VMware ESX Cluster in a Box

This is very old news, but one of the neat things about ESX is that you can build clusters for testing and don’t have to shell out for a split-bus DAS or SAN space. My colleague, who’s been using ESX for good and evil (testing Veritas Cluster Server) needed to build one in our dev environment the other day. Last time I did this was to cluster VirtualCenter 2.0.2 and I was a bit rusty on the process.

So, for my reference, do this:

Create a shared vmdk to act as the quorum disk using vmkfstools (it needs to be in thick format)

vmkfstools -c 512m -a lsilogic -d thick /vmfs/volumes/datastore/quorum.vmdk

-c to create a vmdk and what size it should be
-a to specify the adapter type (lsilogic or buslogic)
-d can specify some neat things, like RDM settings, etc

Make another vmdk if you’d like to, well, share some data between the nodes.

Add the disk to the guest as an existing device and change the SCSI ID of the card to something like SCSI (1:0). This adds another SCSI adapter to the guest. Set the sharing mode on the adapter virtual or physical, depending on whether you want the cluster in the box or sharing with another physical / virtual host outside of the ESX host. If you don’t specify the -a option when you create the vmdk, it defaults to buslogic. Obviously if you want to share the disk with another physical host you can’t use a vmdk.

Do the same on the other guest / physical host / etc. Install MSCS or VCS or whatever passes as a clustering solution in your life. Enjoy. I also recommend the man page for vmkfstools – it’s an invaluable reference.


  1. I had to do that when I worked for another company and didn’t have access to an ESX host at home. The experience prompted me to buy an ESX host for home. I would posit that real men would install ESX in Workstation 6 and then cluster guests in that. And they’d do stuff like run VCS instead of MSCS. Just to be cool. Perhaps throwing in iSCSI for good measure. But before we get into a debate about what real men do, I hope things have improved since the last haircut I saw on you :)

  2. hi Aaron,

    i tried to install vcs as said above but after i deported shared disk from one guest i could not import it to another machine.
    i could be able to create mscs with similar process,
    i want to know whether it is possible to create vcs cluster in box on top of vmware or not
    please reply to this, which will be precious to me

    thanks in advance
    rajesh singarapu

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