You can use RDMs in virtual compatibility or physical compatibility modes. Virtual mode specifies full virtualization of the mapped device. Physical mode specifies minimal SCSI virtualization of the mapped device, allowing the greatest flexibility for SAN management software.

In virtual mode, the VMkernel sends only READ and WRITE to the mapped device. The mapped device appears to the guest operating system exactly the same as a virtual disk file in a VMFS volume. The real hardware characteristics are hidden. If you are using a raw disk in virtual mode, you can realize the benefits of VMFS such as advanced file locking for data protection and snapshots for streamlining development processes. Virtual mode is also more portable across storage hardware than physical mode, presenting the same behavior as a virtual disk file.

In physical mode, the VMkernel passes all SCSI commands to the device, with one exception: the REPORT LUNs command is virtualized so that the VMkernel can isolate the LUN to the owning virtual machine. Otherwise, all physical characteristics of the underlying hardware are exposed. Physical mode is useful to run SAN management agents or other SCSI target-based software in the virtual machine. Physical mode also allows virtual-to-physical clustering for cost-effective high availability.

VMFS5 supports greater than 2TB disk size for RDMs in virtual and physical modes. You cannot relocate larger than 2TB RDMs to datastores other than VMFS5.