Nutanix has recently published a Best Practice Guide for Mictosoft Exchange on VMware vSphere and Josh Odgers explains some of it’s contents and benefits of Exchange on Nutanix in his blog article here. If you are interested in virtualizing Exchange, and/or using Nutanix, you might want to get hold of the guide and have a read through it. It explains how to simply set up Exchange on Nutanix, the benefits of it, how it compares to a traditional physical JBOD approach and much more. The paper introduces the capability of running Exchange on the Nutanix NX-8150 nodes, which have been specially designed to run large applications, such as Exchange, SQL Server, Oracle and SAP. This is the node type Josh Odgers and I used as part of a design capable of hosting 1.4 million Exchange 2013 Mailboxes, which demonstrates the building block architecture of Nutanix and the ability to scale to meet requirements for large environments. Let’s take a look at that design at a high level.
Nutanix is synonymous with Web Scale Converged Infrastructure, which brings a simpler, easier and much faster model for deploying virtual infrastructure from small scale, to any scale. Web Scale is really about standardized hardware, simplified systems and operations that are designed to be always on, resilient to failure, non-disruptively upgraded and maintained. This article will give you a real world example from one of Nutanix larger customers that recently deployed a fairly large number of new Nutanix systems and all the VM’s they needed in a very short space of time. In this case the customer deployed 240 Nutanix nodes (in groups of up to 32 hosts per cluster) on VMware vSphere, and 5000 VM’s in just over 2 days. So what does this look like? Take a look at this tweet that was sent out, including photo’s of the customers datacenter.
I’ve recently been working with one of our large customers that has been virtualizing SQL Server and Oracle on Nutanix 6060 nodes. I thought others might like to know the sorts of enterprise scale business critical workloads that are being run on Nutanix. This particular customer still has a lot of room for growth in the environment, and like all Nutanix customers gets to benefit from non-disruptive upgrades and performance enhancements with each release. They are also by no means at the limits of the capability of the platform, but this is a good example of what can be done for enterprise applications on Nutanix Web Scale Converged Infrastructure, from a real customer that has done it.
As I type this I’m flying 36,000 feet above Australia on my way to Singapore. It’s great now that Singapore Airlines has Wifi on their flights from New Zealand. I’m connected into my virtual desktop back in Auckland and have some performance tests running on my Nutanix 3450 system, using Oracle RAC. The same system that also happens to host my virtual desktop and all the supporting VM’s. But is my desktop session performance impacted while I’m running a high performance Oracle RAC database test? No. No longer is it necessary to have completely separate silos of resources to support different performance requirements in a virtualized environment. This is the same system that just days ago I upgraded the storage controller firmware and system firmware with a single click, without any downtime at all, without a reboot, without even having to migrate a single virtual machine. This is a new way of operating, a much simpler way, for a new always on world. This is what we at Nutanix call Web-Scale. This new way is even suitable for business critical enterprise applications, such as Oracle databases, even Oracle RAC, which I have been very successful virtualizing for a long time and at large scale. This is a much easier way to implement, manage and run the applications you need to support without compromising SLA’s, functionality, or performance. Now I’ll share with you a demonstration of this capability in action and also some of the best practices, along with where to get the complete best practices guide.
I had heard the murmurs through the ether that something might be up. But it was at that time an unsubstantiated rumour. I couldn’t really believe that a tier 1 storage company would have an array that involved complete data migration / destruction and disruption in order to do a software/firmware upgrade between firmware versions. This isn’t the SDDC you’re looking for. I didn’t see the point in slinging mud for something that may be untrue, or be corrected in time for a GA release (Customers are still hoping). Everyone who’s been in the IT game for long enough knows that things do go wrong from time to time, despite the best efforts of everyone, but planned data destruction for an upgrade is kinda hard to take in this day and age. This is certainly not the always on, non-disruptive upgrades that we’ve all gotten used to, at least some of us. It appears however that the rumours are true and they’ve been reported by Andrew Dauncey – The Odd Angry Shot XtremIO Gotcha, Chad Sakac – Virtual Geek on Disruptive Upgrade (transparency on this issue is good), El Reg – No Biggie: EMC XtremIO Firmware Upgrade Will Wipe Data, and IT News – Extreme upgrade pain for XtremIO Customers. To upgrade XtremIO from 2.4 line of code to 3.0 will involve removing all of the data and putting it back after the upgrade completes. That’s right, anything left on the array during the upgrade, will in effect be lost. Not to mention the required downtime. What’s my take?
Although my Monster VM panel was in the top 10 sessions of VMworld 2013 and we did a Monster VM and Business Critical Apps panel for TAM day this year neither session will be included at VMworld in the USA or Europe. But not to worry. There is plenty of great content at VMworld for everyone to enjoy and I’ll be there to talk about Monster VM’s on vSphere as always, but mostly at the Nutanix Booth #1535. This doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the Monster VM goodness though, you can grab it all online right now, for free, thanks to VMware opening up the session catalog to some great sessions online through VMworld TV. So below I include two great panel discussions from VMworld 2013 that you can review now, and get a better understanding of how to virtualize critical apps and Monster VM’s.
Back in 2010 I was helping a large company troubleshoot their virtualized SAP environment, which was experiencing instability and performance problems. One thing we noticed was that the buffers on the NIC’s were periodically overloading due to the large amount of small packets. This was on vSphere 4.0, with Windows 2003 64bit OS at the time and using VMXNET3. Unfortunately at that stage the VMXNET3 driver for Windows didn’t support increasing the send or receive buffers and as a result we had to switch over to E1000 and increase the TX and RX buffers, which resolved the problem (in addition to adding memory reservations to the VM’s). However since vSphere 4.1 it has been possible to modify the buffers in VMXNET3 to resolve these sorts of issues. I have been experiencing this myself in my home lab and have as a result modified the buffers, but it appears I may not be alone in experiencing this.
Nutanix will be once again making WebScale Waves at VMworld 2014 at booth 1535. This year we are including a big focus on enterprise applications, including SAP, Oracle, SQL Server, Exchange and Java. I will be spending time on the booth along with many other experts at Nutanix and taking 1:1 meetings, in addition to the sessions that we’ll be presenting at VMworld. My co-authors and I may also be signing copies of Virtualizing SQL Server with VMware: Doint IT Right at the Nutanix booth, so bring your copy along. To find out how you can learn more about greatly simplifying your IT infrastructure with Nutanix WebScale IT and where to party at VMworld, read on.
I don’t like it when I get Purple Diagnostic Screens a.k.a. Purple Screen of Death or PSOD for short. Fortunately these are fairly rare. However there is one I came across just recently with a customer running vSphere 5.1 U1 and it is quite nasty. The PSOD was caused by TCP Heap exhaustion on an ESXi 5.1 U1 host. The host has the recent patches, and the usual search of the knowledge base didn’t really turn much up. The customer is running NFS, although the symptoms may not be tied only to NFS, any host based IP storage protocols (NFS or iSCSI) could be impacted. I’ll briefly tell you what we have found out, the logs to watch out for and some KB’s that will be helpful and steps you can take to prevent this from happening.
The printing presses at VMware Press have been churning out copies of Virtualizing SQL Server with VMware: Doing IT Right, which I’ve co-authored with Michael Corey and Jeff Szastak. We had a great technical reviewer for this book in Mark Achtemichuk (Mark A – VCDX-050). There will be enough copies for everyone, and we’ll be signing them at VMworld(s), and vForum Sydney if you’d like your copy autographed (and hopefully SQL PASS events also). This is 512 pages that combines decades of experience into a book, in a single place, which is the definitive guide for virtualizing SQL Server on VMware. This project took us over 12 months to complete, and many late nights and full weekends. If you ask my family they almost didn’t see me for the entire year. This is the third book project I’ve been involved with, after being technical reviewer for VCDX Bootcamp and Virtualizing and Tuning Large-Scale Java Platforms, both also by VMware Press. Duncan Epping has done us a great honour and written a fantastic foreward for the book.
Although I have dedicated this book to my wife, Susanne, and my four sons, Sebastian, Bradley, Benjamin, and Alexander , for their ongoing support (and putting up with my absence during this project). I’ve also dedicated this book to the VMware Community.
I was also lucky to have some great sounding boards during this project in addition to my fantastic co-authors. Kasim Hansia, VMware Strategic Architect and SAP expert, Cameron Gardiner, Microsoft Senior Program Manager Azure and SQL, and Josh Odgers (VCDX-090), Nutanix Senior Solutions and Performance Architect.
Below I have included the full Table of Contents so you can take a look at what we cover and see the value that we’ve packed into this book. I hope you enjoy the book, get a signed copy, and succeed when virtualizing SQL Server.