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    HCC
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    Server Virtualisation advice

    Hi there,

    I've got two servers to replace (both DC's) and increase storage space over the summer and I'm currently looking into virtualisation, rather than like for like. Mainly for the improved disaster recovery and other advantages.

    A few possibilities have cropped up that I would appreciate some advice on.

    Most quotes suggest using VMware Essentials Plus as the best hypervisor for my scenario. I'm also tempted by hyper-v r2 and doing most of the setup myself because of the cost saving and advanced features. Is anyone using VMWare essentials? is it a easy system to manage? I'm aware of the upgrade and server limit.

    I like the look of Microsoft DPM 2010 (rather than backup exec upgrade) and system manager essentials 2010 for a hyper-v environment.
    Quotes I have mention veeam and vranger for backup - any view on which is best?

    SAN - I like the idea of a VSA using datacore, lefthand with local replicated server storage etc over a single SAN box - does anyone use this or recommend a good SAN system?


    I have a budget of approx £15,000 to replace the server hardware, get a SAN, increase the storage capacity to >5Tb, and get a backup system. Is this do-able, assuming I do most of the work?

    Thanks,

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HCC View Post
    Hi there,


    I have a budget of approx £15,000 to replace the server hardware, get a SAN, increase the storage capacity to >5Tb, and get a backup system. Is this do-able, assuming I do most of the work?

    Thanks,
    £15k sounds a little tight to me if you want >5Tb and Datacore/Lefthand SAN. The licenses for these can eat up a lot of the budget. If you want >5Tb on a SAN on budget I'd suggest a BYO system with something like Openfiler or FreeNAS.

    A couple of questions though:

    How meny host servers do you want? 1 host server to virtualise the 2 old DC's only? Or 2 host servers to virtualise the 2 old DC's and run other VM's? If there are going to be other Virtual Machines than the two mentioned DC's you are replacing then how meny and what are they doing?

    If you are only virtualising the two DC's then why do you want a SAN?

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    teejay's Avatar
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    Ok, we've been down this avenue over year ago now. What has worked very well for us is to use a unified storage solution so you host all your shares directly on the storage, rather than running through virtualised windows servers and then use virtualised servers for the actual networks services, just as DC, apps, etc. We are a large secondary and have just broken through 20 virtual servers now, running on only 2 physical servers attached to unified storage, all hosted using the free VMWare ESXi which has worked superbly and have found no requirement for the additional features of the paid for versions. It took me 2 days in total to set up and virtualise all the physical servers to virtual and has been absolutely rock solid and much faster than our physical server environment.
    We have tested Hyper-V recently and tbh still found ESXi to be the better product. We also tested XenServer extensively when we first looked at this, but again we preferred ESXi, its one of those 'it just works' products.
    Yes it doesn't have some of the HA stuff, but tbh it really isn't needed in a school and can very easily become the biggest headache in a virtualised environment.

  4. 2 Thanks to teejay:

    HCC (7th June 2010), VirtueTechnologies (8th June 2010)

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    HCC
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    Thanks for the quick replies.

    tmcd35: I was thinking 2 physical servers for redundancy, hence the SAN. Then starting with virtualising the 2 DC servers they would replace, as well as another server we use for spiceworks, wds etc then building up from there at a later date. I'm more interested in having a good foundation system I can expand rather than virtualising everything all in one go.

    teejay: sounds great, like the idea of the storage being directly accessed. I like all the clever HA stuff but agree it might be better to stick with the basics to start and spend the money on the hardware. What system do you use for storage and backup?

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    glennda's Avatar
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    I am halfway through slowly virtulising the system (although is on hold now im on leave!), how are your linux skills? i am currently running KVM under ubuntu. have used esxi which is very good for what it does aswell. Currently running 15+ vms on one host (HP dl380 g5 dual quad core 64gb ram) connected to HP MSA 2000.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HCC View Post
    Thanks for the quick replies.

    tmcd35: I was thinking 2 physical servers for redundancy, hence the SAN. Then starting with virtualising the 2 DC servers they would replace, as well as another server we use for spiceworks, wds etc then building up from there at a later date. I'm more interested in having a good foundation system I can expand rather than virtualising everything all in one go.

    teejay: sounds great, like the idea of the storage being directly accessed. I like all the clever HA stuff but agree it might be better to stick with the basics to start and spend the money on the hardware. What system do you use for storage and backup?
    We use the Sun S7000 stuff, very good but I'm not quite sure if it is currently in your budget as since Oracle took over there has been some messing about with pricing. Speak to one of the Cutter Project guys, linescanner or kmount I believe.
    For backup we use 2 things, the Sun storage comes with an extremely good implementation of shadow copies, we currently hold shadow copies reliably going back to September, 3 copies a day for the last month then 1 a week. Integrates with the windows previous versions client extremely well. We then have a D2D2T backup solution using Arcserve, which tbh would blow just about all you budget just on that! You can however attach a DLT drive to the Sun storage and with certain backup software backup everything directly off the storage, including the vm's. Again, Cutter Project are your best bet for that. As for the Virtualisation servers, we have 2 Dell R710's.

  8. Thanks to teejay from:

    linescanner (9th September 2010)

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    @HCC oh, and if you're based anywhere north of the Watford gap you are more than welcome to come and take a look, we're up in West Yorkshire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HCC View Post
    Thanks for the quick replies.

    tmcd35: I was thinking 2 physical servers for redundancy, hence the SAN. Then starting with virtualising the 2 DC servers they would replace, as well as another server we use for spiceworks, wds etc then building up from there at a later date. I'm more interested in having a good foundation system I can expand rather than virtualising everything all in one go.
    That's good to hear. I'd never recommend jumping in with both feet and virtualising everything in one fail swoop, too meny unforseen problems tend to occur. I think what I am trying to get an handle on is what sort of size school are you, primary/secondary?, and potentially how meny VM's might you need? At the end of the day the most important part of this whole exercise is planning and 90% of planning is knowing what you want in a 1yr-18mths time when you've finished implementing everything.

    Like Teejay we are a secondary school with 4 host servers running VM's from a central data store and have over 20 Virtual Servers now. As Teejay rightly said most schools don't really need the bells and whistles of things like HA and to be honest on your budget I doubt you can truely afford it.

    From what you've said so far I'd hazard a guess at the following -
    Budget around £9k for the SAN if you want >5Tb. Do not skimp on this as it will be storing all your VM images. I'd go for 16x15.5k rpm 450Gb SAS drives in RAID-50 personally. Look at the Sun boxes, I don't like them but they get good reviews here. The high end Netgear ReadyNAS box also look very interesting. Or as I said above build your own and use OpenFiler or FreeNAS.

    I'd look at around £2.5k per server. Dual-Quad core, 32Gb Ram, sort of thing.

    I'm using Hyper-V now but if I was in your position starting from scratch I think I'd be jumping on the ESXi band wagon. Used ESX before and it is better than Hyper-V. Both are free.

    Set up a seperate LAN for the SAN. So you need a gigabit switch that supports trunking (3Com do one for about £150 that's no too bad) and some decent dual port NIC's for each server and the SAN. And then run iSCSI connections across that.

    Also budget for 2 copies of Windows 08R2 Datacenter for each server (licensed per physical processor so if each server has 2 physical quad-cores, then you'd need 4 copies). Might sound extravigant but can save £££'s in licensing later on down the line, especially when you get in to the realms of running 20+ Virtual Servers accross your two hosts. Basicall Windows Datacenter allows you to run unlimited number of virtual machines on the server. Without this you'd need to license each individual virtual machine you build seperatly (Windows Standard) or carefully count and manage the number of VM running on each host (Windows Enterprise).

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    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    The high end Netgear ReadyNAS box also look very interesting.
    I bought one of these last week to have a play with, the 4200 is actually a Supermicro Chassis with an Intel QuadCore and 8GB of RAM
    I tried the Netgear X-Raid2 but ended up going with the FlexRaid option in a Raid6 config.

    The box has had VMWare Approval but is still not Hyper-V approved, it supports Hybrid iSCSI and NAS at the same time which could be useful for some people.

    Currently have it set up as a CSV and Witness Disk for a 2 Node Hyper-V cluster using the latest firmware from Netgear.

    We have an Equallogic PS4000 coming for the summer which we have concluded is by far the best solution as everything is included.
    The Dell 3000 was a close second. The HP 4000 (Lefthand) SANs seem to expensive.

    Clearly the ReadyNAS is no Equallogic but, it is 12TB (9Tb usable in Raid6) for just under £5k it supports MPIO and will take an additional Intel Server NIC or 10Gbe adapter, has dual power supplies and a 5Year warranty.

    Anyone strapped for cash looking for a cheap way into the SAN game without the hassle of building and supporting your own DIY solution I think the ReadyNAS is a fair option.

    If I have to criticise anything about it, it would be the 45-50Db noise level (outside of the cabinet) but with 12 SATA Drive to keep cool one can hardly moan too much.

    I wanted to be certain that the ReadyNAS could handle a CSV and live migration and it would appear so far that it can however as has been already stated in this thread do our schools really need the additional costs that an HA system brings with it?
    If anyone else has something to add about the ReadyNAS I'd be glad to hear it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by m25man View Post
    Clearly the ReadyNAS is no Equallogic but, it is 12TB (9Tb usable in Raid6) for just under £5k it supports MPIO and will take an additional Intel Server NIC or 10Gbe adapter, has dual power supplies and a 5Year warranty.

    If I have to criticise anything about it, it would be the 45-50Db noise level (outside of the cabinet) but with 12 SATA Drive to keep cool one can hardly moan too much.

    If anyone else has something to add about the ReadyNAS I'd be glad to hear it.

    SATA drives? If you're hosting VM images I'd rather not. I'd insist on 10k SAS as a minimum. But then that is why SAN's cost ££££'s, the drives are a good 60-70% of the overall price.

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    From the quotes i've had recently £15k will strech to a HP Lefthand P4300 SAS Starter SAN 4.8TB and will also get you into a Dell Equalogic PS4000 SAN. SATA, SAS, or Solid State you will need to look at what you are likely to to be running and the IOP's requirements, capacity should be a secondary consideration but given what you are looking to virtualize SATA drives would be fine, but should you wish to move SQL and Exchange boxes onto this in the future then SAS maybe a wise choice.

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    HCC
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    Sorry, the questions keep coming..
    I've had a Dell Quote which uses a PowerVault MD3000i as SAN device - catch being it uses 5 1Tb SATA 7.2K Drives (I've reduced my aims for >5Tb to a more realistic 4Tb for now). Although I can see this working for now, I'm a bit woried how long it would take for us to outgrow it, performance wise.
    Also what is performance like sharing home dir's etc using Virtual Servers. Is it much worse because numerous servers are fighting for the same SAN device? Is it better to have a virtual server dedicated just to sharing files, or have lot of roles on each server (As I would do if they were physical) unless this isn't possible due to conflicts redundancy etc.

    Another posibility I've considered is not to have a SAN for now, as I'm more interesed in the Disaster Recovery advantages of virtualisation than the High Availablity. Use local server storage on each server, and backup over ISCSI to a ReadyNas type device.

    P.S In answer to TMCD35's question earlier we are a secondary with 1200 students,

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    Quote Originally Posted by HCC View Post
    Sorry, the questions keep coming..
    I've had a Dell Quote which uses a PowerVault MD3000i as SAN device - catch being it uses 5 1Tb SATA 7.2K Drives (I've reduced my aims for >5Tb to a more realistic 4Tb for now). Although I can see this working for now, I'm a bit woried how long it would take for us to outgrow it, performance wise.
    Also what is performance like sharing home dir's etc using Virtual Servers. Is it much worse because numerous servers are fighting for the same SAN device? Is it better to have a virtual server dedicated just to sharing files, or have lot of roles on each server (As I would do if they were physical) unless this isn't possible due to conflicts redundancy etc.

    Another posibility I've considered is not to have a SAN for now, as I'm more interesed in the Disaster Recovery advantages of virtualisation than the High Availablity. Use local server storage on each server, and backup over ISCSI to a ReadyNas type device.

    P.S In answer to TMCD35's question earlier we are a secondary with 1200 students,
    As I've said above, you may want to consider a unified storage device.
    We have consolidated 8 file servers onto one unified storage box which directly hosts the files and we get much better performance than the 8 files servers combined. You then use your virtualised server for network services, DC's and Apps.
    Virtualising your file servers will work, but it doesn't cure the bottleneck problem of Windows being a bit rubbish and slow as a file server.

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    zag
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    I've done this without a SAN and seems to work fine.

    Bought 4 Dell R300 servers with 16gb of ram, 900 quid each.

    Installed Hyper V R2 and virtualized a load of servers including sharepoint 2010, sims, anti virus, terminal server for our boarders and our Oliver library server. Works very well and I keep one of the Dell R300's on hand for disaster recovery.

    I also use DPM 2010 to back them up and it seems to work well.

    The disaster recovery options are amazing and I sleep much better at night now

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Personally, I'd say if it's a growing Virtualisation project that may one day see as meny as 10 or 20 (or more) virtual guest servers then it may be a mistake going without some for of centralised storage. The benefits it brings , ignore HA and DR, is immense. Just the power to turn off any VM and instantly restart it on another host is worth the price alone.

    In terms of drives the usual advice is number of drives 1st - more drives, more spindles, more speed - drive speed 2nd - capacity 3rd - then things like cache amouts, etc.

    5x7.2k SATA drives may be ok for three or four VM's but when you start getting beyond that and look at file servers and database servers, etc, they'll provide a significant performance hit.

    I'm guessing you could get a SAN box with 12 10k 300Gb SAS drives for under £6k. That'd give you a healthy 3Tb in RAID-50. Novatech just built me a bespoke SAN with 16x450Gb 15k rpm SAS drives (around 5Tb) for around £8k. This is without OS, but you can then use Openfiler or FreeNAS on top of that.

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