Configuring VMware ESXi for optimized benchmarking of Intel Optane SSD

Intel® Optane™ SSD has been a game changer in how storage gets deployed in data centers using VMware solutions. Given its ability to eliminate data center storage bottlenecks due to high IOPs at very low queue depths VMware administrators managing datacenters have been able to take the advantage that Intel Optane SSD brings both in VMware ESXi as an extremely fast caching device and in software-defined storage technologies like VMWare vSAN.

For an in-depth analysis of Intel Optane SSD benefits on a vSAN cluster do take a look at the study by Evaluator Group.

There has been a lot of interest from datacenter administrators on using Intel Optane SSD as a fast caching device in VMware ESXi. In this blog I plan to give an overview of the recommendations on how to configure the test Virtual Machine and system BIOS settings for optimized benchmarking of the Intel Optane SSD before you start executing the first test with your preferred test tool:

1. System BIOS settings

Most of the recommendations in the table below would be enabled by default but it’s always good to confirm if the settings below are in an enable or disable state.

Hyperthreading Enabled
EIST (Enhanced Intel Speed Step Technology) Enabled
Intel Turbo Mode Enabled
C-States Enabled
P-States Enabled
CPU Power and Performance Policy  Performance mode
Intel (R) Virtualization Technology Enabled

2. Virtual Machine CPU and Memory recommendations

  • Number of vCPU’s = 8 ( CPU cores = 8 , sockets = 2 , cores per socket = 4 )
  • Memory = 8 GB

3. Setting up Intel Optane SSD to the test Virtual Machine

  • Create a new Datastore by selecting the Intel  Optane SSD under devices tab
  • Upon creation, you must be able to see the new Datastore using the Optane  SSD listed in the Datastores tab
  • Right click on the Virtual Machine planned to use for test and choose edit settings.
    On the edit settings tab follow the steps listed below:

    1. Click on Add other device option and select SCSI controller from the list.
    2. On the newly added SCSI controller change the type to VMware Paravirtual from the drop-down menu.
    3. Now click Add hard disk option and select new hard disk.
    4. Click on the new hard disk created and change the following settings:
    • Maximum size = 40 GB (Change the size as needed for the test case)
    • Location = Click on browse button and choose the Datastore created using the Optane SSD in the above steps.
    • Type = Thick provisioned, lazily zeroed
    • Limit IOPS = Unlimited
    • Virtual Device Node = Choose the new Paravirtual SCSI controller created
    • Disk Mode = Dependent5. Click Save button.
  • Add 3 more new hard disks using the Datastore with Optane SSD with each hard disk assigned to an individual Paravirtual SCSI controller by repeating steps 'i' to 'v' listed above by opening the edit setting tab.
  • Upon completion of the listed steps above the Edit setting tab would looking similar to the figure below:Virtual Hardware & VM Options
  • Power ON the virtual machine. We would now see 5 disks listed with one disk dedicated for the Virtual Machine OS and the remaining 4 disks created with the Datastore using the Intel Optane SSD which can be used for testing in the Virtual Machine.

You are now ready to start benchmarking the Intel Optane SSD with your favorite test tool in VMware ESXi and see the excellent performance it brings in a VMware ESXi installed system enabling storage transformation in your datacenter!