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Running Microsoft SharePoint FAST Search on vSphere

By Girish Manmadkar

Girish-ManmadkarI recently worked with an enterprise customer to resolve end user reports of performance issues related to Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and FAST Search deployed on vSphere 5.1. The end users were reporting problems with initial page response and file upload and download. The customer requested architecture guidance, including a performance health check across the entire infrastructure stacks. The result of this engagement is the following architectural guidance, designed to help customers with similar deployments achieve maximum performance for Microsoft FAST Search on the VMware platform.

Specifics
The customer deployed the SharePoint FAST Search Farm with the following key components:

Software Resources

  • VMware vSphere 5.1 Update 2
  • Windows 2008 R2
  • SharePoint 2010
  • Microsoft SQL server 2008 protected with MSCS in 3 node cluster

Hardware (Virtual) Resources

Role

RAM

Local Disk

#CPU

NIC

Total VMs

Total #CPU

Total Mem (GB)

SQL
2012 Cluster Node A, B & C

32

C: 80
GB

4

2

3

 

 

E: 100
GB

12

96

WebFront End
Server

8

C: 80
GB

2

2

5

 

 

E: 50
GB

10

40

Application
Server

16

C: 80
GB

4

2

4

 

 

E: 50 GB

16

64

Services
Application Servers

16

C: 80
GB

4

2

2

 

 

E: 50
GB

8

32

Fast
Administration Server

16

C: 80
GB

4

2

1

 

 

E: 50
GB

4

16

Query
Indexer

16

C: 80
GB

4

2

5

 

 

E: 50
GB

20

80

Allocated Total Memory = 328 Gig
Allocated Total vCPU = 70

Sample FAST Servers Architecture

Discovery
During discussions and white board sessions with the customer, we encountered following issues with the deployment:

  • Storage
    • The virtual machines running query and index services were sharing the LUN and the data stores.
    • Thin provisioning was being deployed at the vSphere and EMC storage array layer.
    • The RDMs used for the SQL server MSCS environment were configured with incorrect (MRU/fixed) multi-pathing options.
  • Virtual machines had no lock pages for SQL and no memory reservations.
  • Various SQL server databases were being deployed as shared SQL instances for the entire FAST Search environment.
  • The networking configurations were set incorrectly for certain SCSI adapters.
  • Typical traffic within the guest operating systems, VMotion, and backup were not channeled properly.
  • There were no anti-affinity rules in place for the application servers within the vSphere farm.
  • The CPU subscriptions across the overall farm seemed unbalanced.

Approach/Recommendations
Throughout a series of discussions we learned more about the architecture and identified the following steps to improve performance:

  1. Reconfigure multi-pathing per EMC’s recommendations for vSphere5.1 to round robin. (This change showed immediate performance improvement.)
  2. Enable memory reservations with “Lock Pages in Memory” for SQL workloads.
  3. For a write-intensive application like FAST Search, use four (4) vSCSI controllers to separate volumes for operating systems, binaries, data, LOG and TEMPDB disks with window full format option to avoid additional write penalty.
  4. Absolutely avoid CPU over commitment in the production environment.
  5. Adopt best practices on vSphere to separate various networking traffic, including dedicated backup, which in this case was previously sharing VM traffic.

Conclusion
For any business-critical application to run with optimum performance, you must put performance ahead of consolidation and avoid over commitment of CPU and memory. Once you implement these principals for the production environment, any performance issues for business-critical applications on vSphere will be alleviated.


Girish Manmadkar is a veteran VMware SAP Virtualization Architect with extensive knowledge and hands-on experience with various SAP and VMware products, including various databases. He focuses on SAP migrations, architecture designs, and implementation, including disaster recovery.

SDDC + SAP = CapEx/OpEx Savings

By Girish Manmadkar, an SAP Virtualization Architect at VMware

Earlier this month, my colleague David Gallant wrote about architecting a software-defined data center for SAP and other business-critical applications. I’d like to further explore how SAP fits into the software-defined data center (SDDC) and, specifically, how to optimize it for CapEx and OpEx savings.

A key to remember is that the SDDC is not a single technology that you purchase and install—it is a use case, a strategy, a mind shift. And in that way, it is also a journey that will unfold in stages and should be planned in that way. I’ve outlined the three foundational steps below.

SDDC 1.0

Most of the customers that I work with are well along in this stage, moving their current non-x86 SAP workloads toward a VMware-based x86 environment.

During this process, numerous milestones can be delivered to the business, in particular, an immediate reduction in their CapEx. This benefit is achieved by starting to move non-x86 or current physical x-86 workloads to the virtual x-86 OS platform. Understandably, customers tend to approach this transition with caution, so we often start with low-hanging fruits: non-production and/or development SAP systems.

The next step you can take is to introduce automation. Automation comes in two places: at the infrastructure layer, which is achieved using VMware vCloud Automation Center and Orchestration; and at the application layer, delivered using SAP’s Landscape Virtualization Manager.

During this phase it is best to implement vSphere features, including auto deploy—host profiles, and OS templates—in order to automate vSphere and virtual machine provisioning to the environment.

Often it is a good idea at this time to start a parallel project around storage. You can work with your storage and backup teams to enhance current architectures by enabling storage technologies like de-dup, vSphere storage I/O control and any other storage array plugins.

We also recommend minimizing agents in the guest operating system, such as agents used for backup and/or anti-virus. The team should start putting together new architecture to move such agents from the guest OS to the vSphere hosts to reduce complexity and improve performance. The storage and network teams should look to implement new architecture that will support virtual disaster recovery solution. By planning ahead now, teams can avoid rework later.

During this phase, the team not only migrates SAP application servers to the vSphere platform but also shows business value with CapEx reductions and value-added flexibility to scale out SAP application server capacity on demand.

SDDC 2.0

Once this first stage goes into the operations cycle, it lays the groundwork for various aspects of the SDDC’s second stage. The next shift is toward a converged datacenter or common virtualization framework to deploy a software-defined lifecycle for SAP. This allows better monitoring, migration to the cloud, chargeback, and security.

This is also the phase where you want to virtualize your SAP central instances, or ASCS instances, and database servers. The value here is the removal of a reliance on complex, physical clustered environments by transitioning instead to VMware’s high-availability features. These include fault tolerance (FT) applicable to and determined by the SAP sizing exercise for the ASCS and focused on meeting the business’s SLAs.

SDDC 3.0

Once the SDDC 2.0 is in production, it is a good time to start defining other aspects of SDDC, such as Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, Storage-as-a-Service, and Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service.

Keep an eye out for our follow-up post fleshing out the processes and benefits of these later stages.


Girish Manmadkar is a veteran VMware SAP Virtualization Architect with extensive knowledge and hands-on experience with various SAP and VMware products, including various databases. He focuses on SAP migrations, architecture designs, and implementation, including disaster recovery.

Are You Optimizing your SAP Virtualization?

If you are virtualizing an SAP environment running business-critical applications, chances are these questions will sound familiar: Am I optimizing my SAP virtualization for the maximum benefit? What measures should I take to avoid negative business impact when running SAP production workloads on the VMware virtualized platform?

Luckily, VMware Consulting Architect Girish Manmadkar recently shared his advice on this topic.

To make sure you are designing and sizing your infrastructure for optimum business benefit, Girish suggests two new questions to ask yourself, your IT organization, and your vendors.

1. How will this environment need to scale?

2. Am I sizing my environment to support 3-to-5 years of growth?

When you understand the needs outlined by these questions, you can then work with hardware vendors, as well as your VMware and SAP teams, to find the best solution.

From an operational standpoint, there are also efficiencies within the SAP environment once it is virtualized that you want to be sure to take advantage of.

1. Scaling out during the month-end and quarter-end processing is a snap compared to the hours it can take otherwise.

2. Products like vCenter Operations Manger help make sure your SAP basis admin and VMware admin are always on the same page, making it far faster and easier to troubleshoot the environment.

3. You’ll be able to provide the operations team with 24-hours monitoring of the entire SAP virtual infrastructure, allowing for a proactive approach to minimize or eliminate downtime.

Check out Girish’s video, above, for more details.


Girish Manmadkar is a veteran VMware SAP Virtualization Architect with extensive knowledge and hand-on experience with various SAP and VMware products, including various databases. He focuses on SAP migrations, architecture designs, and implementation, including disaster recovery.


Don’t Miss Our PS Consultants at VMworld

This year’s VMworld in San Francisco is fast approaching: August 25–29. Are you ready? Have you been perusing the list of sessions to decide which breakouts and panels you can’t miss?

With 350+ sessions this year, we imagine you’ll be carefully planning your schedule in the coming weeks. We’d hate for you to miss the great sessions led by our VMware Professional Services Consultants and Architects, so we’ve included two on Virtualization below. Plus, don’t miss our run-down of End-User Computing sessions from last week.

***

Strategic Reasons for Classifying Workloads for Tier 1 Virtualization. Why Classify?

With David Gallant (VMware) and Denis Larocque (MolsonCoors)

Virtualizing business-critical applications can be a daunting exercise. It’s not just another application you’re putting on the virtual infrastructure. In most cases, it’s the system of record or the major finance application, the app that runs the supply chain, etc. You need to get it correct—the first time.

Workload classification of the existing environment is key to the success of virtualizing business-critical applications. Workload classification determines sizing for performance and capacity as well as application dependency.

“Getting rid of our costly UNIX environment was a good reason to virtualize, but SAP was a critical part of our portfolio, and we had to guarantee performance and reliability of the new system,” explains MolsonCoors Virtualization Architect Denis Larocque. “Having deep understanding of current state to be able to classify the workload and make a projection is the secret. It is not that difficult when you have the right information available.”

At this session you’ll hear from Laroque and VMware Virtualization Architect David Gallant, and discuss who, what, when, why, where and how to classify workloads for virtual environments.

***

How SRP Delivers More Than Power to Their Customers

With Girish Manmadkar (VMware) and Sheldon Brown (SRP)

SRP, the third-largest public power and water company in the country, with over 1,000,000 customers, has completely virtualized its entire SAP landscape (inclusive database). Since completing the production environment build in December, SRP has been busy stress testing, load testing, performance testing, and monitoring and tweaking the environment to ensure an excellent customer experience on Go Live day.

In this session you’ll hear from VMware (Consulting Architect – BCA/SAP practice North America) and SRP (hands-on SAP Technology Manager) about their reasons to virtualize the SAP environment and to migrate SAP workloads to elastic but optimal virtual environments. You’ll also find out what they did to resolve earlier performance issues like SAP BI, quick resource allocation, Oracle licensing, and much more.

***

Virtualize SAP – Risky or Not?

By Girish Manmadkar, VMWare Professional Services Consultant

In years past, some IT managers were not ready to talk about virtualizing SAP due to technical and political reasons. The picture is very different today, in part because of the increased emphasis on IT as a strategic function towards ‘Software–Defined Data Center’ (SDDC).

Virtualization and the road to SDDC expands the cost and operational benefits of server virtualization to all data center infrastructure—network, security, storage, and management. For example, peak workloads such as running consolidated financial reports are handled much more effectively, thanks to streamlined provisioning. Integrating systems because of company acquisitions are more easily managed due to the flexibility offered with virtualized platforms. And finally customers are leveraging their virtualized SAP environment to add additional capabilities such as enhanced disaster recovery/business continuity or chargeback systems.

Many customers have been realizing virtualization benefits ever since they moved their SAP production workloads to the VMware platform. As IT budgets continue to shrink, the imperative to lower operating costs becomes more urgent—and virtualization can make a real difference. Server consolidation through virtualization translates directly into lower costs for power, cooling, and space—and boosts the organizations “green” profile in the bargain.

Organizations Benefit from Virtualizing SAP

The main requirement for any IT manager supporting an SAP environment is to ensure high availability —even a few minutes of downtime can cause loss of dollars, not to mention angry phone calls from executive management as well as frustrated users. VMware virtualization takes advantage of SAP’s high-availability features to ensure that the SAP software stays running without any interruption and helps keep those phonelines quiet.

Greenfield SAP deployments are a great way to start building the environment right from ground zero by utilizing a building-block approach. You will start seeing the benefits of flexibility, scalability and availability of the newly built environment on VMware.

Upgrades comes with two scenario’s

  • A. SAP hardware refresh cycle
  • B. An SAP Application and/or database upgrade

Upgrades are a part of every SAP landscape and they can be complex and require long-term efforts. I have seen that most of my customers who go through their standard physical environment for SAP upgrades, spend many man hours or even days – if they have the hardware available at their disposal. However, in the virtual environment, the provisioning process is pretty rapid and can be executed in minutes, including the deprovisioning to reclaim required resources back in the resource pool which makes the upgrade process that much more streamlined and efficient. When going through an SAP upgrade – a very time and cost sensitive project, it is very important to provide required resources to the development team in a timely manner.

Time to Move

Let’s say that you’ve decided to virtualize your SAP environment—now the question is timing. I have seen many customers take the SAP upgrade and/or platform or hardware refresh as possible opportunities to move to the virtual platform.

A planned SAP upgrade can be a good time to move. I have seen some customers cash in on the planned move to SAP NetWeaver & other add-ons to virtualize their entire SAP landscapes—with savings of more than half of their capital expenses.

A hardware refresh is a great time to move. Many customers take advantage of the change in hardware to also consider a migration to virtualization at the same time. It allows customer to integrate the hardware refresh and virtualization projects to minimize disruptions and combine staff training for new hardware and software.

SAP Requirements: Security,Compliance and Disaster Recovery

Challenges like compliance and security policies often require substantial infrastructure changes, that can highlight the inherent inflexibility of the existing traditional hardware platform and persuade top management to invest in infrastructure. Many customers have successfully implemented VMware-provided solutions to ensure the security and compliance of their SAP environment so that they can experience the benefits from virtualization.

Disaster Recovery
A Business Continuity plan is imperative for many of our SAP customers. Disasters – a natural or man-made disaster severely impacts operation which impacts the bottom line. Which of course, is the reason why executives often order a review of the company’s disaster recovery/business continuity plans. VMware understands this importance and the risk which is addressed by VMware Site Recovery Manager product.

So is virtualizing your platform for your SAP environment too risky? All IT projects have risk. Is it so risky to pass up the benefits of virtualization? In my opinion, no – not if you follow the advice and methodology offered by my colleagues, David Gallant (Business as usual with Tier 1 Business Critical Applications? – Not!) and Eiad (Knowing Your Applications is Key to Successful Data Center Transformation). I ask you – if you haven’t already virtualized your SAP environment, why not explore it now? There’s been so many advances in technology and alliances, you can’t ignore it any longer.

Girish Manmadkar is a veteran VMware SAP Virtualization Architect with extensive knowledge and hand-on experience on various SAP and VMware products including various databases. He focuses on SAP migrations, architecture designs, and implementation, including disaster recovery.