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New paper on Virtualizing SAP on vSphere on All Flash Storage

SAP HANA is the preferred database for all future SAP applications. Columnar databases and the in memory capabilities of SAP HANA make it an excellent platform for all SAP applications. Virtualized SAP HANA (SAP HANA) provides significant advantages over Physical HANA implementations by providing flexibility and agility in operating a HANA environment

SAP HANA environments have a large memory footprint with the majority of data in memory. The changes to the memory are constantly being replicated to disk and there can be significant disk activity on the system in spurts. In addition when the system is restarted or there is any high availability event there is a massive requirement for data that needs to be quickly loaded into memory from disk. Due to these reasons, there is a requirement in HANA to have a highly performant IO subsystem. All Flash Storage can be a great asset if used as shared storage for virtualized HANA implementations as they can provide excellent IO performance. This paper looks at the benefits of using virtualization that is backed by All Flash storage for SAP HANA.

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Now Updated: Microsoft Exchange Server on VMware vSphere Best Practices Guide

Microsoft Exchange Server is one of the mission critical applications most commonly virtualized on the vSphere platform. As customers become more comfortable and familiar with virtualization in general and the VMware vSphere virtualization platform in particular, they become more confident, enough to virtualize their Exchange Server environments. To help customers achieve success as they begin to virtualize their Microsoft Exchange Server infrastructure, VMware provides guidance and recommendations for designing, configuring and managing the infrastructure.

The Microsoft Exchange Server on VMware vSphere Best Practices Guide contains VMware’s official prescriptive guidance and recommended practices for successfully running Microsoft Exchange Server on the VMware vSphere platform. Continue reading

Completely Disable Time Synchronization for your VM

Some administrative practices, like a bad habit, have more lives than the proverbial cat – they tend to stay around forever. It is, therefore, very comforting when one finds a problematic administrative practice that has not just been universally abandoned by administrators, but is also on the top of any junior administrator’s “configurations sure to get you dis-invited from the next user group meetup” list.

Take the case of the old practice of synchronizing a virtual machine’s clock with its host’s clock in a vSphere environment. That used to be “the thing to do” way back when. It was actually the default configuration option on the ESX platform in those days. Until everyone got wiser and the message went out to every admin far and wide that such configurations was no longer kosher. Even VMware got religious and stopped making that option the default behavior. Continue reading

Storage I/O control for critical apps is a great idea

Recently, I have been asked this question: should we enable Storage I/O control on datastores used by our production databases considering it could prevent my VMs from consuming all the resources they need? The answer is yes, SIOC will not harm your performance, actually it can save you from a very bad day in IT land, and it’s all about the threshold.

Before I dive deeper into that a bit of background:

Storage I/O control is a technology which provides I/O prioritization for VMDKs that reside on a shared datastore, the VMDKs can reside on different hosts but have to be managed by the same vCenter. This is to contrast with adaptive queuing which is an ESXi technology.  Anyway, back to SIOC, when a latency threshold is crossed for a shared datastore Storage I/O control will kick in and will start prioritizing access to that datastore based on the proportional shares mechanism, the outcome will be that VMs with higher shares will get more throughput (IOPS) in lower latency than VMs with lower shares.  By default all VMs have the same amount of shares and a fair access to the datastore, in that case SIOC will protect from the “noisy neighbor” issue from happening making sure that no one VM monopolizes access to that datastore. Continue reading

Virtual Volumes and Storage Policy-Based Management for Databases

 Virtual Volumes and Storage Policy-Based Management for Databases

In the first part of this series we provided a high level view of the benefits of using Virtual Volumes enabled storage for database operations. In the second part of this series we examined in more detail how Virtual Volumes can improve the backup and recovery capabilities for business critical databases, specifically Oracle .In the third part of this series we examined in more detail how Virtual Volumes works in a crash consistent manner for backup and for cloning operations.

Virtual Volumes integrates with Storage Policy-Based Management, the same framework to manage data services in vSphere. In this part we will look at how Storage Policy Based Management (SPBM) can be leveraged to manage mission critical databases.

The Setup:

 The setup of the infrastructure is the same as discussed in the second part of this series. Please refer to setup section for details of the infrastructure and the database configuration.

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Oracle Real Application Clusters on VMware Virtual SAN

Oracle Real Application Clusters on VMware Virtual SAN

VMware Virtual SAN

VMware Virtual SAN is VMware’s software-defined storage solution for hyper-converged infrastructure, a software-driven architecture that delivers tightly integrated computing, networking, and shared storage from a single virtualized x86 server. Virtual SAN delivers high performance, highly resilient shared storage by clustering server-attached flash devices and hard disks (HDDs).

Virtual SAN delivers enterprise-class storage services for virtualized production environments along with predictable scalability and all-flash performance—all at a fraction of the price of traditional, purpose-built storage arrays. Just like vSphere, Virtual SAN provides users the flexibility and control to choose from a wide range of hardware options and easily deploy and manage it for a variety of IT workloads and use cases. Virtual SAN can be configured as all-flash or hybrid storage.

With more and more production servers being virtualized, the demand for highly converged server-based storage is surging. VMware Virtual SAN aims at providing a highly scalable, available, reliable, and high performance storage using cost-effective hardware, specifically direct-attached disks in VMware ESXi hosts. Virtual SAN adheres to a new policy-based storage management paradigm, which simplifies and automates complex management workflows that exist in traditional enterprise storage systems with respect to configuration and clustering

Extended Oracle Real Application Clusters

Customers deploying Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) have requirements such as stringent SLA’s continued high performance, and application availability. It is a major challenge for business organizations to manage data storage in these environments due to the stringent business requirement. Common issues in using traditional storage solutions for Business Critical Application (BCA) include inadequate performance, scale-in/scale-out, storage inefficiency, complex management, and high deployment and operating costs.

RAC on Extended distance is an architecture that provides extremely fast recovery from a site failure and allows all the nodes at all sites to actively process transactions as part of a single database cluster. The Storage and the Network layer is “stretched” across the sites making them universally accessible from all sites.

It provides greater availability than a local RAC would but under no circumstances should we assume that RAC is a Disaster Recovery solution, it’s a Disaster Avoidance Solution.

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Crash consistent backups and database cloning with Virtual Volumes

Crash consistent backups and database cloning with Virtual Volumes

In the first part of this series we provided a high level view of the benefits of using Virtual Volumes enabled storage for database operations. In the second part of this series we examined in more detail how Virtual Volumes can improve the backup and recovery capabilities for business critical databases, specifically Oracle.

The backups for Oracle can be Database consistent or Crash consistent. In this part we will look at Crash consistent backup and recovery and also how database cloning is simplified by the use of VVol.

The Setup:

 The setup of the infrastructure is the same as discussed in the second part of this series. Please refer to setup section for details of the infrastructure and the database configuration.

Database Crash Consistent Recovery and cloning use case Scenarios:

Crash Database Backup & Recovery using VVol Snapshots:

 Crash Consistent Backup:

A crash consistent backup is the backup of a point-in-time image of an Oracle database that is equivalent to a database crash induced by a power outage, other failures or a shutdown abort.

This is the most common backup method used for storage based backups and is fully supported by Oracle as long as the following conditions are met.

From the “Supported Backup, Restore and Recovery Operations using Third Party Snapshot Technologies (Doc ID 604683.1)”:

The third party vendor needs to guarantee and held accountable that their snapshots conform to all the following requirements:

  • Integrated with Oracle’s recommended restore and recovery operations above
  • Database crash consistent at the point of the snapshot
  • Write ordering is preserved for each file within a snapshot

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Hyper-threading doesn’t count for virtual SQL licensing

There’s a fair bit of confusion around licensing SQL that is virtualized and I have been getting questions from customers about this for a long time now. The confusion comes from a few statements in the  Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Virtualization Licensing Guide guide which states:

For customers using Intel’s hyper-threading technology to split a single, physical core into two separate threads of power, there are some additional factors that should be kept in mind when licensing individual VMs using the Per Core Model

This states that there are special considerations for licensing virtualized SQL servers on a per-core model when Hyper-threading is enabled on the hypervisor host.

What is the per core model, you ask?

The per core model is when licensing the virtual CPUs of a virtual SQL server rather than the physical CPUs on the hyper-visor server.  As stated in the doc: “Per Core Licensing Model: Purchase a core license for each virtual core (or virtual processor/virtual CPU/virtual thread) allocated to the VM, subject to a four core license minimum per VM).Continue reading

Virtual Volumes for Database Backup and Recovery

Virtual Volumes for Database Backup and Recovery

In the first part of this series we provided a high level view of the benefits of using Virtual Volumes enabled storage for database operations. In this post, we will examine in more detail how Virtual Volumes can improve the backup and recovery capabilities for business critical databases, specifically Oracle.

The backups for Oracle can be Database consistent or Crash consistent. In this part we will look at Database consistent backup and recovery.

The Setup:

The solution requires VVol enabled storage. We leveraged SANBLaze VirtuaLun as the backend storage for the backup and recovery exercise. We used the VirtuaLun 7.3 emulator from SANBlaze. This emulator is VVol enabled and is one of the first VVol certified storage solutions available.

Blog 2 Fig 1Figure 1: SANBlaze Array for VVol Testing

Oracle Database Server:

A Single Instance Oracle 12c Database with Grid Infrastructure with database name VVOL12C was setup in a VMware Virtual Machine named ORACLE-VVOL. The Oracle database was hosted on a 2 vCPU and 8GB RAM VM running Oracle Enterprise Linux 6.6 with space allocated on a SANBlaze LUN. Continue reading

Protect your applications with vCloud Air Disaster recovery service

Earlier this year VMware released a new vCloud Air service for Disaster Recovery that brings business continuity protection for your vSphere on premise Virtual Machines:

  • A simple solution operated from the vSphere Web client and powered by vSphere Replication
  • Agile as it can scale up quickly with additional Cloud compute, storage, IPs and direct network connect capacity up to 1000 simultaneous replications to a vCloud Air Disaster Recovery enabled Virtual Data Center
  • Reduces physical infrastructure Capex
  • Variable term service options minimize Opex

Version 1 includes Disaster Recovery from on premise to vCloud Air, version 2 which is being rolled out in the different vCloud Air regions includes Multiple Point In Time recovery (ability to recover to one of the 24 previous replications) and Failing Back from vCloud Air to on premise.

These new capabilities as well as the possibility to testing a fail over offer new business continuity possibilities for some Enterprise Applications.

Once the vCloud Air Virtual Data Center networking setup is completed and the infrastructure Virtual Machines such as the domain controllers are replicated application Virtual Machines replications can be set up in a few minutes with a minimum Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of 15 minutes. This is technically accomplished with tracking changes and replicating only the latest deltas. Continue reading