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SQL Server on a virtual server


SQL Server on a virtual server

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Steve Jones
Steve Jones
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Donald Denney (2/9/2010)

Here is the information about the paper:

Consolidation Using SQL Server 2008
SQL Server Technical Article



URL for the paper: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee692366.aspx

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Steve Jones
Steve Jones
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I'm not sure that I think multi-instancing is better than VMs. First you can't balance memory easily with instances. VMs allow you to more easily move memory around. That may or may not fit.

In terms of licensing, I'm not sure that's true either. Depending on your version, there may be no difference between licensing 4 instances and 4 VMs. The licensing has changed by edition, version (SS2K v SS2K5 v SS2K8), and type of licensing. You'll have to check for your situation if this matters.

In terms of running stable environments, one of the large satellite TV providers runs almost all VMs for their servers. A couple of the very heavily used SQL Servers are not on VMs, but dozens of their SQL installations are, including many fairly important databases. They do use a couple of tricks to make the database servers work differently than things like DCs, file servers, etc.

Normal servers are usually 10:1 on a blade. SQL Servers are about 4:1. They also have virtually clustered the SQL Servers and do not allow them to flow with Vmotion. A few float, but many do not, and with dedicated HBAs, this allows failover to another blade with known performance characteristics.

I am also not sure I agree that VMs are there to sell SAN space. A SAN may or may not be a good idea in your environment. I'm torn on them as performance can be better or worse, administration costs are higher, new machines, etc. On the other hand they do centralize storage, allow some interesting DR options with 2 SANs and they can have great performance. You can also more easily grow space, or add space, to a server than with DASD. VMs don't require SANs; you just need to set up good IO subsystems however you run things. The SAN is there if you want to float those VMs to new machines and require shared disk.

I've seen VMs also cause performance problems because sysadmins think that a new VM somehow gets them free resources. You still need to balance and plan for performance. They do allow you to quickly increase hardware if demand changes. If your 2x2 or 2x4 suddenly is too small and you need a 4x8, VMs are a great way to do this. Previously people caught in this situation tended to overbuy machines to prevent it since it is much harder in many companies to get the approvals to upgrade a machine, or buy a new one. As a result we have many under-utilized machines in data centers that also cover up planning mistakes.

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paul.aasmundstad
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Gary, I'm not necessarily disagreeing, but stating that as a DBA, I don't like to put enterprise level tuning of OLTP and OLAP SQL servers in the hands of non-DBAs. I think all technologies can be "tuned" to their maximum potential, my point is that in practice, that requires a level of expertise and integration between server and DBA personnel that most organizations don't really have.

For example, given an equal choice between a midlevel server, one could VM it or multi-instance it - give the same resources to each. Implement database mirroring as a hot failover solution, get the benefits of transactional integrity compared to hardware level solutions that may not respect transactions. You could cluster either scenario. The performance requirement is that a failover must perform equally to the primary server. I wouldn't want either the VM or multi-instanced machine to share with non-SQL servers. Given that, the additional overhead of VM would theoretically reduce the maximum potential of the machine. With hot swap memory, disks or hba (depending on which you are using), the same machine can expand without downtime.

You are correct that data centers have too many under-utilized machines, and if the DBAs are not using resources well, that is a good motivation to consolidate using VM. The right tool for the right job most certainly applies to which strategy works best for a company, as does understanding whether the infrastructure or DBA personnel are in the best position to maximize resource use of the database servers.

Still, for performance/DR/failover scenarios running SQL2008 EE in heavy OLTP and OLAP, I don't think even the best tuned VM can deliver performance at a lower cost than the best tuned physical, multi-instanced machines. I'd love to be wrong, as I can see the potential for multi-instancing on VMs if the numbers add up!!
doc_sewell
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Running a Production SQL Server that is highly transactional is an extreme issue. We have had customers with tempdb problems, poor or no response, and database corruption (CHECKDB errors). Can you run SQL on a VM? Yes. But, as a DBA, I would only run dev or test, never production.
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Another point to remember, Microsoft does not support VMWare. You must consider Hyper-V. Again, when your job counts on it, not for production.

Joe
Donald Denney
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That is true, but it's never been my decision.

Which Virtual platform to use, i.e. Microsoft or VMWare, supported or not, has always been the pervue of the Windows Administration team.

Even though they know it isn't fully supported by Microsoft management has always decided to take that risk. I neither condone or advise against it, since it's not my call.

I imagine that many other DBA's find themselves in a similar situation.
nelsonj-902869
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Hmmmmm......I am going to have to respectfully disagree with Doc-s. We started down the VMware
path 15 months ago and have not looked back. Going VM allowed us to consolidate the rack space for approx 35-40 hardware servers into about 22U in one rack.
We run 4 ESX servers with full redundancy ( if my terminology is bad, is because I'm the DBA, not the VM guy...), fail over, auto-switching to a new ESX box, etc. All the advantages of VM in an environment not from MS. We now have at least 40 servers on the VM environment and as hardware servers get to EOL warranty-wise, the databases are being migrated to VM.
Supported or not, VMware has served us well, especially in a production environment. The savings in hardware costs and environmental expense is not my responsibility, but just getting rid of 40 4U/6U servers has to be a savings of some magnitude. Talk about ease of maintaining the databases. In this day of personnel and budget cutbacks, VM can not be beat. We have even managed to free up rack space for the GeoData group to move back into the main computer room, which will allow that department to vacate an expensive rental site - more cost savings. Can't be beat.
Joie Andrew
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I have to disagree with Joe. While I am not the biggest supporter of VMs on SQL (especially the potential nightmare live migrations can have on a very active server), Microsoft does in fact support VMWare on certain setups. VMWare is a partner in their Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) which Microsoft supports officially under approved setups.

Microsoft server software and supported virtualization environments

Welcome to the Windows Server Virtualization Validation Program

Joie Andrew
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Steve Jones
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Thanks for the link, Joie. I think that's a relatively recent change on MS's part to support VMWare, and I'm glad to see it.

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quackhandle1975
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I have a VMWare SQL 2000 Standard SP4 on Windows 2003 Server SP2 test box and I am looking for ways to speed it up. It has 4 cpu's and 4GB RAM. Granted it's only test however I have recently moved a 480GB database on it and I am performing some intensive queries and need to check the index fragmentation and possibly rebuild them, plus backup and restore VLDB's.

What steps can I take to speed this instance up - or is it just the nature of the beast ie - VMWare?

would 'Boost SQL priorty on Windows' help any?

Many thanks

qh

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. – Carl Jung.
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