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Tag Archives: vSphere 5.5

Monster Performance with SQL Server VMs on vSphere 5.5

VMware vSphere provides an ideal platform for customers to virtualize their business-critical applications, including databases, ERP systems, email servers, and even newly emerging technologies such as Hadoop.  I’ve been focusing on the first one (databases), specifically Microsoft SQL Server, one of the most widely deployed database platforms in the world.  Many organizations have dozens or even hundreds of instances deployed in their environments. Consolidating these deployments onto modern multi-socket, multi-core, multi-threaded server hardware is an increasingly attractive proposition for IT administrators.

Achieving optimal SQL Server performance has been a continual focus for VMware; with current vSphere 5.x releases, VMware supports much larger “monster” virtual machines that can scale up to 64 virtual CPUs and 1 TB of RAM, including exposing virtual NUMA architecture to the guest. In fact, the main goal of this blog and accompanying whitepaper is to refresh a 2009 study that demonstrated SQL performance on vSphere 4, given the marked technology advancements on both the software and hardware fronts.

These tests show that large SQL Server 2012 databases run extremely efficiently with VMware, achieving great performance in a variety of virtual machine configurations with only minor tunings to SQL Server and the vSphere ESXi host. These tunings and other best practices for fully optimizing large virtual machines for SQL Server databases are presented in the paper.

One test in the paper shows the maximum host throughput achieved with different numbers of virtual CPUs per VM. This was measured starting with 8 vCPUs per VM, then doubled to 16, then 32, and finally 64 (the maximum supported with vSphere 5.5).  DVD Store, which is a popular database tool and a key workload of the VMmark benchmark, was used to stress the VMs.  Here is a graph from the paper showing the 8 vCPU x 8 VMs case, which achieved an aggregate of 493,804 opm (operations per minute) on the host:

8 x 8 vCPU VM throughput

There are also tests using CPU affinity to show the performance differences between physical cores and logical processors (Hyper-Threads), the impact of various virtual NUMA (vNUMA) topologies, and experiments with the Latency Sensitivity advanced setting.

For more details and the test results, please download the whitepaper: Performance and Scalability of Microsoft SQL Server on VMware vSphere 5.5.

Each vSphere release introduces new vMotion functionality, increased reliability and significant performance improvements. vSphere 5.5 continues this trend by offering new enhancements to vMotion to support EMC VPLEX Metro, which enables shared data access across metro distances.

In this blog, we evaluate vMotion performance on a VMware vSphere 5.5 virtual infrastructure that was stretched across two geographically dispersed datacenters using EMC VPLEX Metro.

Test Configuration

The VPLEX Metro test bed consisted of two identical VPLEX clusters, each with the following hardware configuration:

• Dell R610 host, 8 cores, 48GB memory, Broadcom BCM5709 1GbE NIC
• A single engine (two directors) VPLEX Metro IP appliance
• FC storage switch
• VNX array, FC connectivity, VMFS 5 volume on a 15-disk RAID-5 LUN


Figure 1. Logical layout of the VPLEX Metro deployment

Figure 1 illustrates the deployment of the VPLEX Metro system used for vMotion testing. The figure shows two data centers, each with a vSphere host connected to a VPLEX Metro appliance. The VPLEX virtual volumes presented to the vSphere hosts in each data center are synchronous, distributed volumes that mirror data between the two VPLEX clusters using write-through caching. As a result, vMotion views the underlying storage as shared storage, or exactly equivalent to a SAN that both source and destination hosts have access to. Hence, vMotion in a Metro VPLEX environment is as easy as traditional vMotion that live migrates only the memory and device state of a virtual machine.

The two VPLEX Metro appliances in our test configuration used IP-based connectivity. The vMotion network between the two ESXi hosts used a physical network link distinct from the VPLEX network. The Round Trip Time (RTT) latency on both VPLEX and vMotion networks was 10 milliseconds.

Measuring vMotion Performance

The following metrics were used to understand the performance implications of vMotion:

• Migration Time: Total time taken for migration to complete
• Switch-over Time: Time during which the VM is quiesced to enable switchover from source to the destination host
• Guest Penalty: Performance impact on the applications running inside the VM during and after the migration

Test Results


Figure 2. VPLEX Metro vMotion performance in vSphere 5.1 and vSphere 5.5

Figure 2 compares VPLEX Metro vMotion performance results in vSphere 5.1 and vSphere 5.5 environments. The test scenario used an idle VM configured with 2 VCPUs and 2GB memory. The figure shows a minor difference in the total migration time between the two vSphere environments and a significant improvement in vMotion switch-over time in the vSphere 5.5 environment. The switch-over time reduced from about 1.1 seconds to about 0.6 second (a nearly 2x improvement), thanks to a number of performance enhancements that are included in the vSphere 5.5 release.

We also investigated the impact of VPLEX Metro live migration on Microsoft SQL Server online transaction processing (OLTP) performance using the open-source DVD Store workload. The test scenario used a Windows Server 2008 VM configured with 4 VCPUs, 8GB memory, and a SQL Server database size of 50GB.


Figure 3. VPLEX Metro vMotion impact on SQL Server Performance

Figure 3 plots the performance of a SQL Server virtual machine in orders processed per second at a given time—before, during, and after VPLEX Metro vMotion. As shown in the figure, the impact on SQL Server throughput was very minimal during vMotion. The SQL Server throughput on the destination host was around 310 orders per second, compared to the throughput of 350 orders per second on the source host. This throughput drop after vMotion is due to the VPLEX inter-cluster cache coherency interactions and is expected. For some time after the vMotion, the destination VPLEX cluster continued to send cache page queries to the source VPLEX cluster and this has some impact on performance. After all the metadata is fully migrated to the destination cluster, we observed the SQL Server throughput increase to 350 orders per second, the same level of throughput seen prior to vMotion.

These performance test results show the following:

  • Remarkable improvements in vSphere 5.5 towards reducing vMotion switch-over time during metro migrations (for example, a nearly 2x improvement over vSphere 5.1)
  • VMware vMotion in vSphere 5.5 paired with EMC VPLEX Metro can provide workload federation over a metro distance by enabling administrators to dynamically distribute and balance the workloads seamlessly across data centers

To find out more about the test configuration, performance results, and best practices to follow, see our recently published performance study.