vCenter and vRealize counters – part 3


If you look at the ESXi and VM metric groups for storage in the vCenter performance chart, it is not clear how they relate to one another at first glance. You have storage network, storage adapter, storage path, datastore, and disk metric groups that you need to check. How do they impact on one another?

I have created the following diagram to explain the relationship. The beige boxes are what you are likely to be familiar with. You have your ESXi host, and it can have NFS Datastore, VMFS Datastore, or RDM objects. The blue colored boxes represent the metric groups.

Book - chapter 4 - 01

NFS and VMFS datastores differ drastically in terms of counters, as NFS is file-based while VMFS is block-based. For NFS, it uses the vmnic, and so the adapter type (FC, FCoE, or iSCSI) is not applicable. Multipathing is handled by the network, so you don’t see it in the storage layer. For VMFS or RDM, you have more detailed visibility of the storage. To start off, each ESXi adapter is visible and you can check the counters for each of them. In terms of relationship, one adapter can have many devices (disk or CDROM). One device is typically accessed via two storage adapters (for availability and load balancing), and it is also accessed via two paths per adapter, with the paths diverging at the storage switch. A single path, which will come from a specific adapter, can naturally connect one adapter to one device. The following diagram shows the four paths:

Book - chapter 4 - 02

A storage path takes data from ESXi to the LUN (the term used by vSphere is Disk), not to the datastore. So if the datastore has multiple extents, there are four paths per extent. This is one reason why I did not use more than one extent, as each extent adds four paths. If you are not familiar with extent, Cormac Hogan explains it well on this blog post.

For VMFS, you can see the same counters at both the Datastore level and the Disk level. Their value will be identical if you follow the recommended configuration to create a 1:1 relationship between a datastore and a LUN. This means you present an entire LUN to a datastore (use all of its capacity).

The following screenshot shows how we manage the ESXi storage. Click on the ESXi you need to manage, select the Manage tab, and then the Storage subtab. In this subtab, we can see the adapters, devices, and the host cache. The screen shows an ESXi host with the list of its adapters. I have selected vmhba2, which is an FC HBA. Notice that it is connected to 5 devices. Each device has 4 paths, so I have 20 paths in total

ESX - Adapter

Let’s move on to the Storage Devices tab. The following screenshot shows the list of devices. Because NFS is not a disk, it does not appear here. I have selected one of the devices to show its properties.

ESXi - device

If you click on the Paths tab, you will be presented with the information shown in the next screenshot, including whether a path is active. Note that not all paths carry I/O; it depends on your configuration and multipathing software. Because each LUN typically has four paths, path management can be complicated if you have many LUNs.

ESXi - device path

The story is quite different on the VM layer. A VM does not see the underlying shared storage. It sees local disks only. So regardless of whether the underlying storage is NFS, VMFS, or RDM, it sees all of them as virtual disks. You lose visibility in the physical adapter (for example, you cannot tell how many IOPSs on vmhba2 are coming from a particular VM) and physical paths (for example, how many disk commands traveling on that path are coming from a particular VM). You can, however, see the impact at the Datastore level and the physical Disk level. The Datastore counter is especially useful. For example, if you notice that your IOPS is higher at the Datastore level than at the virtual Disk level, this means you have a snapshot. The snapshot IO is not visible at the virtual Disk level as the snapshot is stored on a different virtual disk.

Book - chapter 4 - 03


My apology that I cannot publish information on Network as it’s not provided as free pages by the publisher. The information is covered in my book.

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