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Point Counterpoint: Why Virtualize a SQL Server?

I get asked all the time – “why virtualize SQL Server if I’m content with my physical servers today?” The normal answer, outside of the usual answers of increased agility, flexibility, cloud-readiness, etc., is that license optimization is possible if your organization has enough scale to license a set of virtualization hosts and manage VM density to maximize licensing.

But, what if your organization does not have the sheer volume needed to cross that break-even point on the virtualization investment? What if the SQL Server version, platform, and app are happy? What other talking points do we have that can encourage virtualizing every SQL Server?

There are quite a few less-tangible benefits, such as VM migrations for hardware or SAN upgrades, ease of system-level backups and disaster recovery, improved operational high availability choices, and greater flexibility and agility in the datacenter. However, it’s difficult to put a dollar amount on this one. All of these are operational benefits that save staff time and energy. But, what about saving cost?

We need to look a bit further out. Eventually, the third-party vended app vendors are going to stop supporting the older versions of SQL Server, and the new versions have all migrated to core-based licensing, which can potentially lead to an unexpected cost during application upgrades. Moving to VMs now – or then – allow you to allocate the number of vCPUs that are needed at the time, rather than whatever the current hardware contains. Future physical server purchases will get harder to find smaller core count servers, all of which will increase the license spend. The vCPUs in a SQL Server instance can be licensed by virtual cores, and that can contribute to a reduction in future licensing purchases. The fact that these VMs could reside on the current VM infrastructure (as long as it is capable and contains enough free resources) could also help reduce or eliminate a future hardware purchase as well.

I know I’m preaching to the virtualization-friendly choir here, but if SQL Server virtualization is not the right call for right now, as time goes on, the necessity for maintaining or reducing CAPEX along with reducing OPEX will make virtualizing these systems a more appealing option as time goes on.

And… virtualizing these platforms is step number one in your cloud readiness strategy. And you are moving towards the cloud, right?

Technobabble by Klee from @kleegeek

David Klee is all around geek who loves data - including the platform it resides on, virtualizing it, improving performance, availability, and disaster recoverability, and data presentation and visualization. He frequently advises organizations on the techniques of migrating their business-critical physical SQL Servers to the VMware infrastructure in his day job as Solutions Architect. David speaks at many national SQL Saturday events and SQL Server User Group meetings, as well as writes technical columns on SQL Server and virtualization topics on various blogs. He is on Twitter (https://twitter.com/kleegeek), LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidaklee), and blogs frequently (http://www.davidklee.net).

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