Persistent Memory (PMem), also known as Non-Volatile Memory (NVM), is capable of maintaining data even after a power outage. PMem can be used by applications that are sensitive to downtime and require high performance.

VMs can be configured to use PMem on a standalone host, or in a cluster. PMem is treated as a local datastore. Persistent memory significantly reduces storage latency. In ESXi you can create VMs that are configured with PMem, and applications inside these VMs can take advantage of this increased speed. Once a VM is initially powered on, PMem is reserved for it regardless of whether it is powered on or off. This PMem stays reserved until the VM is migrated or removed.

Persistent memory can be consumed by virtual machines in two different modes. Legacy guest OSes can still take advantage of virtual persistent memory disk feature.

  • Virtual Persistent Memory (vPMem)

    Using vPMem, the memory is exposed to a guest OS as a virtual NVDIMM. This enables the guest OS to use PMem in byte addressable random mode.

    Note:

    You must use VM hardware version 14 and a guest OS that supports NVM technology.

  • Virtual Persistent Memory Disk (vPMemDisk)

    Using vPMemDisk, the memory can be accessed by the guest OS as a virtual SCSI device, but the virtual disk is stored in a PMem datastore.

When you create a VM with PMem, memory is reserved for it at the time of Hard disk creation. Admission control is also done at the time of Hard disk creation.

In a cluster, each VM has some capacity for PMem. The total amount of PMem must be greater than the total amount available in the cluster. The consumption of PMem includes both powered on and powered off VMs. If a VM is configured to use PMem and you do not use DRS, then you must manually pick a host that has sufficient PMem to place the VM on.

NVDIMM and traditional storage

NVDIMM is accessed as memory. When you use traditional storage, software exists between applications and storage devices which can cause a delay in processing time. When you use PMem, the applications use the storage directly. This means that PMem performance is better than traditional storage. Storage is local to the host. However, since system software cannot track the changes, solutions such as backups and HA do not currently work with PMem.

Name spaces

Name spaces for PMem are configured before ESXi starts. Name spaces are similar to disks on the system. ESXi reads name spaces and combines multiple name spaces into one logical volume by writing GPT headers. This is formatted automatically by default, if you have not previously configured it. If it has already been formatted, ESXi attempts to mount the PMem.

GPT tables

If the data in PMem storage is corrupted it can cause ESXi to fail. To avoid this, ESXi checks for errors in the metadata during PMem mount time.

PMem regions

PMem regions are a continuous byte stream that represent a single vNVDimm or vPMemDisk. Each PMem volume belongs to a single host. This could be difficult to manage if an administrator has to manage each host in a cluster with a large number of hosts. However, you do not have to manage each individual datastore. Instead you can think of the entire PMem capacity in the cluster as one datastore.

VC and DRS automate initial placement of PMem datastores. Select a local PMem storage profile when the VM is created or when the device is added to the VM. The rest of the configuration is automated. One limitation is that ESXi does not allow you to put the VM home on a PMem datastore. This is because it takes up valuable space to store VM log and stat files. These regions are used to represent the VM data and can be exposed as byte addressable nvDimms, or VpMem disks.

Migration

Since PMem is a local datastore, if you want to move a VM you must use storage vMotion. A VM with vPMem can only be migrated to an ESX host with PMem resource. A VM with vPMemDisk can be migrated to an ESX host without a PMem resource.

Error handling and NVDimm management

Host failures can result in a loss of availability. In the case of catastrophic errors, you may lose all data and must take manual steps to reformat the PMem.