By default a virtual machine swap file is stored in the working directory of the virtual machine. However, it is possible to configure the hosts in the DRS cluster to place the virtual machine swapfiles on an alternative datastore. A customer asked if he could create a datastore cluster exclusively used for swap files. Although you can use the datastores inside the datastore cluster to store the swap files, Storage DRS does not load balance the swap files inside the datastore cluster in this scenario. Here’s why:
Alternative swap location
This alternative datastore can either be a local datastore or a shared datastore. Please note that placing the swapfile on a non-shared local datastore impacts the vMotion lead-time, as the vMotion process needs to copy the contents of the swap file to the swapfile location of the destination host. However a datastore that is shared by the host inside the DRS cluster can be used, a valid use case is a small pool of SSD drives, providing a platform that reduces the impact of swapping in case of memory contention.
What about Storage DRS and using alternative swap file locations? By default a swap file is placed in the working directory of a virtual machine. This working directory is “encapsulated” in a DRMdisk. A DRMdisk is the smallest entity Storage DRS can migrate. For example when placing a VM with 3 hard disks in a datastore cluster, Storage DRS creates 4 DRMdisks, one DRMdisk for the working directory and separate DRMdisks for each hard disk.
Extracting the swap file out of the working directory DRMdisk
When selecting an alternative location for swap files, vCenter will not place this swap file in the working directory of the virtual machine, in essence extracting it from – or placing it outside – the working directory DRMdisk entity. Therefore Storage DRS will not move the swap file during load balancing operations or maintenance mode operations as it can only move DRMdisks.
Alternative Swap file location a datastore inside a datastore cluster?
Storage DRS does not encapsulate a swap file in its own DRMdisk and therefore it is not recommended to use a datastore that is part of a datastore cluster as a DRS cluster swap file location. As Storage DRS cannot move these files, it can impact load-balancing operations.
The user interface actually reveals the incompatibility of a datastore cluster as a swapfile location because when you configure the alternate swap file location, the user interface only displays datastores and not a datastore cluster entity.
Storage DRS can operate with swap files placed on datastores external to the datastore cluster. It will move the DRMdisks of the virtual machines and leave the swap file on its specified location. It is the task of DRS moving the swap file if it’s placed on a non-shared swap file datastore when migrating the compute state between two hosts.
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Storage DRS and alternative swap file locations
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