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Storage Performance Question for Virtual Server versus Physical Server

Posted on 2007-08-07
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Hi,

Basically I am evaluating some options on the deployment of a mail server which is not a high load system by any means at the current time but may grow significantly over the next year.  Therefore I am trying to determine the best way to minimize deployments costs while leaving plenty of options for future expansion.  My question for this topic is coming from a pure data read/write performance perspective.

Basically, I'm curious if there would be any difference in performance if the server is run as Microsoft Virtual Server with a "data" VHD residing on a RAID10 volume on our SAN compared to using the Microsoft ISCSI Initiator "inside" the Virtual Server to directly connect the Virtual Server to a RAID10 SAN Volume.

Lastly, how would the performance from strictly a read/write data performance perspective (ie I know there is going to be cpu overhead from running on VS) compared to running the server as a physical machine attached to the same SAN?
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Question by:djcapone
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lnkevin earned 2000 total points
ID: 19656846
Virtual server will definitely satisfy you on the cost compare to physical server. Basically, you will share the resource among many servers in one hardware compares with run one server in one hardware. Unless your server are using for light traffic and i/o, physical server always performs better than VS. However, if you have two servers and one of it just using for backup or very light usage, you can utilize VS. On CPU, as long as you don't do a lot of writing (taking up CPU), the reading capability will not take take much CPU as writing.

....Deployment of a mail server which is not a high load system by any means at the current time but may grow significantly over the next year....
For email system, it is not recommended to put on VS due to heavy I/O and complexity. Normally, for heavy usage email system, you would want to put multiple hardware on one server (clustering) rather than multiple servers in one hardware. My two cents.

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by:djcapone
ID: 19659208
Hi lnkevin,

Thanks for your response, however as mentioned in my initial post, I'm very much so aware of the high I/O load that a mail server requires which is why my question was addressed specifically at the read/write performance of VS and differences if any of when the attached drives are direct SAN connection versus a vhd residing on a SAN.  From what I understand you can use the Microsoft ISCSI initiator to attach a VS to a SAN directly bypassing the vhd format.  Since it is bypassing the vhd format and no longer has a need to decode the file format, I'm going to assume there is going to be a performance bump especially in cpu cycles.  I'm curious how much if any of read/write speed bump you get and how that bump compares to the Read/Write I/O on physical server connected to that same SAN LUN.
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by:lnkevin
ID: 19664619
iscsi sounds very promised according to you. I haven't implement it on our system so I could not give you a self experience comment. However, I have heard a comment about it can burn large amount of CPU resource. Check the following article for more references.
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1644535,00.asp

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by:djcapone
ID: 19796658
Moderator, I am hoping this question can maybe stay open longer.  I realize my question is extremely specific and am hoping over time someone who has done something similiar my provide some insight.  Otherwise, I have no problem with a force accept or closing the question myself and awarding the full point value to lnkevin for his input.
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by:rindi
ID: 19797863
The problem is that this is an old Q and it won't attract any attention from other experts.

I suggest you open a new 20 point "Pointer" Question, with the word "Pointer" in it's title, and then add a Link to this Q in there. The pointer Q, being newer, might attract other experts.

Please post back if you are going to open such a pointer Q or not.

Thanks,
rindi,
EE Cleanup Volunteer
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by:rindi
ID: 19797923
As I don't have iSCSI or SAN experience I won't be able to help on that aspect.

But I do suggest rather to use vmware server, vmware ESX or Xen Source and not M$'s Virtual PC. Virtual PC is meant more for a laboratory environment, while the vmware products are used in real live. ESX server has the advantage that you can use a very lean host OS that doesn't use lots of resources (you could upgrade from vmware server to ESX at a later stage when the load increases, using the Virtual Machines you used previously).

Xen Source should be faster than either vmware or virtual PC, but the host would be Linux and not windows (not a disadvantage at that), and to run windows hosts you need Processors that support VT technology, but most new CPU's do.

http://vmware.com
http://www.xensource.com/Pages/default.aspx

Virtual machines can actually be faster in terms of DISK IO than a conventional server, provided you have high end hardware. The reason for that is that an image file is used which is contiguous, so the data is more optimally placed, and the data can be read with less head movement. But you do need a good CPU and lots of RAM that can quickly extract the data from the image file.
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