Thursday, 24 February 2011

Virtualising SharePoint 2010

Overview:  I was reading Michael Noel's article on "Going Virtual with SharePoint 2010", it is a good read and is very useful in pointing out how to virtualise.  My key point here would be don't virtualise SQL Server you just won't get the IOPS to make it worthwhile.

Nearly 2 years ago I was speaking to the lead architect for a big FTSE 100 enterprise who heavily use SharePoint 2007 at the time.  His key message was don't virtualise the WFE's, I disagreed with him which apparently wasn't a good idea but outside of his single point his claims were not worth accepting.  His key point was you will get a 10-15% (a guess) performance increase using physical over VMWare on the same hardware.  Michael Noel states "Generally, the virtualization overhead required to run virtual servers is only 5 percent".  I can't see any discernable degradation but there will be some performance hit by using a hypervisor.  His farm was rather large but I feel he just didn't trust virtualisation.  Today it's pretty main stream to put you WFE's and application servers on a VM platform.  Especially if it's done correctly as outlined in Michael's article the minor pass thru resource lost is easily made up for with flexibility that VM's offer you namely:
  • Hardware become cheaper you can easily up size you VM's on new hardware with more resources as time move on, you don't need to add more servers to the farm.  I have had several clients start with a part of there business using SharePoint, it's much easier to setup a resilient infrastructure that can be moved over servers using VMotion and upgrade the hardware. 
  • Additional servers are easy to add to the farm as you simply add a new VM onto your hardware.  This is pretty minor but you don't need to do purchasing and the hard yards associate with hardware additions.  If the company has the resources (CPU, memory and disk) it simple to request more VMs or additional resources to existing VM's.  With the cost of hardware halving every 18 months it's a no brainer if your organisation can move to virtualised servers.
  • Disaster recovery is only improved, you may have a bit backup for DR but being able to pull down machines and move them is always useful.
I use HyperV at home as I have only 2 servers and my technet licences give it to me for free.  I merely spin up machines and install the roles I require.  I even VM my AD & SQL box for development. 
On production environments it is HyperV or VMWare for me. It comes down to you engineers experience and preference.  If it is a greenfield project and licencing costs are not a concern I lead my clients to VMWare as I know it better and know it performs and is maintainable.  Saying that I have setup farms using HyperV, this is generally for smaller institutions and it works brilliantly.
Tip: Separate physical network cards for each VM & don't put SQL on a VM.
Tip: Follow Michael Noel's article when virtualising your SharePoint farm and get a virtualisation expert to help you do the setup.



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