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By Chris Mills, Kovarus Senior Storage Engineer
When most of our customers think of VMware ESXi hosts, they think of the VMware vCenter clusters that are made up with these hosts, and in many instances the additional plug-ins added to give them additional capabilities and failover. Of course, all of this works well if the administrator has the time to keep up with patches and newer versions of the code as they are released. However, over the last year I have worked on several projects where there have been ESXi hosts and that is all — no clusters, no capabilities past what a single ESXi host can provide, and no failover.
The first customer is a large state agency that was getting its first true vCenter/ESXi cluster along with several plug-ins that would allow them to replicate offsite to another cluster for remote disaster recover (DR), and for local capabilities to handle their onsite workload. For years they had been working on older server platforms, including six ESXi hosts that had never been updated, and were doing various tasks for groups within the department. These servers were all individual standalone units running in some cases 14 hosts that were important to the work they did but had no failover and limited recovery through their backup software.
Once their main cluster was up and running and ready to have systems migrated over to it, they were amazed at the increased uptime compared to servers, ease of the process to get things patched, and the ability to build a new server from a template if a new host was required in their environment. Furthermore, they now have an IT staff that can manage this hardware and operating environment for them, allowing the engineers that were doing their jobs plus an IT position to concentrate solely on their primary job tasks.
The next customer is a school district that was in the process of migrating off their old vCenter/ESXi environment to a newer environment with new hardware and updated VMware software. They became the owners of two ESXi hosts that were deployed to run their phone systems for the district. Like the previous customer, these hosts were running older code and had no capabilities for failover or DR built-in, so they are now in the process of determining the best way to handle these two servers and provide the critical VMs to reside on where they will have high availability and improved uptime. One of the options we provided was to migrate the VMs on the single ESXi hosts that resides with the new vCenter and vSphere cluster to that new platform where they would have improved stability and backups. A second stand-alone host may be simply turned off since it no longer serves a purpose in their environment, however if they decide to keep its functionality, they will be replacing it with a new, smaller vSphere cluster at that site.
In both of these environments, simply educating the customer on the benefits of fully configured VMware vSphere clusters and the improvements provided not only to them but to the end users accessing the VMs for their day to day tasks, far exceed what they had with the basic single server ESXi hosts.
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