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USB Drive VMFS Format

  • 1.  USB Drive VMFS Format

    Posted Jul 21, 2009 12:58 AM

    Hello, I am new to ESXi and am using a home server as a learning tool. I just installed ESXi 4.0.

    My setup is: Host with ESXi 4.0 running from USB key drive (4GB), my main VM drive is a RAID1 array of two 250GB drives, and my "bulk" storage is a 320GB drive in (non-RAID) SATA.

    My goal: backuping the main VM drive to a portable USB drive.

    I bought the USB drive, it's a WD My Passeport 250GB drive.

    After enabling SSH, I plugged it on the host, through SSH, I can see the OS recognizes it (it shows up in fdisk -l). I then launch fdisk /dev/disks/mpx.***** (the portable drive), delete all partitions, create a new partition, primary #1, type VMFS and set it to use the entire drive. I write the changes to disk and after a fdisk -l reflects the changes... All is good.

    I was unsure of how exactly on what FS to put on the drive, but ended up seeing only how to make it VMFS from the ESXi host (AFAIK I can not format it to ext3 from ESXi).

    The problem: I launch: vmkfstools -C vmfs3 /dev/disks/mpx.vmhba35***

    After half a second, I get the following error message:

    Creating vmfs3 file system on "mpx.vmhba35:C0:T0:L0:1" with blockSize 1048576 and volume label "none".

    Usage: vmkfstools -C vmfs3 /vmfs/devices/disks/vml... or,

    vmkfstools -C vmfs3 /vmfs/devices/disks/naa... or,

    vmkfstools -C vmfs3 /vmfs/devices/disks/mpx.vmhbaA:T:L:P

    Error: vmkfstools failed: vmkernel is not loaded or call not implemented.

    Looking at /var/log/messages, I see the following relevant lines:

    Jul 21 00:54:15 vmkernel: 0:01:49:47.825 cpu0:4103)NMP: nmp_CompleteCommandForPath: Command 0x16 (0x41000409fcc0) to NMP device "mpx.vmhba35:C0:T0:L0" failed on physical path "vmhba35:C0:T0:L0" H:0x0 D:0x2 P:0x0 Valid sense data: 0x5 0x20 0x0.

    Jul 21 00:54:15 vmkernel: 0:01:49:47.825 cpu0:4103)ScsiDeviceIO: 747: Command 0x16 to device "mpx.vmhba35:C0:T0:L0" failed H:0x0 D:0x2 P:0x0 Valid sense data: 0x5 0x20 0x0.

    Jul 21 00:54:15 vmkernel: 0:01:49:47.825 cpu1:28897)Resv: 276: SCSI-2 Reservations are not supported by device mpx.vmhba35:C0:T0:L0.

    Jul 21 00:54:15 vmkernel: 0:01:49:47.827 cpu1:28897)LVM: 6492: LVMProbeDevice failed on (3462500512, mpx.vmhba35:C0:T0:L0:1): Device does not contain a logical volume

    Now I did some research, but did not come up with much (sadly like most things ESXi). The only lead I got was something about block sizes. So I tried the same vmkfstools line with different -d 1m from 1m to 8m with no luck, always the same exact problem...

    Would anyone have any input on this? I am a bit stumped.

    Thank you, I really appreciate the help.

  • 2.  RE: USB Drive VMFS Format
    Best Answer

    Posted Jul 21, 2009 04:52 AM

    As I know you cannot format a USB disk/stick with VMFS.

    Is not supported and seems that is not possible.


  • 3.  RE: USB Drive VMFS Format

    Posted Jul 21, 2009 10:47 AM

    Interesting and strange at the same time. :smileyhappy: I guess it goes with all the other peculiarities of ESXi.

    Does that mean the only to do backups on a USB drive (of files bigger than 2GB, so no FAT32) is to plugin the drive on a Linux host (other than ESXi), format it to ext3 and then plugin it back in the ESXi host and copy the files? Is there any problem with that scenario I am not seeing in this?

  • 4.  RE: USB Drive VMFS Format

    Posted Jul 21, 2009 11:22 AM

    ESXi does not have ext2/3 support. Only FAT and VMFS (and NFSv3 over TCP).

    Or RDM.

    See also:


  • 5.  RE: USB Drive VMFS Format

    Posted Jul 21, 2009 10:28 PM

    Hello, I'm sorry to keep this thread going after my original question, but some problems arose.

    I decided to settle down for using FAT32 on the USB drive and split "manually" my VM files to backup them.

    So I formatted the drive to FAT32, plugged it in, it is recognized, but 'mount' will not mount it:

    mount /dev/disks/mpx.vmhba36\:C0\:T0\:L0\:1 /vmbackup

    mount: mounting /dev/disks/mpx.vmhba36:C0:T0:L0:1 on /vmbackup failed: No such file or directory

    So I just had a horrible revelation, I see you actually type 'FAT' and not 'FAT32', am I assuming correctly that ESXi4 only supports FAT16?!?

    If so, is there really no other solutions? I am really grasping at straws here, I can not believe that the only (modern) supported filesystem is VMFS and that it is limited to physical or NFS drives. I really don't get it.

    So no way of doing a local backup whatsoever? Perhaps someone has encountered that problem and made a kernel module to support some modern file system?

    Thanks, I really appreciate the help.

  • 6.  RE: USB Drive VMFS Format

    Posted Jul 21, 2009 10:37 PM

    ESX(i) does not support USB other than as a boot device. If you want backup storage consider using an NFS storage device (A Network Attached Storage NAS device that supports NFS).

  • 7.  RE: USB Drive VMFS Format

    Posted Jul 21, 2009 11:09 PM

    Ohh, I had read that about ESXi 3.5 and I believed that since I could see it in fdisk ESXi 4 must have added support, well, I stand corrected.

    I can only hope this strangely missing feature gets put in the next release.

    Thanks for your enlightenment.

  • 8.  RE: USB Drive VMFS Format

    Posted Jul 21, 2009 11:15 PM

    There will be support for USB devices in ESXi4 (soon perhaps) but as passthrough devices not as available to the ESXi host. NFS is simple and can be very inexpensive. Many NAS devices allow hot plugging USB devices.

  • 9.  RE: USB Drive VMFS Format

    Posted Jul 21, 2009 11:20 PM

    I see, my plan was to use a portable usb drive as "mobile" backup, ie in case of fire, unplug 1 wire and get out, I will investigate some "light-weight" (literally) NFS devices. :smileyhappy:

  • 10.  RE: USB Drive VMFS Format

    Posted Jul 21, 2009 11:25 PM

    Iomega® StorCenter™ ix2 and it is on the hardware compatibility list.

  • 11.  RE: USB Drive VMFS Format

    Posted Sep 02, 2009 06:56 PM

    Thanks for your post and to all those who answered you. I am facing an almost identical situation, and I simply could not believe that something as simple as a USB drive could NOT be used as you described. If someone from VMware is listening...USB drives are THE backup device of choice for almost all SMBs. Please add support for them ASAP. :smileyhappy: