Devices. Finally select the desired HBA, then reboot the host to apply changes. You could present NexentaStore with VMDKs but performance will likely take a hit.
Now we can create our virtual machine and prepare for NexentaStore installation.
Installation is straightforward but in the interests of being thorough, here’s a few screenshots depicting the beautiful GUI you can expect during installation. Note- use ‘space’ to select an option and ‘enter’ to accept and move to the next page
At this point, head to the site mentioned here and enter the machine code. Make sure you use a real email as that’s how the registration key is delivered
Run through the network setup then either head to the address you set in a browser or run the following to do basic setup via NMC
setup appliance init
Create an iSCSI Share
Log in to the GUI at the network address set earlier. Login as ‘admin’, then head to Data Management -> Datasets -> Create Volume. At this point, it really pays to do a bit of reading on ZFS. For a seriously light TL;DR- Raid Z is roughly equivilant to RAID 5, RAID Z2 is RAID 6 and mirror is RAID 1. How ZFS implements this and how to get the most performance from it is worth diving a little more deeply into, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.
Connect to an iSCSI Share from ESXi
Nearly there! It’s time to present storage to ESXi. I’m going to demonstrate this on the vCenter web client, but the process is essentially the same for individual hosts and on the C# client
Select a host, Configure -> Storage Adapters -> Add New Storage Adapter
Under Targets, add the IP address of the NexentaStor appliance- Dynamic Discovery or Static Discovery are both fine. Then click Rescans the host’s storage adapter to discover newly added storage devices. Once this completes you should see the NexentaStore appliance under the Devices tab
And that’s it! From here, consider adding dedicated NICs for iSCSI traffic, implementing CHAP or mutual CHAP for a bit of security and tweaking storage parameters to suit your use case.