Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Microsoft Windows File Sharing with Nimble Storage - It Couldn't Be Easier

Hi Friends,

Today I wanted to show you how easy it is to set up a Microsoft Windows file share with Nimble Storage as the back end storage.  Now remember there's always more than one way to peel an onion! And like ogres and onions, file shares have layers!

Now before you decide that Brain has completely lost his mind, bear with me a bit here.

Generally speaking in a virtualized environment you've got a couple ways you can attach storage to your virtual machine.  You can use VMware to connect a VMDK or you can direct connect the storage using iSCSI or Fibre Channel.  I know, I know, there's RDM's too, but for simplicity I'm going to stick with those two methods.

So why would you choose one method over another?  Well, that's where the onion comes in.  Say I want to use VMware tools to take snapshots, vmotion machines around, use DRS to keep everything running, or SRM to fail one site over to another?  Basically I want to use all the goodness of VMware and VMware tools.  In that case I'd go for VMDK.  But what if I wanted to use native Microsoft tools, clustering and didn't need the VMware tools capability?  In that case I'd go for direct connect with iSCSI or FC.

In other words, how you attach your storage is really going to depend on how you want to administer it and what tools you want to use for backups, path management, etc.

The cool thing about the Nimble Storage array is that no matter what method you choose, it's still easy to setup and administer!

With that said, for this blog I'm going to show you how to create a file share volume, attach it to the Windows file share machine as a VMDK, apply best practices and how you can easily backup the datastore to protect the data that will reside on the share.  In another blog I'll demonstrate how to direct connect and all the goodies that go along with that.

Let's go to our Nimble array and create a volume.  We've got some choices here.  Do we choose default, VMware ESX 5 or Windows File Server?  Since we're attaching the storage to the host through a VMDK, we're going to choose VMware ESX 5.

That was easy, how about protecting our data?  The cool thing about Nimble is it has protection built right in and you can even synchronize with VMware vCenter!  If you were to just take a Nimble snapshot the machine would be crash consistent, but not machine consistent.  By synchronizing with vCenter, the machine will be quiesced before the snapshot is taken.

Here's where you'll create your schedule, when you want to the snapshots to occur, how often, how many to keep, and if want to replicate to another Nimble.  So say you have another Nimble at another site.  You can send your data there in case of fire, flood, asteroid, giant prehistoric monster....

Now how about multi-pathing?  Nimble's got you covered again!  Make sure to download the Nimble Connection Manager for VMware, you can get that from Nimble.

On your Windows file server, make sure the File Server Role has been installed.

Head over to Computer Management and initialize the new disk.

Now we'll format our new drive and put a file system on it.

Here we're sharing out the new volume.  The permissions and who can use the share will be up to you.

How about some Microsoft file sharing best practices?  Jose Barreto, who is a member of the File Server team at Microsoft, wrote a really great blog regarding the Microsoft Windows 2012 File Services Best Practices Analyzer (BPA).  You run it through Power Shell and it tells you if there are any issues with your file server, the severity and where to look for help to fix the issues.  Pretty cool!

You're all set!  Remember though, there are multiple ways to peel the file share, so my way is just a way and there are lots of other ways to do this and tweaks you can apply.

Until Next Time!


  1. Nice post Brain! I like how easy yet elegant this is. You don't have to worry about any CIFS compatibility because you are presenting directly from a MSFT server. And at the same time have all the benefits of the CASL file system.

  2. Figured out this post is basically lifted from Nimble's Storage Solution Guide
    For Server Message Block (SMB) File Sharing. Let's give credit where it's due!