19 December 2007

Windows, iSCSI and NAS (Network-attached Storage) in Test Environment

Recently, I worked on a project to be deployed on a Windows servers cluster.
Before setting up the production environment, it was necessary to check if one of the required applications will work on a cluster.

To those of you who doesn’t know what a cluster is, just take a look at what’s written on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_cluster

That time, I had no extra servers for testing, so I decided to setup the cluster in a virtual environment. To do this, I created 2 Windows 2003 Servers on my VMWARE station.
However, the biggest problem was the storage space.

Anyone who worked at least once with clusters, knows that they need a shared storage, also called a NAS (Network-attached Storage).
Unfortunately, I have no NAS in my lab, so I used another technique for my test.
If you do Googling a bit, you will find a lot of Linux-based NAS software, like FreeNAS.

However, I wanted a Windows-based software and I founded probably one of the best (IMHO), which is StarWind, available for FREE in a Personal edition.
Now, I’m not going to show you how to install a cluster, I just would like to show how to connect two (or more) servers to the same Network-attached Storage by using the iSCSI technology, and how to do this in a test environment.

When you launch StarWind for the first time, you will see a screen like this one:

The first step is to add a device.
To do this, right click on the localhost:3260 icon and select Connect.
For the username and password, simply use the word test.

When the connection will be established, click on the Add device button to display the following screen:

Here, select Image File device and click on the Next button.

On the next window, select Create new image and click on the Next button. You'll have to enter a name, a location and a size for the image.
For best performance, it's recommended to avoid image compression and encryption.
The next screen is of the highest importance.

REMEMBER to select Allow multiple concurrent iSCSI connections (clustering).
If you forgot to select this option, your cluster setup will fail.

The next steps are just about few clicks on some Next buttons and a Finish one.

Finally, you should see a screen similar to this one:

Before connecting the Windows Server 2003 to the iSCSI storage, we need to install the iSCSI Initiator, that can be downloaded from Microsoft.

While I was writing this article, the setup of a Windows Server 2008 RC1 with Hyper-V Beta finished.

Since the procedure for connecting iSCSI disks to a Windows Server 2008 is quite similar to connecting them to a Windows Server 2003, I'd like to show how to do this on a Windows Server 2008.

So, from the Control Panel we start iSCSI initiator. When we do that for the first time, we get the message below:

Click on the Yes button. On the next window also click on the Yes button and you will see the following window:

Click on the Discovery tab, click on the Add Portal button, enter the IP address of the iSCSI machine (where StarWind is installed), and click on the OK button.

Click on the Targets tab, and click on the Log on button.

Select the options according to the picture below, and then don't forget to click on the OK button.

Click on the Volumes and Devices tab, and click on the Autoconfigure button.

Now, we are ready to click on the last OK button, and go to the Disk Management.

If all the previous steps were done correctly, you should see a screen similar to this one:

The next steps are very simple, and I don't think that I've to explain how to create a volume and a partition in Windows.

When done, if we open My Computer we will see a new Local Disk, like in my example:

At this point, we have successfully configured an iSCSI storage under Windows, and we are ready to go on.

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