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Configuring Storage in VMM


Updated: May 13, 2016

Applies To: System Center 2012 SP1 - Virtual Machine Manager, System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager, System Center 2012 - Virtual Machine Manager

Virtualized workloads in Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) require storage resources to meet capacity and performance requirements. VMM recognizes local and remote storage. Local storage represents the storage capacity that is available on a server or that is directly attached to a server. Local storage is typically used for low-cost virtualization solutions. Remote storage offloads work from the server to an external storage device where the storage hardware provides scaling and capacity.

VMM supports the following storage solutions:

  • Block storage—VMM supports the use of block-level storage devices that expose logical unit numbers (LUNs) for storage, by using Fibre Channel, iSCSI, and Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) connection mechanisms. For more information about Fibre Channel, see Managing Virtual Fibre Channel in VMM.

  • File storage—VMM supports the use of network shares for storage. Network shares that support the Server Message Block (SMB) 3.0 Protocol can reside on a Windows-based file server or on a network-attached storage (NAS) device from storage vendors such as EMC and NetApp.

VMM introduces a number of new changes for storage provider and automation support that include:

  • Support for the Windows Storage Management API (SMAPI). SMAPI was introduced in Windows Server 2012 for the management of directly attached storage and external storage arrays. SMAPI is combined with a Storage Management Provider (SMP), or the Microsoft Standards-Based Storage Management Service and an SMI-S provider. SMAPI supersedes the Virtual Disk Service (VDS) application programming interface (API) in Windows Server 2012. For more information, see An Introduction to Storage Management in Windows Server.

  • VMM uses SMAPI to manage external storage by using SMP, or uses SMAPI together with a standards-based Storage Management Service to communicate with storage that is compliant with the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S). As of VMM in System Center 2012 SP1, the Windows Standards-Based Storage Management service replaces the Microsoft Storage Management Service, and is an optional server feature that enables communication with SMI-S storage providers.

  • Storage area network (SAN) migration, which uses the legacy Virtual Disk Service (VDS) hardware provider interface, is not supported after the System Center 2012 release. When you upgrade from System Center 2012, you must remove the VDS hardware provider software from the VMM server and enable the SMI-S or native Windows Management Infrastructure (WMI) SMP provider by using instructions from the storage vendors.

  • In addition to discovery and management of iSCSI arrays with static targets, VMM adds support for the discovery and management of iSCSI target arrays that support dynamic and manual targets, for example, Starwind, HP P2000, Dell EqualLogic, and Microsoft iSCSI Software Target.

  • VMM supports creation of a thin provisioning logical unit (LU). VMM adds support for the creation of a thin provisioned logical unit on a storage pool. Thin provisioning makes it possible for you to allocate more capacity to specific applications or users than is physically available. The storage array must support thin provisioning, and the storage administrator must enable thin provisioning for a storage pool.

  • VMM provides support for the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target by using an SMI-S provider. Microsoft iSCSI is now fully integrated into Windows Server 2012. The installation file (.msi) for the SMI-S provider for Microsoft iSCSI Target Server is included in the installation, in the path of CDLayout.EVAL\amd64\Setup\msi\iSCSITargetPRov\iSCSITargetSMISProvider.msi. For more information about the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target, see:

  • Windows Server 2012 provides support for using Server Message Block (SMB) 3.0 file shares as shared storage for Hyper-V. By using VMM, you can assign SMB file shares to stand-alone servers that are running Hyper-V and clusters. For more information, see How to Assign SMB 3.0 File Shares to Hyper-V Hosts and Clusters in VMM.

  • As of System Center 2012 R2, VMM provides support for creating and managing Scale-Out File Servers with Storage Spaces. For more information, see How to Create a Storage Pool from Physical Disks in VMM and How to Create a File Share from a Storage Pool in VMM.

Deploying and managing storage resources

VMM enables you to model, deploy, and manage the following storage resources:

  • Storage discovery—Administrators often have a limited understanding of underlying storage infrastructures. By using VMM, you can automatically discover local and remote storage that includes storage arrays, pools, and logical units, such as storage volumes or logical unit numbers (LUNs), disks, volumes, and virtual disks.

  • Storage classification—You can classify discovered storage by using friendly descriptive names to create and expose a simplified storage model.

  • Storage provisioning—VMM can provision new logical units from available capacity for a Hyper-V host or host cluster. New logical units can be provisioned by using any of the following methods. The method that you use depends on the type of storage array and the virtualization workload that you must deploy.

    • From available capacity—Create a new logical unit from available capacity is useful when you have a pool of storage available, which lets you control the number of logical units that you create and the size of each logical unit.

    • From a writeable snapshot of an existing logical unit—Create a writeable snapshot of an existing logical unit enables you to rapidly create many copies of an existing virtual disk. You can provision multiple virtual machines in a short amount of time, with minimal load on the hosts. Depending on the array, snapshots use space very efficiently and can be created almost instantaneously.

    • From a clone of a logical unit—Create a clone of an existing logical unit offloads the work of creating a full copy of a virtual disk to the array. Depending on the array, clones typically do not use space efficiently and can take some time to create.

    • From file shares on Windows-based file servers—You can provision new file shares on Windows-based file servers and on NAS devices.

  • Storage allocation—You can allocate available storage pools and LUNs to defined host groups that can represent, for example, business groups and locations. Resources typically must be allocated on the host group level before they can be assigned to hosts. If you allocate a storage pool, you can create and assign logical units directly from managed hosts in the host group that can access the storage array. In addition, VMM can automatically create logical units from the storage pool, if you use rapid provisioning to provision virtual machines with SAN snapshots or cloning.

  • Storage decommissioning—VMM can decommission the storage that it manages. This capability is important to avoid running out of storage capacity over time.

Usage scenarios

Typical usage scenarios for storage features include the following:

  • Assigning and adding storage to hosts or clusters—A host group that requires new storage looks up the storage that allocated it and assigns it to servers that are running Hyper-V or clusters, as required. This automatic assignment of storage works in SAN-based rapid provisioning scenarios in which logical unit numbers are cloned. VMM exposes the storage to the virtual machine hosts, initializes the disks, and formats new volumes. For cluster deployments, VMM creates the required Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) and physical disk resources, and maps the volume to all cluster hosts so that it is shared across a cluster. VMM can also assign additional storage to a host or cluster that already has storage assigned. VMM automates the unmasking and preparation of the volume. For a cluster, VMM also creates the cluster resources. For instructions, see How to Configure Storage on a Hyper-V Host in VMM.

  • Cluster creation—VMM can create a cluster with up to 64 Hyper-V nodes and can automate the assignment of cluster-shared storage as part of the same workflow. To simplify the creation of new clusters with shared storage is important in a private cloud deployment. For more information, see Creating a Hyper-V Host Cluster in VMM Overview.

  • Scale-Out File Server— As of System Center 2012 R2, VMM can create a Scale-Out File Server and manage its storage. For more information see Adding Physical Computers as Hyper-V Hosts or as Scale-Out File Servers in VMM Overview.

  • Rapid Provisioning—Storage arrays can create copies of virtual disks very efficiently with minimal load on the virtual machine host. VMM can leverage this capability to rapidly create virtual machines. VMM recognizes the capabilities of the storage array, when a logical unit contains a file system and a virtual disk, and you can create a template with a virtual disk on a logical unit. VMM can instruct the array to create a copy of a virtual disk by provisioning new storage on the array, by using a snapshot, or by cloning. VMM then exposes the storage to the host by mounting the file system and by associating the virtual disk with the virtual machine. In the VMM console, you use rapid provisioning to create stand-alone virtual machines or service-based machines. You can also integrate rapid provisioning into your own provisioning tools by using Windows PowerShell. For more information, see Rapid Provisioning a Virtual Machine by Using SAN Copy Overview.

Configuring storage automation

Before you begin

Before you begin to configure storage settings, note the following:

  • Storage automation with VMM is only supported for servers that are running Hyper-V.

  • Do not install the SMI-S provider on the VMM management server. This configuration is not supported.

  • WMI SMP providers from Dell EqualLogic and Nexsan must be installed on the VMM management server.

  • Check the list in Supported storage arrays to verify that a storage array is supported. Note that VMM recognizes storage on storage arrays that do not appear in this list. However, there is no guarantee that you can perform active management operations, such a logical unit provisioning, masking and unmasking, cloning, and taking snapshots on those storage arrays through VMM. If a storage array is not on this list, we recommend that you contact your storage vendor to determine VMM support.

  • If the SMI-S provider type for the storage array is a "proxy" provider that must be installed on a separate server, obtain and install the latest version of the SMI-S provider from your storage vendor on a server that the VMM management server can access over the network by IP address or by the fully qualified domain name (FQDN).

  • Notify your storage administrator, when VMM manages the assignment of logical units, that, by default, it creates one storage group or masking set per host that can include the initiators for that host. In a cluster configuration, VMM creates one storage group per cluster node by using all the initiators from that cluster node. A storage group can contain one or more of the host’s initiator IDs, such as an iSCSI Qualified Name (IQN) or a World Wide Name (WWN).

    For some storage arrays, it is preferable to use one storage group for the entire cluster, where host initiators for all cluster nodes are contained in that group. To support this configuration, you must set the CreateStorageGroupsPerCluster property to $true by using the Set-SCStorageArray cmdlet in the VMM command shell.


    In VMM, a storage group is defined as an object that binds together host initiators, target ports, and logical units. A storage group has one or more host initiators, one or more target ports, and one or more logical units. Logical units are exposed to the host initiators through the target ports.

Storage automation workflow

The following list describes the workflow to discover, to classify, and to assign storage by using VMM:

  1. Discover storage—From the VMM console, start the Add Storage Devices Wizard, and select the required provider type, Windows-based file server, SMI-S, or WMI SMP. The Windows-based file server and SMI-S providers require an IP address or FQDN. For SMI-S, you connect to the SMI-S storage provider to discover storage. For WMI SMP providers, you select the required provider from a drop-down list box. For instructions, see How to Add and Classify SMI-S and SMP Storage Devices in VMM.

  2. Classify storage—The process of classifying storage assigns a meaningful classification to storage pools. For example, you might assign a classification of GOLD to a storage pool that resides on the fastest, most redundant storage array. For instructions, see How to Create Storage Classifications in VMM.

  3. Select a method for creating logical units—Specify how logical units are to be created during virtual machine rapid provisioning. Note that, by default, new logical units are created from available capacity. You only have to modify this default setting if you want to use rapid provisioning with SAN copy technology, such as cloning or snapshots. For instructions, see How to Select a Method for Creating Logical Units in VMM.

  4. Provision storage—Create logical units of storage. For instructions, see How to Provision Storage Logical Units in VMM. Alternatively, you can create logical units out-of-band by using your array vendor’s management tools. If you use this method, it takes some time for VMM to refresh and reflect the changes.

  5. Allocate storage to a host group—From the Storage node of the VMM console or in the Properties dialog box of the target host group, allocate pre-created logical units or storage pools to specific host groups. For instructions, see How to Allocate Storage Logical Units to a Host Group in VMM, and How to Allocate Storage Pools to a Host Group in VMM.


    If you allocate a storage pool, you can create and assign logical units directly from managed hosts in the host group that can access the storage array. In addition, VMM can automatically create logical units from the storage pool if you use rapid provisioning to provision virtual machines by using SAN snapshots or cloning. During the rapid provisioning process, logical units are automatically created and assigned.

  6. Assign the storage to hosts and clusters—After you configure storage and assign storage to host groups, you can assign the storage to servers that are running Hyper-V and host clusters as shared via a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) or available storage. Note that all nodes in the cluster should have access to the storage array by using host bus adapters (HBA) or iSCSI. If you allocated a storage pool to a host group, you can create and optionally assign logical units directly in the Properties dialog box of a host or host cluster. If the storage array supports iSCSI host connectivity, you can create iSCSI sessions to the storage array in the Properties dialog box of a host. For instructions, see:

    1. How to Configure Storage on a Hyper-V Host in VMM

    2. How to Configure Storage on a Hyper-V Host Cluster in VMM


    The hosts must be able to access the storage array. For example, if you use a Fibre Channel SAN, each host must have a host bus adapter (HBA) and must be zoned correctly. For more information about Fibre Channel, see Managing Virtual Fibre Channel in VMM.

  7. Configured storage can also be decommissioned, if required. For instructions, see How to Remove Storage Logical Units in VMM.

Supported storage arrays

For the latest version of supported storage arrays, see Supported storage arrays for System Center 2012 VMM on the TechNet Wiki.