VSAN – The Migration from FreeNAS

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Well folks it’s my long awaited blog post around moving my Homelab from FreeNAS to VMware VSAN.

Here are the steps I took to migrate my Home Lab GEN II with FreeNAS to Home Lab GEN III with VSAN.

Note –

  • I am not putting a focus on ESXi setup as I want to focus on the steps to setup VSAN.
  • My home lab is in no way on the VMware HCL, if you are building something like this for production you should use the VSAN HCL as your reference

The Plan –

  • Meet the Requirements
  • Backup VM’s
  • Update and Prepare Hardware
  • Distribute Existing hardware to VSAN ESXi Hosts
  • Install ESXi on all Hosts
  • Setup VSAN

The Steps –

Meet the Requirements – Detailed list here

  • Minimum of three hosts
  • Each host has a minimum of one SSD and one HDD
  • The host must be managed by vCenter Server 5.5 and configured as a Virtual SAN cluster
  • Min 6GB RAM
  • Each host has a Pass-thru RAID controller as specified in the HCL. The RAID controller must be able to present disks directly to the host without a RAID configuration.
  • 1GB NIC, I’ll be running 2 x 1Gbs NICs. However 10GB and Jumbo frames are recommended
  • VSAN VMkernel port configured on every host participating in the cluster.
  • All disks that VSAN will be allocated to should be clear of any data.

Backup Existing VMs

  • No secret here around backups. I just used vCenter Server OVF Export to a local disk to backup all my critical VM’s
  • More Information Here

Update and Prepare Hardware

  • Update all Motherboard (Mobo) BIOS and disk Firmware
  • Remove all HDD’s / SDD’s from FreeNAS SAN
  • Remove any Data from HDD/SDD’s . Either of these tools do the job

Distribute Existing hardware to VSAN ESXi Hosts

  • Current Lab – 1 x VMware Workstation PC, 2 x ESXi Hosts boot to USB (Host 1 and 2), 1 x FreeNAS SAN
  • Desired Lab – 3 x ESXi hosts with VSAN and 1 x Workstation PC
  • End Results after moves
    • All Hosts ESXi 5.5U1 with VSAN enabled
    • Host 1 – MSI 7676, i7-3770, 24GB RAM, Boot 160GB HDD, VSAN disks (2 x 2TB HDD SATA II, 1 x 60GB SSD SATA III), 5 xpNICs
    • Host 2 – MSI 7676, i7-2600, 32 GB RAM, Boot 160GB HDD, VSAN disks (2 x 2TB HDD SATA II, 1 x 90 GB SSD SATA III), 5 x pNICs
    • Host 3 – MSI 7676, i7-2600, 32 GB RAM, Boot 160GB HDD, VSAN disks (2 x 2TB HDD SATA II, 1 x 90 GB SSD SATA III), 5 x pNICs
    • Note – I have ditched my Gigabyte z68xp-UD3 Mobo and bought another MSI 7676 board. I started this VSAN conversion with it and it started to give me fits again similar to the past. There are many web posts with bugs around this board. I am simply done with it and will move to a more reliable Mobo that is working well for me.

Install ESXi on all Hosts

  • Starting with Host 1
    • Prior to Install ensure all data has been removed and all disk show up in BIOS in AHCI Mode
    • Install ESXi to Local Boot HD
    • Setup ESXi base IP address via direct Console, DNS, disable IP 6, enable shell and SSH
    • Using the VI Client setup the basic ESXi networking and vSwitch
    • Using VI Client I restored the vCSA and my AD server from OVF and powered them on
    • Once booted I logged into the vCSA via the web client
    • I built out Datacenter and add host 1
    • Create a cluster but only enabled EVC to support my different Intel CPU’s
    • Cleaned up any old DNS settings and ensure all ESXi Hosts are correct
    • From the Web client Validate that 2 x HDD and 1 x SDD are present in Host
    • Installed ESXi Host 2 / 3, followed most of these steps, and added them to the cluster

Setup VSAN

  • Logon to the Webclient
    • Ensure on all the hosts
      • Networking is setup and all functions are working
      • NTP is working
      • All expected HDD’s for VSAN are reporting in to ESXi
    • Create a vSwitch for VSAN and attach networking to it
      • I attached 2 x 1Gbs NICs for my load that should be enough
    • Assign the VSAN License Key
      • Click on the Cluster > Manage > Settings > Virtual SAN Licensing > Assign License Key

  • Enable VSAN
    • Under Virtual SAN click on General then Edit
    • Choose ‘Turn on Virtual SAN’
    • Set ‘Add disks to storage’ to Manual
    • Note – for a system on the HCL, chances are the Automatic setting will work without issue. However my system is not on the any VMware HCL and I want to control the drives to add to my Disk Group.


  • Add Disks to VSAN
    • Under Virtual SAN click on ‘Disk Management’
    • Choose the ICON with the Check boxes on it
    • Finally add the disks you want in your disk group

  • Allow VSAN to complete its tasks, you can check on its progress by going to ‘Tasks’

  • Once complete ensure all disks report in as healthy.

  • Ensure VSAN General tab is coming up correct
    • 3 Hosts
    • 3 of 3 SSD’s
    • 6 of 6 Data disks

  • Check to see if the data store is online


Summary –

Migrating from FreeNAS to VSAN was relatively a simple process. I simply moved, prepared, and installed and the product came right up. My only issue was working with a faulty Gigabyte Mobo which I resolved by replacing it. I’ll post up more as I continue to work with VSAN. If you are interested in more detail around VSAN I would recommend the following book.

6 thoughts on “VSAN – The Migration from FreeNAS

    VSAN Links » Welcome to vSphere-land! said:
    September 24, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    […] Crookston) VMware VSAN meets EZLAB (Virtual JAD) My VSAN home lab configuration (Virtualize Tips) VSAN – The Migration from FreeNAS (VMexplorer) Home Lab – Part 4.1: VSAN Home Build (vWilmo) Home Lab – Part 4.2: VSAN […]


    S said:
    June 18, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    How do you find the performance of VSAN since you are using consumner disks? How does it compare to FreeNAS?

    I’m about to purchase myself some kit for a home lab and still can’t decide between:

    1) Two ESXi servers and an iSCSI FreeNAS server


    2) 3 ESXi servers using VSAN only

    I did a bit of testing with VSAN on my single server at home and was “only” getting about 150-200MB/s write speeds with Samsung SM863 Enterprise SSDs drives in the cache and capacity tier. I don’t think that was great? Turning of the checksum feature in the VSAN policy helped but I still only saw about 300MB/s tops.

    Interested to hear your thoughts!


      Matt Mancini responded:
      July 7, 2016 at 3:25 pm

      In my home lab experience VSAN out performed FreeNAS dramatically. If you are running VSAN 6.2 look in the vCenter Server Webclient under Monitoring and/or Preformance you should see many ways to monitor and test its performance. Based on your post its hard for me to tell what your issue could be. However I would recommend if you haven’t yet to follow the VSAN Design Guide. Its a no-nonsense approach to VSAN design and I’d highly recommend it. http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/products/vsan/virtual-san-6.2-design-and-sizing-guide.pdf


        S said:
        July 7, 2016 at 11:29 pm

        Thanks for the reply! I am leaning towards VSAN 6.2 rather than FreeNAS (read too many bad things about iSCSI/ZFS and defragmentation) but I want to go the All Flash route with VSAN and I think its recommended (or required?) to have 10Gb. The servers I want to buy have 10Gb NICs in them but I have yet to find a practical (ie: quiet!) 10Gb switch. How do you find the performance using 1Gb NICs with your setup?

        If I remember correctly you can’t setup Virtual SAN traffic to go over multiple 1Gb NICs like you can with (say) iSCSI (MPIO).


        Matt Mancini responded:
        August 6, 2016 at 7:25 am

        I’m running lower load levels currently. However I’m planning to install an infiniband switch which will give me 20gbs bandwidth per hba. Blog post coming soon on this…


        S said:
        August 6, 2016 at 1:14 pm

        I eagerly await your post on this as I am currently looking into using Infiniband for my backend storage network and vSphere 6.


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