Example Architectural Decision – Guest OS Page File Storage in vSphere

Problem Statement

In a vSphere environment using deduplication and an array snapshot based backup solution, Guest OS page files are currently stored on the OS drive (VMDK) which reduces the effectiveness of deduplication as well as placing an overhead on the controllers having to scan data which cannot be deduplicated.

As the Guest OS Paging files are being included in the snapshot process (with the guest OS) this also demands additional capacity for both primary and secondary disk storage for disk to disk backups.

How can this overhead be minimized or eliminated?


1. Make the most efficient use of the available storage capacity
2. Maintain consistent level of virtual machine / storage performance
3. Minimize the storage required for primary and secondary snapshot based backups
4. Maintain the array level snapshot based backup solution as it is required to meet RPO/RTOs
5. Maintain the use of deduplication and this has proven to decrease storage requirements and improve performance


1. vSphere 5.0 or later
2. VMFS 5 Datastores which are Thin Provisioned
3. Deduplication is in use for Volumes where Guest OS virtual disks are stored
4. VAAI is supported by the array and enabled across the vSphere environment
5. All datastores are presented to all hosts within the cluster
6. Snapshot based backup solution is being used
7. Virtual Machines are right sized
8. Disk to disk backup data is replicated offsite


1. None


1. Optimize the storage performance
2. Ensure Tier 1 storage is not wasted with transient files
3. Minimize storage required for snapshot based backups

Architectural Decision

Separate OS page files onto a dedicated VMDK, which will be located on a datastore (or datastore cluster) which is
1. Not Protected by the array level snapshot backup solution
2. Not running deduplication
3. Not running data compression


1. Allows page files to be stored on different underlying storage including (optionally) high capacity, lower cost, SATA disk
2. Relocating Guest OS page files to another datastore (or datastore cluster) not protected ny snapshots dramatically reduces the amount of Data being protected by the Snapshot based backup solution
3. Reduces the amount of data being replicated to secondary disk backup location/s thus minimizing the bandwidth requirements between datacenters
4. (Optionally) Ensures Tier 1 storage is only used for high performance guests
5. The result of the Virtual Machines being right sized the performance impact/frequency of paging should be minimal
6. Reduces the CPU cycles required for deduplication as data which cannot be deduplicated will not be scanned
7. Reduces the CPU cycles on the storage controllers by not attempting to compress page file data


1. Leave Page Files within the Virtual machines primary VMDK an accept the overhead on the backup solution
2. Turn of paging within the Guest OS (No Page File)


1. The additional steps of creating a dedicated VMDK for the VM and configuring the Guest OS to use the alternate location
2. Templates need to be updated to the above configuration
3. For environments using Site Recovery Manager,for protected virtual machines, some manual steps are required when setting up the virtual machines for the first time. This increases the work required during setup, however as this is a one time overhead, it is believed the benefit of reduced backup storage and replication traffic (for SRM) outweighs the one time overhead