Documenting a virtualization project

Experiences in Virtualization

Posts Tagged ‘serverspecs’

The budget: hardware is half the fun

Posted by martijnl on July 1, 2006

In our particular businesscase it certainly isn’t as the software licenses we need add up to roughly one third of the total cost.

Firstly there is the VMWare Virtual Infrastructure licensing. Compared to the different ESX server licenses it has become much easier to select the right package for your needs. The different VI3 editions described on the VMWare website should give all the information you need.

vmware.gifFor our particular case the choice was easy. Because of our recently renewed focus on Business Continuity Management (partly because of an ongoing effort to get ISO27001 certified) having the ability to use the new High Availability and VMotion options were “must-haves”. This meant that we needed the “Enterprise” version of VI3. Retail pricing for our setup (8 x 2 CPU seats, VMWare is licensed per CPU seat and not per core — kudos to them) will end up around € 40000.

There are a number of other software tools that can make your life and the migration to a Virtual Infrastructure a lot easier. During our preparations for this project we had a look at two vendors:

  • Platespin (see links in sidebar)
    • PowerConvert, which streams servers from physical machines to virtual machines and image archives over the network (and vice versa and a lot of other directions, depending on product version).
    • PowerRecon, which can be used for consolidation planning. It scans your existing network gathering data on machine utilization and workload levels and stores it in a database. After enough data has been gathered (preferably one month or longer) PowerRecon can provide a detailed report on the consolidation options for the different machines in the network. Depending on the VMWare experience available to you/your company this product competes with VMWare’s own planning and sizing programme. The consultant running this programme has to be certified (VMWare Certified Professional with specific additional training if my information is correct) to do so however. Again, it will depend on your preference. Do you want to keep it in house or hire external expertise or make a combination of both.
    • Platespin offers a (paid) Proof of Concept Package that is good for 10 Physical to Virtual (P2V) conversions and PowerRecon for 10 servers. We are in the middle of testing this package so I will write more about this in later posts. Should we decide to buy the application we will probably go for the 100 server package (about € 10000-15000) and not the Universal. For us the extra flexibility doesn’t weigh up to the price difference. Maybe if we get more and more hands-on experience this will change and we’ll upgrade at a later date.
  • Vizioncore
    • Of the products that Vizioncore offers we have had a look at ESXRanger. This can make hot backups of a running VM. It is unlikely that we will be buying it as VI3 also offers a consolidated backup solution and we have a completely different backup and DR strategy at the moment but it deserves a look if you are planning your VI.
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The budget: get the specs right (2)

Posted by martijnl on June 30, 2006

Advanced Technical Design GuideSo after deciding on the platform it was time to size it to our needs. Based on a quick inventory of our serverpark we estimated 80-100 servers could be virtualized. Based on the sizing guide in the excellent book “ESX Server: Advanced Technical Design Guide” (link to Amazon.com) we calculated at 4-6 VM’s per CPU core.

Going the safe route this came out as:

100VM’s / 4 = 25 CPU cores. 25 / 8 (cores per server) = 3,125 servers.

So going the safe route all the way we were budgetting for 4 HP DL585’s. Deciding on the specs of the servers itself was relatively easy after that.

We have had some questions about using Blades but at the moment they are not an option because of the VM density we are running. As described in the VMWare guidelines you need:

  • a seperate NIC for the VirtualCenter management traffic
  • a seperate NIC for VMotion traffic
  • a seperate Gbit NIC for every 4 to 8 VM’s

With roughly 25 VM’s on a host machine that calculates to at least 5 NIC’s in the machine and the first Blades with four NIC’s have only just arrived. If you have the time and the facilities to test it all out it could work for you but as we weren’t using Blades anyway the decision was made pretty quickly to dump that idea.

The serverspecs are described in a seperate page together with some more information about how we arrived at that specific configuration.

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The budget: get the specs right

Posted by martijnl on June 30, 2006

Explaining the expense for the necessary hardware for a virtualization project can be a bit tricky because of the “supersizing” that you need to do. In our situation it meant explaining the difference between buying a regular two-way Intel Xeon based IBM XSeries 346 or HP Proliant DL380 (which for us do about € 5000 to € 7000 depending on specs) and buying a set of four way AMD Opteron based HP Proliant DL 585’s (which cost roughly € 25000 a piece in the specification that we need).

It all begins with getting the specifications of what you need right.

What we did was ask alot and listen carefully. We already knew how to size the systems that we have for their specific tasks so based on that knowledge we started asking other companies also thinking about virtualization how they were sizing their environment and we also started looking carefully at the current utilization of our servers.

One conclusion that stood out (at Cisco as well as at Capgemini and from our own internal VMWare consultant) was that everyone was looking at or already working with AMD Opteron CPU’s. Which made our life a whole lot easier because only* HP and Sun currently have models with a four-way Opteron configuration in their portfolio (*there are other suppliers, but because of purchasing policies I had to leave them out of the comparison)

HP DL585Because we used HP already the choice was clear: Proliants DL585 it had to be. Apart from the advantage in horsepower that the Opteron has over the Intel Xeon it is also much more energy efficient and a lot less noisy. Anecdote: Visiting a trade show we could have a normal conversation with a sales rep from a server retailer standing right next to an open Opteron box. We regularly have Xeon boxes open in our room and a normal conversation is pretty impossible then.

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