Thursday, 7 August 2008

Virtualization - Server, Desktop, Performance, and the Future

We do a fair amount of client and internal virtualization setups.

For our clients, virtualization gives us a single system setup that can provide a number of desktop OS virtual machines for Group Policy managed Remote Web Workplace accessible desktops.

A little while back, our Edmonton Microsoft User Group (previous blog post) brought in Kai Axford to speak on various aspects of computer security with a focus on virtualization.

A number of really good points were made.

When it comes to virtual machine performance, the one thing Kai said that still stands out today: The more spindles (hard drives) the server has, the better the VM performance.

We have a number of low utilization setups where a simple RAID 1 volume configured in a 1U Xeon X3000 series Quad Core works really well.

For one of our clients, there is an employee expansion drive that goes beyond the limits of their current location. It is fortunate that they are at the end of their 2 year cycle for the implementation of new hardware and a refresh and re-purposing of their existing hardware as we have some flexibility for our solution proposal.

In their case, we spoke about utilizing the Remote Web Workplace (RWW) and dedicated desktops for people to work from home on (virtualized XP Pro or Vista Enterprise). We also spoke to some of the new RWW features that will be available in SBS 2008 such as Terminal Services Application publishing, so it was pretty easy to see the gears turning in the business owner's head as we went through the various remote access solutions we could implement today and next year.

Currently, they have a 1U Xeon 3000 series dedicated desktop that one of our primary technical contacts utilizes. So, it was not much of a step to develop that setup into a virtualized desktop solution for many more users.

For the hardware, we settled on the newer SR1550ALR 1U dual Intel Xeon 5000 Dual/Quad Core series chassis with the Intel SRCSASRB RAID controller that gives us the capability to run 8 2.5" SAS or SATA drives for our primary virtualization requirements. Since we are looking for capacity and performance, this configuration with the new 320GB 7200RPM Seagate Momentus SATA drives would make a good fit.

This setup will host a number of very active desktop OS VMs along with the possible addition of a server OS VM next summer. Out of the box we will install Windows Server 2008 full version with the Hyper-V role enabled.

This winter when SBS 2008 is released, we will initiate our client's Software Assurance benefits for their SBS 2003 R2 Premium Open Value Agreement to obtain the required media, keys, and updates to the Microsoft Volume Licensing Portal.

These Software Assurance Benefits will give us the flexibility to work with an additional inexpensive 1U for our client's ISA needs, or implement another VM running a server OS and ISA installed therein.

The Software Assurance Benefits will also enable us to look into implementing a cold backup setup for SBS disaster recovery purposes.

And finally, in this particular client setup, we will be able to utilize either the SR1550AL or the soon to be backup server to host a VM setup for the SBS 2008 migration process next summer.

We believe that our goal to provide a solution that will enable our client to expand their numbers today, and also provide the flexibility to implement upcoming technologies based on the new hardware being installed as well as the existing hardware being refreshed has been met. And, our client believes the same.

One other very important point: The new hardware and licensing setup will also give us some flexibility to implement solutions based on the upcoming Cloud solutions from Microsoft and others.

A couple of SBS migration related links:
Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

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