Documenting a virtualization project

Experiences in Virtualization

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Running SAP BFC (Magnitude) 100% virtualized

Posted by martijnl on February 22, 2010

Last year we got a request from a client who wanted an application environment for his SAP BusinessObjects Financial Consolidation (formerly Cartesis Magnitude) application. The new environment would be used for group consolidation for a number of companies with most of them located in EMEA. Because of the relative importance of the availability of this environment it was our goal to realize a 100% virtualized environment so we could use VMware HA, vMotion etc.

The reason for this blogpost is to explain that this can be done and that it does work and perform up to and above specification. This in contrast to popular belief among product specialists and third party consultants for the product itself who were trying to convince the client that this product would not run (perform) in an VM.

What we ended up doing was the following:

  • Based on product usage characteristics and an existing design for the environment in physical servers we proposed an alternative in the form of a Virtual Infrastructure
  • This VI (then based on VMware VI3.5 Enterprise) was housed in an external datacenter with the right facilities (connections, power, cooling, building design etc.) to guarantee sufficient uptime
  • Use Veeam Backup&Replication to replicate the entire environment to a secondary location for DR purposes

The complete application environment uses Citrix XenApp and Citrix Access Gateway SSL VPN to deliver the application to the users. Apart from security appliances such as the Access Gateway and firewall devices only the Citrix servers are physical. This choice was made based on the expected high utilization of the Citrix servers and our choice to host only the application related servers in the VI. All other servers (file, web, application, SQL2005 database and analysis, domain controllers) are virtual machines.

To get the necessary storage performance for the SQL 2005 (64bit) database we created dedicated LUNs for the database logfiles and datastores on the FC SAN. VMware has published some excellent whitepapers on SQL Server and SAP sizing: http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/SQLServerWorkloads.pdf and http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/SAP-Best-Practices-White-Paper-2009.pdf for example. The total size of the datastores is well over 500GB by the way.

The virtual machines are almost all SMP machines (either two or four-way SMP) because of peak performance caused in consolidation and reporting runs and this works well. To avoid performance issues we did adopt the rule that CPU overcommit would be held to a minimum, because we knew that come peak time several servers on the same host would be fighting for resources.

After implementation of the environment there was a performance and acceptance test and the whole environment performed as good or better than the environment where the application was migrated from. Plus we now have the added benefits of virtualization with regards to availability. Another benefit of having the whole environment fully virtualized is that with Veeam Backup and Replication we are now able to replicate the whole environment to a target host in a second datacenter and switch over to that environment should there be a problem in the primary location. I am not completely unbiased with Veeam but if you compare cost and value it keeps amazing me how much you can do with it for a relatively low investment compared with traditional backup software solutions.

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