Flash to the Rescue, Virtualizing Business Critical Applications in a Flash

There is no doubt that the barriers to virtualization have been rapidly falling. In fact today with VMware’s Monster VM capabilities and the scalability of vSphere 5.5, many organizations have recognized that practically any application can be virtualized and they have adopted a virtualization first policy. But there are still some customers that have been hesitant about virtualizing their most critical applications.  Often times I/O bottlenecks and high storage latency are the cause for poor application performance.  That is where a new breed of storage comes to the rescue.

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Memory Performance Counters – An Evolved Look at Memory Management

vSphere memory management has evolved over the years taking advantage of new technologies and techniques like using large memory pages, compressing memory, and using solid state devices (SSDs) for swap caching. This evolution has changed the way we need to look at memory usage and memory over-commitment in vSphere virtualized environments. To understand memory management and usage in vSphere we need to understand the metrics available to us, what they mean, and how to use them.

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The Best Keep Getting Better – VMware vSphere 5.1 Performance

Today, VMware’s CTO Steve Herrod, addressed the 20,000+ attendees at VMworld and announced that VMware has out done itself again by providing a virtualization platform more than capable of supporting even the most demanding and I/O intensive mission critical applications. One impressive performance study that Steve highlighted in his keynote was the 1 Million IOPS from a Single VM study just recently completed by the performance engineering team here at VMware.

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Performance Sessions @ VMworld 2012 San Francisco

VMworld is just around the corner!  Like always it is going to be an exciting action-packed week.  If you are going to be at the show make sure you check out some of the VMware performance sessions being delivered.

vSphere Performance New Features Overview  (you never know there might be some new things 😉 )

INF-VSP1622 – Performance New Features and Best Practices for vSphere
Monday, Aug 27, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM  – Moscone West, Level 3, Room 3002
Wednesday, Aug 29, 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM – Moscone West, Level 2, Room 2016

Some other Performance Sessions that are definitely worth checking out…

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Troubleshooting Storage Performance in vSphere – Storage Queues

Storage Queues what are they and do I need to change them?

We have all had to wait in a line or two in our life, whether it is the dreaded TSA checkpoint line at the airport or the equally dreaded DMV registration line, waiting in line is just a fact of life. This is true in the storage world too; storage I/O’s have plenty of lines that they have to wait in. In this article, we examine the various queues in the virtualized storage stack and discuss the when, how, and why of modifying them. 

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VMX Swap feature in vSphere 5.0

Something you might have missed…. A little known feature of vSphere 5.0 called VMX swap helps to reduce the memory footprint of the VMX process by up to 80%. The vSphere kernel has several internal processes, agents, and data structures that require physical memory. vSphere reserves physical memory on the host to assure that these internal vSphere processes always have the physical memory they need. Sometimes these reservations are more than the process is actually currently using. The VMX process manages data structures needed to bootstrap and support the guest and has a memory reservation of approximately 50MB but can vary depending on virtual machine size and configuration.

To allow for better utilization of physical host memory and higher consolidation levels, vSphere 5.0 introduced the ability to create a swap location for the VMX process for a virtual machine. By having a swap location backing the memory for the VMX process, vSphere can reduce the physical memory consumed by the VMX process by allowing parts of the memory to be swapped out when the host is under memory pressure.

This feature is enabled by default in vSphere 5.0 and vSphere will automatically create the VMX swap file for each virtual machine when the virtual machine is powered on. By default, the VMX swap file is created in the virtual machine’s working directory but a different location can be set with sched.swap.vmxSwapDir. Although not recommended, the VMX swap feature can be disabled on a virtual machine by setting sched.swap.vmxSwapEnabled to FALSE.

This feature can reduce the VMX memory reservation from about 50MB or more per virtual machine to about 10MB per virtual machine with no noticeable performance impact. Although a savings of 40MB might not seem like a huge amount, with today’s hosts being able to support higher levels of consolidation and running more and more virtual machines per host, every little bit helps and it can add up to some big savings. This is especially true for environments where a very large number of virtual machines run on a single host, for instance VMware View / VDI environments where potentially hundreds of virtual machines, each with their own VMX process, are running on a single host.

For more details on the VMX Swap feature and other performance features and best practices for vSphere 5.0 that you might have missed see the vSphere 5.0 Performance Best Practices white paper http://www.vmware.com/pdf/Perf_Best_Practices_vSphere5.0.pdf


Troubleshooting Storage Performance in vSphere (Part 3) – SSD Performance

While presenting the storage performance talks, I frequently get asked about Solid State Device (SSD) performance in a virtualized environment. Well obviously, SSD’s or EFD’s (Enterprise Flash Disks) are great for performance especially if you have storage intensive workloads. As seen in the previous post in this series, SSDs can provide significantly more IOPs and significantly lower latencies. But the two big questions are ”how much of a gain might I expect” and “how much SSD storage do I need to achieve that gain” when using SSDs in a virtualized environment.

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Troubleshooting Storage Performance in vSphere – Part 2

Poor storage performance is generally the result of high I/O latency, but what can cause high storage performance and how to address it?   There are a lot of things that can cause poor storage performance…

– Under sized storage arrays/devices unable to provide the needed performance
– I/O Stack Queue congestion
– I/O Bandwidth saturation, Link/Pipe Saturation
– Host CPU Saturation
– Guest Level Driver and Queuing Interactions
– Incorrectly Tuned Applications
– Under sized storage arrays (Did I say that twice!)

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Troubleshooting Storage Performance in vSphere – Part 1 – The Basics

I frequently present at the various VMware User Group (VMUG) meetings, VMworld and partner conferences.  If you have ever attended one of my talks, you will know it is like trying to drink from a fire hose, it is hard to cover everything in just a 45 min session. Therefore I will take the time here to  write a few blogs that go over the concepts discussed in these talks in more detail (or at least slower). One of the most popular yet very fast paced talks I present is the Troubleshooting Storage Performance in vSphere. I’ll slow things down a bit and discuss each topic here, this might be just a review for some of you but hopefully as we get into more details there will be some new nuggets of VMware specific information that can help even the more advanced storage folks. 

Today’s post is just the basics.  What is bad storage performance and where do I measure it?

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Tighter Integration between EMC VNX Storage and VMware vCenter Operations Management Suite Announced Today

Posted by
Joseph Dieckhans
Sr. Technical Marketing Manager

This week I’m out at EMC World 2012,  and wanted to let you know of an exciting new announcement that EMC has made.  EMC announced this week that they will provide Advanced Storage Analytics for their VNX storage arrays using VMware’s vCenter Operations product. The tighter integration between storage hardware and the vCenter Operations monitoring suite will mean EMC storage customers will get the best in breed analytics and monitoring software delivered by VMware Operations in order to provide them with the in depth storage statistics and operations monitoring necessary for storage administrators to optimize storage performance and validate that storage level SLAs are met. The new product, The VNX Storage Analytics Suite and VNX Connector for VMware vCenter Operations, announced this week will be generally available later this year.

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