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  I started playing with Hyper-V the other day. Put together a little 2008 R2 and did a P2V on a small Exchange Server 2003. Went really well but then I started asking myself why I would want to virtialize my servers. About the only plus I have heard so far to virtualizing servers is the cost savings (hardware) and electricity to run it.

   You can pick up a real nice server today for a grand or so. I lean more towards spending a grand on new hardware as opposed to virtualizing and taking a chance on the main host crashing. I mean if the main host crashes you also lose all you virtual servers. Is that really worth saving $1,000 on a physical server?

   There has to be more to it. What are the advantages in virtualizing servers?

asked 12/01/2011 08:17

jimbecher's gravatar image

jimbecher ♦♦


26 Answers:
Clustering, and shared storage.

Your host system acting funny?  Vmotion the boxes on it to another host and replace it.  need more capacity or processing power?  Clone an existing VM in about 20 minutes and rejoin it to the domain.

Plus, it's not only about the hardware.  A full rack with decent connectivity and power in a co-lo environment costs several thousand dollars a MONTH.  Minimizing rack space utilization with virtualization not only gives you way more bang for your buck out of your hardware, but also out of your space.
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answered

Enphyniti's gravatar image

Enphyniti

You've got electricity correct. A client saved 1.3 million GBP in electrical costs alone, but also now only requires 6 Datacentres in the UK, and that contains 6 Racks each per DC. Where the DC used to have floors of servers and racks, so once DC is now converted to 6 42U Racks per DC.

Some benfits

1. server space
2. cooling costs and air conditioning costs
3. mainteance costs per physical server
4. server management
5. better utilization of the physical hardware
6. networking
7. Disaster Recovery is easier
8. Rapid deployment of servers and workstations.

That's why it's important with any virtualisation solution to design, a resilent solution, to eliminate server and host failure.

When was the last time your server crashed?

and as an example, the current uptime on our VMware ESX 2.5.4 host which hosts our office servers, Domain Controllers, and Exchange 2003 mail server, is currently 1997 days.....

This is the HOST, not Windows!
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answered 2011-12-01 at 16:34:27

hanccocka's gravatar image

hanccocka

some of these may be different phasing for the same basic concepts already posted:

For ONE server?  it's potentially not a HUGE benefit, but you do have the benefit of being able to take snapshots before patching (you only would do snapshots on a DC if there was only ONE DC in the domain otherwise, you could severely corrupt AD).  Plus, lets say the hardware fails on the server - provided the drives can be pulled (say, they're in a mirror), then you can quickly and easily move the server to a laptop or desktop temporarily.

Remember, every minute the server is down is costing the company money so if you can recover the virtual machine faster (and virtualization GENERALLY can be recovered faster), you are reducing losses.  

The more servers, the more benefit.  Do the math.  If a server costs $20 in electric per month, then in one year, that's $240.  In 3-4 years (the length of time most people would keep a server in production), that's $720 to 960.  JUST for the electric savings.  Then a PROPER server configuration will require RAID and redundant power as well as a 3 year 24x7x365 warranty with 4 hour response.  There is NO WAY you get a server for $1100 that is properly configured like that.  Most 24x7x365 warranties tack at least $500 to the price.  The redundant power would be another $200-300 (if memory serves), and RAID would likely add $200 AT LEAST and maybe as much as $1000 depending on disks used.  I suppose you could go with a cheap server - and if your business doesn't DEPEND on the server, that's fine.

So if any decent server is going to cost you $2000 MINIMUM, then a 4 year savings for two basic servers is $3000.  Need 3 servers?  Save about $6000.  4 Servers?  $9000.  $9000 to me is a good sum of money - frankly, so is $3000.  That's 3 workstations you could upgrade.  Perhaps you could get a much faster internet line with that... And again - IF a failure occurs, being virtual could reduce your downtime - IF you have a reasonable understanding of the technology.
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answered 2011-12-01 at 16:56:13

leew's gravatar image

leew

  Well... I have read other posts on various backup forums and everything, even these replies, point to the same thing. It all depends on the size of the company and the number or servers. It looks like virtualization would be cost effective for companies with multiple, multiple servers.

   As far as the cost of a "good" server it also depends on the size of the business and the application. My $1,200 estimate granted is a little low but redundant power supplies isn't a must and I am the 24x7x365 support :) You also lose some of the savings back in that the host server needs to be beefed up and as we all know you reach a point where going a little faster costs you exponentially more bucks.

   I am in the small business arena. My worst case senario would be a customer with three servers. A DC and maybe a member Terminal Server and SQL server. Snapshoting and disaster recovery are handled by making full image backups on a nightly basis.

   Would any of you, with my worst case senarion of three servers, recommend virtualizing?
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answered 2011-12-01 at 21:46:04

jimbecher's gravatar image

jimbecher

disaster recovery are handled by making full image backups on a nightly basis.

That's Backup not Disaster Recovery.

What would you do if there was a disaster, and all the servers were destoyed, and the servers you currently have, have gone end of life, and you cannot purchase them.

What would you then restore to, and would your images work on new servers purchased?

No, I would not currently, especially with Terminal Server.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 03:57:13

hanccocka's gravatar image

hanccocka

  It is backup AND disaster recovery. To be specfic Acronis Backup and Recovery 10 with Universal Restore. In, at the most, two hours I can restore any backup image to a brand new server and be up and running. I actually use it when servers have reached end of life. Just clone it to a new server. Kind of sweet. If you have never played with it they have a trial version...
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answered 2011-12-02 at 04:28:08

jimbecher's gravatar image

jimbecher

As long as you've tried it, and it works!

and also remember that OEM licenses are not transferable! (even onto new hardware!).

Another benefit of Virtulisation, ALL virtual hardware is the same! So no need for products that mangle and existing server image onto a new one.

(yes, we use it, and they do not have a trial of Universal Resrtore, but only for laptops!).
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answered 2011-12-02 at 04:33:59

hanccocka's gravatar image

hanccocka

  I test all by backups by restoing them to a new server :) I agree with you. It would be really, really nice of Acronis to put out a trial version of UR. By not doing so they cripple their own trial. It is one of the major advantages to their software and by not offering it they are hurting themselves and, if you follow Acronis, they don't need to hurt themselves any more them they already have :)
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answered 2011-12-02 at 04:42:27

jimbecher's gravatar image

jimbecher

I know MANY consultants who will ONLY install virtually.  And after my experience last month, I will only install virtually too.  This includes a single server environment (and most of my clients are 1-2 servers though occasionally I have more).

In particular, A client recently wanted to upgrade their SBS 2008 system to SBS 2011.  So I built a temporary Hyper-V server, installed SBS 2011 in migration mode on that system and migrated the domain to that.  Upon completion, I wiped their existing physical server and installed Hyper-V on it.  Then I moved the VM off my temporary server to their server in about an hour.  No $1000 software (Acronis) required and no questionable ethics in using a "trial" copy in production knowing I'm just using it once.  When the upgrade the server later, same procedure can be used.  And when they want to add a terminal server, it's just a matter of $400 in RAM, NOT $2000 in new hardware.

As for additional hardware to support the Virtualization host, yes, you need it, but not much.  I allocate a HUGE 1 GB of RAM and 30 GB of disk space.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 04:54:14

leew's gravatar image

leew

Especially to small businesses - that $1600 matters.  Not to mention the electric savings.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 08:19:05

leew's gravatar image

leew

  There are no questionable ethics involved. I used the trial Acronis for a trial. I think that is pretty much what they intended it for. Coupled with the fact that I already had full Acronis images of the servers I am virtualizing and as a result it only two about 10 minutes to virtualize them I can't see anything wrong with my methodology.This is not a production environment. This early in the game that would be catastrophic.

   Leew: you are saying that even if you have a customer that only needs 1 server (say SBS 2011) that you will still get 2008 R2 and install a virtual SBS 2011? Really?

 Hanccocka: You eluded to not virtualizing a 2003 Terminal Server. Can you elaborate?  
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answered 2011-12-02 at 08:20:01

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jimbecher

NO - I downloaded and installed the FREE Hyper-V 2008 R2 server.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 09:24:59

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leew

It's questionable to me.  If trials were intended for one off moves with the FULL BLESSING of the vendor, they would say so.  Trials are for trying.  To me, they are for use in NON-Production environments so you experience and understand how the product works and decide whether you want to purchase it.  

The bottom line to me is that you are using a product to save you (and/or the customer) time and money.  If that product costs LESS than the time it would have otherwise taken you to perform the task in question, than that vendor deserves to be paid for developing a way of speeding up your task and saving you that time and money.  It's still cheaper than if you never used that product.

That's why I consider it to be ethically questionable when someone does it and/or recommends it.  I could be wrong about the company motives... and it's all but certain the companies KNOW this goes on... but if they were, strictly speaking, "ok" with it, they should say that in their marketing materials.  And perhaps it's like some have speculated about Office in the early days - the theory I heard was that Microsoft actively looked the other way because pirating increased their market share which helped office become as dominant as it is today and now it's more difficult to pirate office and they make billions on it.  I could be wrong... and I consider that tactic (IF it was in fact what was going on) to be ethically questionable as well.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 09:37:31

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leew

And questionable to me means that I can see a point of view based on the rules (as I currently understand them) that make something wrong or potentially wrong.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 09:43:48

leew's gravatar image

leew

Just thought I'd chip in:  

We've moving to nearly 100% virtual terminal servers.  It took us a while to find the correct formula, but we are now getting better performance from them than our physical servers (Except for a handful that run an application with some very strange cpu and memory handling)

Even if it came out to be exactly the same, the ability to fall back to a snapshot after a user hoses up the system is an absolute godsend.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 09:45:15

Enphyniti's gravatar image

Enphyniti

  "It's questionable to me.  If trials were intended for one off moves with the FULL BLESSING of the vendor, they would say so.  Trials are for trying.  To me, they are for use in NON-Production environments so you experience and understand how the product works and decide whether you want to purchase it."

   Bingo! That is exactly what I am doing. This is a 100% non-prodction move. I am playing. I am trying not only Hyper-V but a acceptable way to back up and restome VMs. If this were a production move I wouldn't be asking the VM basics I would be doing it.

   I am still a little fuzzy. You initial comment was "I will only install virtually too.  This includes a single server environment ". I did not understand the response "NO - I downloaded and installed the FREE Hyper-V 2008 R2 server".

   So if I were a new customer and told you I just need a single SBS 2011 server what would you sell me?
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answered 2011-12-02 at 10:23:21

jimbecher's gravatar image

jimbecher

Terminal Servers do not perform well under a hypervisor in our experience. They are too performance hungry, high CPU, high memory.

Same server, Dual Core, Dual Processor, 4GB RAM - 75 concurrent connections, same server with a Hypervisor, more memory obviously, 15-20 users per virtual server, with 2 vCPU, 4GB memory.

Under a hypervisor you would need more virtual servers for the loading, which when you cost the hypervisor license, and OS license, the costs do not stack up. So we do not recommend it, or do it for our clients, unless they have a VIRTUAL ONLY policy, which 60% now have!
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answered 2011-12-02 at 10:27:48

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hanccocka

>  So if I were a new customer and told you I just need a single SBS 2011 server what would you sell me?
SBS 2011.  Period.  Then I would DOWNLOAD Hyper-V 2008 R2 - http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/hyper-v-server/default.aspx - which is FREE.  Which is also exactly what I did for the client I referenced.

I disagree as a rule (doesn't mean there aren't exceptions depending on usage) with hanccocka - I have a couple of Terminal Servers virtualized and I know some people who have many.  In general, a terminal server doesn't need much (relatively speaking) CPU, but it needs RAM - LOTS of RAM.  A virtual terminal server can be easily moved to new, more capable hardware as one option.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 10:27:53

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leew

> Bingo! That is exactly what I am doing. This is a 100% non-prodction move.
Then I have no problem with you doing that.  Not at all questionable, ethically speaking.

HOWEVER, when you look at this in terms of the end-solution - using Acronis for migration between physical servers or migrating INTO a virtual system, it's costly.

To be clear, I won't (generally) migrate physical to virtual... but I also won't install NEW systems directly on hardware.

To rephrase... does it make sense to migrate a physical install to a virtual install?  Often, NO.
does it make sense to install all new servers (or replacement upgrades) virtually (as VMs)?  Often, YES.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 11:01:38

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leew

  Excellant input from all. A ton of things to consider. One last question if I may. Is there a "standard" setting for virtual hard drives? Do you use one big fixed and have all the virtual servers run on it or is it better to have a small dynamic for each virtual server?
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answered 2011-12-02 at 11:04:32

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jimbecher

you create a virtual hard drive for a virtual machine, based on your requirements for that computer.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 12:28:46

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hanccocka

@leew most of clients, would like less servers, not more for their farms, but some appreciate they will need more virtual than physical to accomodate the same loading, These are large farms 50-150 servers, 5,000 - 7,500 concurrent users, with 360+ published applications.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 12:31:39

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hanccocka

as with all systems, I prefer an OS and at least one data partition.  I don't GENERALLY break down partitions by VM (meaning VMServer 1 gets one partition, VMServer 2 gets another partition).  But I do believe you should setup the VM Server (host) itself with a C: drive of about 30 GB (or more if you want to put the entire pagefile on it and it has a large amount of RAM) and then a D: drive for all the VMs/VHDs.  As for the VMs themselves, I still prefer an OS partition (VHD) and a Data Partition (VHD).  They can both live on the host server's d: drive though.  

Why?  It makes it easier to expand storage.  You can just add larger disks or arrays and reset the drive letter.  And especially if you wanted to cluster the VMs, having them stored somewhere OTHER than C: can reduce the work required to enable clustering.  

And keep in mind, a VM is just like a hardware based machine in ALMOST every way.  Each VM still needs it's own antivirus.  And if optimizing the disk config for performance, putting the pagefile on another logical drive within the VM will do NOTHING for performance if both drives are on the same set of physical spindles.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 12:35:38

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leew

Also, I've seen it stated that a fixed VHD is better for performance.  This makes sense if you think about fragmentation.  A Dynamically created VHD will likely grow and has the potential to get fragmented at the VHD level (and defraging these things can be difficult and time consuming) and potentially slow down performance.

Also keep in mind, a VHD will get fragmented INTERNALLY.  It's a virtual hard disk, so inside it, Windows will, over time, fragment it.  So defraging inside the VHD should be done periodically.  And more care may need to be taken with more servers - if you have them all scheduled to defrag at 9pm and they all share the same spindles, they'll take forever and hammer the disk.  

Couple of thoughts on the subject of VHDs and VMs...

Windows 7 and 8 (and I THINK Vista) support boot from VHD.  Though strictly speaking, it's unsupported as far as I know, it might be possible to take a VM's VHD and configure a Windows boot loader to boot the VM's C: hard drive directly off of hardware.

You can mount VHDs as drives within Windows so if the system is unbootable for some reason, it can be a lot easier to gain access to the files in a VHD.

Hyper-V will be included with Windows 8 client OSs (exactly which versions - pro/home/ultimate/etc are not yet known) but this means you can start building servers and test environments on your workstation and when you "get it right" you can just copy the VMs to a Hyper-V box and put them in production.  (Frankly, I see this as one way MS is hoping to increase the market share of Hyper-V in comparison with ESXi.  If everyone has Hyper-V available and virtualizes with it - people get to know it quicker and the VMs are easy to move to production.  ESXi may be free but it's not on EVERYTHING and even if you can move a VMWare Workstation VM to ESXi, VMWare Workstation is not pre-loaded by Windows.  (This is one of those market dominance things MS does, in my opinion... Not saying I agree or disagree philosophically, but it's going to happen unless MS changes their mind and we'll see if my theory is right).
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answered 2011-12-02 at 12:41:12

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leew

@hanccocka,

I deal mostly in small environments and the larger ones don't have that many users of RDS/TS.  If the entire company (or a significant portion utilizes RDS to run EVERYTHING), then I can see the needs being potentially greater.  In most circumstances, I see RDS/TS as a great way for Remote Access or to run selected apps that can be a PITA to upgrade/maintain.  It can also be useful in larger environments where you want easier upgrades since upgrade on the server upgrades all users of that server.  But with the wide range of virtualization options available today (application virtualization, RDS/TS, VDI, and others, there may be better ways to skin a cat... not that I'm advocating literally skinning cats).   But again, in the environments I've seen and worked with, RDS/TS does not utilize significant CPU - you're more likely to need RAM than CPU.  Again, there are always exceptions and the exceptions COULD be in how you deploy RDS/TS for your clients because that may be just the way you specialize in setting things up and/or the way the clients want it.
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answered 2011-12-02 at 12:53:13

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leew

@leew: it would be nice if we didnt have many users!!! but that is out of our control!
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answered 2011-12-02 at 13:05:00

hanccocka's gravatar image

hanccocka

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Asked: 12/01/2011 08:17

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Last updated: 12/03/2011 03:56