Over the past few months we have made a big deal about the storage features of Windows Server 2012, including how the built-in iSCSI Software Target allows you to build a low-cost software-SAN (storage area network) for small environments, and how that lets you create a Hyper-V Failover Cluster without the expense of an actual SAN appliance.  We have also made a huge deal about building a Private Cloud with System Center 2012.  What we did not mention is how to add your Software SAN as a Storage Device in System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM), a crucial component to putting it all together.

System Center VMM allows for three types of storage appliances:

  • Windows-based file server (as managed storage device)
  • Storage device that is managed by an SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative – Specification) provider
  • Storage Device that is managed by an SMP provider

It is the second of these that we are going to focus on.  In order to complete this setup you will need the following:

You can download the evaluation software by clicking on the links above.

Step 1: Configure an iSCSI Software Target

 

Step 2: Install System Center VMM

  • This should be done on a separate server, although both can be virtualized on the same host.  Ensure that you have network connectivity properly configured.  System Center VMM needs to be a member of an Active Directory Domain; although your iSCSI Target does not have to be, it makes security easier to manage.

    Note: I only now realized that we do not have a step-by-step article for installing the various System Center 2012 components which will be corrected over the next several weeks.

 

Step 3: Prepare your iSCSI Target

  1. In order to configure your Target as an SMI-S Provider it is important that you add a couple of extra Role Services and Features in Windows Server 2012. 
  • Once completed, patch your OS with the latest updates followed by the installation of KB 2758246.
  • Next you have to install the Microsoft SMI-S Provider on your Target server.  It is located on the media for System Center VMM 2012 at x:\amd64\Setup\msi\iSCSITargetProv.  Alternately it is stored on your VMM server at \Program Files\Microsoft System Center 2012\Virtual Machine Manager\setup\msi\iSCSITargetProv.  It is a quick install that does not look like it is doing very much.
  • As a best practice, reboot the Target server once this is done.  Alternately you can simply restart the Microsoft iSCSI Target Service.

 

Step 4: Register the SMI-S Provider

  1. Back in the Target server, and back in PowerShell!  We have to register the iSCSI target as an SMI-S Provider, and provide a ConnectionURI. Via PowerShell enter the following command:

    Register-SmisProvider
  2. When prompted I supply credentials for an account with Local Administrator rights on the Target server.

 

Step 5: Add Storage in VMM

At this point you are ready to add the iSCSI Target as a Storage Device in System Center VMM. 

  1. In the Fabric context click Add Storage under Add Resources
  2. In the Select Provider Type screen select Add a storage device that is managed by an SMI-S provider.
  3. In the Specify Discovery Scope screen:
  1. select SMI-S WMI from the Protocol drop-down;
  2. Type the FQDN of your Target server in the box Provider IP address or FQDN;
  3. Ensure that TCP/IP port is 5989;
  4. Select (or create) a Run As account with privileges on the Target server.  (remember that your Target server does not need to be a Domain Member; this part is easier and cleaner if it is).
  5. Click Next.
  • On the Gather Information screen select your Target server and click Next.
  • On the Select Storage Devices screen select the drive (or drives) that you will convert to shared storage.
  1. Select the check box next to the device;
  2. In the Classification drop-down select the classification you will add this storage under. (If no classifications exist then click on the Create Classification… button.
  3. Click Next
  • On the Summary screen click Finish.  As with most screens in System Center 2012 you could also click the View Script button if you plan to make this a repeatable task.
  • When your job (Sets Storage Array) is listed as completed then you are done!

 

Conclusion

Microsoft is making it easier for you to build out its tools in a sustainable lab environment, as well as in smaller IT environments.  However these tools are a poor substitute for the real thing; if your business needs the efficiency and stability of a proper SAN for your production environment then there are many storage providers who make great products.  For smaller environments, as well as for labs and classrooms, the software solutions are a great tool to learn, build, and practice.