VMware ESXi 6.5 can connect to external storage via iSCSI, which works on top of TCP. Another widely used protocol for shared storage connections is Network File System (NFS). Today, we'll connect ESXi 6.5 to iSCSI shared storage over the local area network.


Note that you can use the free version of VMware ESXi to connect to iSCSI or NFS storage. I'll demonstrate this below. In fact, no matter the license, any version of the VMware ESXi hypervisor can connect to shared storage.

You can then have several free ESXi hosts accessing the same datastore. However, because you don't have a central management server (VMware vCenter server), you can only manage your VMs individually, host by host. And you don't have the possibility to move VMs from one host to another using vMotion technology.


  • At least one ESXi host with two physical NICs (management and storage traffic)
  • Shared storage offering the iSCSI protocol
  • Network switch between shared storage and the ESXi host
  • vSphere client software

We'll be using the new HTML5 host client, which is different than the old Windows client. One advantage of the HTML5 host client is that you don't need to install any software on your management computer because you connect via a web browser. You don't need plugins, and you can just connect through the URL https://ip_of_ESXi/ui (replace "ip_of_ESXi" with your installation's IP address). Note that if you're managing a vCenter server-based VMware infrastructure, you'll still need an Adobe Flash plugin.


First, we need to add a VMkernel network interface card (NIC) to our system so the ESXi host can connect to the remote storage device. To do so select Networking > VMkernel NICs > Add VMkernel NIC.

Add a VMkernel NIC

Add a VMkernel NIC

We will also add a new port group. Please name the port group accordingly. In my example, I named it simply iscsi. Note that our storage system is on another subnet.

Create a new port group

Create a new port group

The result should look like the screenshot below:

Add a VMkernel NIC for the iSCSI connection

Add a VMkernel NIC for the iSCSI connection

But that's not all. Before we go further, we need to make sure that:

  • At the vSwitch level: Both physical NICs connected to the ESXi hosts are active.
  • At the port group level: A single NIC is set as active. The other one is set as unused.

Navigate to Networking > Virtual Switches > select vSwitch0 > Edit settings, expand the NIC teaming section and make sure both NICs are marked as active. If for some reason one of the NICs isn't active, please select the NIC and click the Mark as active button.

NIC teaming at the vSwitch level

NIC teaming at the vSwitch level

We also need to override the failover order at the port group level because by default, the port group inherits the setting from our vSwitch. First, navigate to Networking > Port groups TAB, select the iscsi port group > Edit settings > expand the NIC teaming section and then make sure to select Override failover order – Yes. Use the correct NIC for iSCSI storage traffic (vmnic1 in our case).

Override failover order on the iSCSI port group

Override failover order on the iSCSI port group

Next, do the same for the Management Network and the VM network, and now, only select vmnic0.

Override failover order on the Management and VM network port groups

iSCSI adapter activation and configuration

After the process above, the next thing to do is to enable the software iSCSI adapter, which is disabled by default. To do this, select Storage > Adapters TAB > configure iSCSi.

Enable the software iSCSI Adapter

Enable the software iSCSI Adapter

Then just go to the Dynamic targets section and click the Add dynamic target button.

Add a dynamic target to the iSCSI initiator

Add a dynamic target to the iSCSI initiator

Now you can click the Save button. Next, go back to Storage > Adapters > Configure iSCSI. You should see the Static targets section populated.

Dynamic target population within the iSCSI initiator

Dynamic target population within the iSCSI initiator

If this is not the case, something went wrong during your configuration. Check your settings and make sure that everything is as explained above.

Then, while still in the Storage section, go to Datastores and create a new datastore. Click New datastore and create a new Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) datastore.

NIC teaming at the vSwitch level

NIC teaming at the vSwitch level

Then enter a name to recognize this datastore later.

Create an iSCSI datastore Use a meaningful name

Create an iSCSI datastore Use a meaningful name

Select VMFS 6 from the drop-down menu. (By default, VMFS 5 is preselected.)

Create a VMFS 6 datastore

Create a VMFS 6 datastore

You'll see a summary page. Click the Finish button.

Create a shared VMFS 6 datastore

Create a shared VMFS 6 datastore

You should see this new datastore populated among all the other datastores.

New VMFS 6 shared datastore

New VMFS 6 shared datastore

That's all. We have configured an ESXi 6.5 host, connected it to a remote storage device via iSCSI and created a new VMFS 6 datastore.

If you plan to connect another ESXi host to the same storage device, you don't have to create the datastore again. However, you'll still need to configure the ESXi host in the same manner. Both hosts will be able to use the shared datastore for running virtual machines.

VMFS is a clustered file system that can manage multiple connections and is able to implement per-file locking. The latest VMFS 6 can handle up to 2048 different paths. You can run up to 2048 VMs on single datastore too. The maximum file size is 62 TB, and the maximum volume size can be up to 64 TB.

  1. Avatar
    hazem 7 years ago

    i do wish to include all the previuos lessons in this series in every post

  2. Avatar
    Mladen Marinov 7 years ago

    Funny but there no way to set the adapter as not in use.

    I can only select to be Stalnd-by.

    So then when I try to set iSCSI at all times I have error that has multiple connections.

    Should I create separate vSwitch?

  3. Avatar Author
    Vladan 7 years ago

    I assume you have 2 NICs in your host. Use 1 for management, and the other one for iSCSi. It’s not necessary to create a separate vSwitch, but it might be easier in your case, as you seems to have problems.

  4. Avatar
    Bart Bakker 7 years ago

    Thank you for this very helpful post!

    Only hick-up I found was that the list of static targets was not automatically populated, I had to add my target iSCSI (NAS) manually, but after that everything worked like a charm!




  5. Avatar
    tmack 6 years ago

    Thanks for this post Vladan.

    I have 3 NICs. I added all of them to vSwitchO. When I set the ‘Failover Order’ on the port groups all 3 NICs are listed. There is only 1 NIC in your screenshot. I do not have an option to remove objects from that list. I can only set them to ‘Active’ or ‘Standby’. VMware 6.0.


    • Avatar Author

      You’re probably not at the “Portgroup level” but rather at the “vSwitch” level. Select  Port Groups TAB and do the edits there. you’ll you’l have an option to “remove” (scroll down to “override failover order” check the box to “Yes” > select NIC > Mark unused.) Hope that helps.

  6. Avatar
    Natalie 6 years ago

    There’s a bug in 6.5 that doesn’t give you the option of removing the second NIC. Here’s the workaround I found: vSphere 6.5 iSCSI Binding Bug

  7. Avatar
    Chris Green 6 years ago

    Hi there.

    Firstly, THANK YOU – I’m on page 1 with ESXi, just learning from the start, so I didn’t 100% understand everything I was doing, but following your step by step got me running  iSCSI. Now is the fun bit, where I break it again to figure out exactly what all the different options do.

    One thing which caught me out (and at least one other person in the comments) note the line:

    At the port group level: A single NIC is set as active. The other one is set as unused.

    This does not 100% correspond with the picture under the port group setup. Follow the instruction, not the picture. You can mark the second one as unused.

    Note I had a couple of problems when I was running 6.5.0 build 48877370 but I did the (free) update to 6.5.0 update 1 5969303 which I got from here:


    and installed using the zip-file install advice here:


    Using the datastore install method I discovered here:


    And now it seems to run a little closer to the article described. This might be due to the hardware I was using (Dell PowerEdge 2950), I’m not sure. Good luck to everyone!

  8. Avatar
    Arthur Kerins 6 years ago

    This worked great with individual hosts but i don’t see this in vcenter 6.5?  Is there more configuration needed?

  9. Avatar
    Thomas Andersson 6 years ago

    You lost me at:
    At the port group level: A single NIC is set as active. The other one is set as unused.”
    Where to look, what to see?
    The port group tabs now shows 3 groups, VM networks with 0 active ports, iSCSI with 1 active port and VM Management with 1 active port. Both the latter two groups seems to use vmnic0 and nothing using vmnic1.
    Trying to figure this out so I can set my NAS as a iSCSI sever for datastores in my home network and make all my servers virtual on a ESXi machine, but I’m quite new to this so a bit overwhelmed still.

  10. Avatar
    Vijay 6 years ago

    I have done as per the article and i am perfectly see the iscsi working on the esxi and i did the same on the second host for the same iscsi target but not working on the second host. Please advise.

  11. Avatar
    Nasim 6 years ago


    I have added one new LUN/Hardisk in open filer,However i am not able to view new LUN in esxi.

    Note: Previous LUN is able to view in same esxi.

    Please advise.


  12. Avatar
    David 6 years ago

    It would be great to have the PowerCLI commands to implement the GUI hunt and peck

  13. Avatar
    daniel salud 6 years ago

    hello folks,

    i have configured my esxi 6.5 for iscsi with 2 port-groups using one uplink for each. so therefore I have two vmkernel nics on the port binding with the iscsi target.  I can only see one vmkernel nic getting traffic to my storage and not the other. Is there something I am missing from the ESXi side? please advise. thank you.!!!!

  14. Avatar Author

    Make sure to configure load balancing and select “round-robbin” storage policy. NOTE: Verify that the iSCSI array supports the round-robin path policy by contacting the array vendor.


  15. Avatar
    Gally 5 years ago

    When attaching a pre-existing iSCSI vmfs6 volume on the second ESXi host, how do you get it to add the vmfs as an already existing  datastore instead having it to wipe it and create a new one?

    Thanks Vladan!

  16. Avatar
    Gally 5 years ago

    OK nevermind.  Figured it out I think.  I originally set up them datstore as vmfs6 on esxi 6.7, then when i tried to attach the iSCSI to an older esxi 6.0 machine, I realized 6.0 can’t see vmfs6, it can only handle vmfs5.

  17. Avatar
    ren 5 years ago

    I’ve got it configured and the static targets show up. In my case 3 of them. 2 of them thru the dedicated nic’s but also the 3rd one that is connected thru my switch.

    However, I can not for the life of me get it to see the san. It doesn’t show up in devices, not even after refresh or rescan. Add datastore also doesn’t show it.

    Is my san misconfigured perhaps ? It’s a synology.

  18. Avatar
    Rasoul Hosseini 4 years ago

    my problem is this:
    via "mklabe or setptbl" I changed the partition type to "msdos" and then created a data storage. But after creating my data store the partition type automatically reset to "gpt" and doesn't let me create another data store. Then I changed it back to "msdos" but after that my datastores that I created are gone.
    Does anyone of you have such an experience?
    I am very grateful in advance

  19. Avatar
    Shaun 2 years ago

    Great guide. Thank you for the assistance! Works for ESXI 7 in case anyone is wondering.

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