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[I am completely new to running "bare metal" virtualized hardware, so please lead me to TFM, so I can R it.]

What I was hoping to do, is to have some kind of bare metal virtualized server setup, but where the hypervisor was taking care of running a software RAID5.

I was hoping to use all 6 of my motherboard SATA ports to 2GB disks for the RAID, thus getting a 10 TB RAID5 volume. The hope was that I then could carve this device into slices which I dished out to the different VM instances.

There is obviously a bootstrap problem here since there are no more disk ports for the hypervisor to have its own, but I was thinking that the initial hypervisor boot could be done using a bootable, read-only USB stick? Then the hypervisor could possibly use a partition of the RAID5 volume for its own OS after that initial boot?

Is anything like this possible, and how many ways to do it are there? Any good articles or other documentation to get me crackin'?

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This might be possible using OpenNode. It comes as an ISO with a softraid setup, but I don't know if it will meet your needs.

OpenNode will give you either OpenVZ or KVM virtualization. Hardware Intel-VT or AMD-V virtualization support is required for full KVM virtualization. Only 64-bit server hardware is supported. At least 4 GB of RAM is needed (8 GB if running KVM guests).

Read about the software at:

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Both VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V allow pass-through disks, where the VMs can directly access drives as though they were physically connected. They also both can be run from USB flash drives and they are both free as well. I don't know much about Xen and KVM.

Hyper-V is quite a lot easier to use, but VMware ESXi has more advanced features. If you tell me which way prefer, and have any further questions, I can edit my answer to give more details.

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Thanks! However, I do specifically not want any passthrough - I want the "host" (The "Hypervisor"?) to do the SW RAID5, and then I want to slice this 10TB volume into bits that I then give out to the VMs ("clients"). Whether I do this by making a filesystem of that entire 10TB volume, giving the VMs a file based fake disks, or by giving them an actual partition of the 10TB volume, is not that important - maybe it is more flexible with the file-based setup. – stolsvik May 22 '11 at 12:22
@stolsvik: You won't be able to use software RAID with ESXi. It only works with specific hardware RAID controller cards on the HCL (and unofficial unsupported ones on the whitebox list). Hyper-V is a lot more relaxed when it comes to hardware compatibility, and runs on almost anything. – paradroid May 22 '11 at 16:08
up vote 0 down vote accepted

The answer is really obvious: Create two partitions on each drive: a 1GB one, and one with the rest of the disk. Set up all the 1GBs into a RAID 1 (mirroring), and use that as the boot device - one can boot off of a RAID 1 (Now THAT is pretty good redundancy!). Then set the other partitions up as a RAID 5 or RAID 6.

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