ESXi server wth 140 VMs

Looking for some advice on building an ESXi server with about 140 VMs networked to one VM sever for a testing labs.

VMs will consist of:
1 - Server 2008 (with MS SQL Enterprise ed)
     (light server activity)
139 - mix of Win 7, Win XP
       - 584 MB each, 640 x 480 video

The greatest bottle neck will obviously be I/O (especially during boot up) there for boot ups will be scheduled in a logical sequence.

Physical hardware:
Quad core I7's with max of 16 GB

1. Since I don't believe it is practical to do this on one ESXi server, how many hosts do you think are necessary?
    I am thinking 8 VMs per core for a total of 32 VMs per host; less on the ESXi server
    hosting the Win 2008 server VM

2. I will need to network the ESXi servers together. Any special considerations?

3. What do I need to purchase from VMware to accomplish this? ESXi is free. Vsphere
    (the free version can only handle one ESXi at a time). Can I manage all the ESXi
    servers from VMware 8 (workstation s/w)? Will I need to purchase anything?

Thank you
S ConnellyTechnical WriterAsked:
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
1. Approx 6 ESXi Servers.

2. I/O is the killer, and you may want to consider Fusion I/O cards as SSD Storage to avoid broadcast storms.

3. If using free, you will need to create access to the VMs using RDP and name RDP VMs. Otherwise you will need Licensed VMware Sphere and VMware View.

You can connect to each Server individually, using the vSphere Client, but trying to manage more than two servers, that way is difficult but possible. Otherwise you will need to purchase VMware vSphere Licenses and vCenter Server.

The biggest issue with free is its limited to 32GB per server.

2GB for Windows 7, you'll only get 16 VMs per Server!

You physical server memory is low, and make sure its on the HCL.
S ConnellyTechnical WriterAuthor Commented:
Thank you Hanccocka!

Great answers!

Microsoft's minimum memory requirements is:
"1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit)"

Really? I wonder if anyone has tried with less? BUT I guess I do want to avoid any memory swapping!

I had forgotten about Windows 7 requiring a lot more memory than Windows XP. Thanks for the reminder! Because of that, I will have to minimize the number of Windows 7 workstations.

My choice will likely be SATA or SSD and it looks like SSD is really the only way to do this in order to make this somewhat usable.

>Otherwise you will need to purchase VMware vSphere Licenses and vCenter Server.

Any tips?

I haven't purchased a VMware [server] product in about five years. A quick glance at their purchase options was a bit bewildering. But I haven't had breakfast yet... maybe that is it. :-)

Thanks again!
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Using the free version you are going to have to purchase more servers to meet your 140 VM requirement because of the 32GB limit of the VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) which is limited to 32GB per server.

We've had many issues in this area with VDI deployments, when using conventional storage, either local SAS or SAN based storage. For our VDI deployments we now use Fusion-IO products (SSD) based, to save on electricity, air conditioning, the expensive of SAN deployment, and help us with "VDI storms". e.g. big slowdowns that can occur when a lot of users log into the system at the same time.

Once users boot up, log in and load applications, the storage I/O typically settles down to a minimal level. The IOPS difference between a desktop VM that is booting and after it has booted is extreme, which can make architecting storage for VDI environments a challenge.

A typical desktop VM running Windows 7 will generate from 50-100 IOPS while is it booting; once it is running normal workloads, the average IOPS drops to about 5-10. Therefore, to successfully meet the I/O demands caused by boot storms, your storage needs to be designed to handle the worst-case scenario.

Here are some real world stats taken from College based deployment of VDI (we used VMware View as the broker and Wyse P20 Thin clients), but these stats will be the same for standard ESXi server.

Dell R810 128GB 24 Cores handle 80 - 100 concurrent VMs per host server.
Software deployed Windows 7, Microsott Office to College Students.

Dell R610 48GB 8 Cores - 20 desktops comfortably.
Software deployed Windows XP 1 vCPU, 1G RAM, Microsoft Office to College Students

We are just upgrading and testing the above environment, to Windows 7, 2 vCPU, 2GB RAM, and the load has dropped to 10 desktops per server.

We've have VDI requiring far greater resources, CPU, Memory and Storage compared to Terminal Services.

We used to be able to get 75 concurrent student sessions, on a HP DL360G5 Dual Processor Quad Core, 4GB RAM with WIn2k3 and Citrix Presentation Server 4.0/4.5.

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S ConnellyTechnical WriterAuthor Commented:
Thank you for your excellent advice!

I do find it odd, however, that I have not found [on Internet] any other scenarios similar to what I am trying to accomplish.

>Using the free version you are going to have to purchase more servers to meet your
>140 VM requirement because of the 32GB limit of the VMware vSphere Hypervisor
>(ESXi) which is limited to 32GB per server.

I finally spoke with a VMware rep earlier today. It appears that VMware does not have a pricing model that fits what I am trying to accomplish. Everything they have is overkill and way too expensive.

So... my only alternative is to use the free ESXi and the free VSphere.
Build about 7 ESXi servers (each with 16 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD drive) with about 20 workstations on each.

Then I will manage the ESXi servers, one at a time, with the free VSphere. This should not present a problem because I will not need to *ever* log into the workstations after their initial set-up.

Does not make sense?

Thanks again!
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
It  makes sense, if you want to proceed because of budget constraints.
S ConnellyTechnical WriterAuthor Commented:
What is the best way to clone and deploy 140 workstations across 7 ESXi servers.
S ConnellyTechnical WriterAuthor Commented:
Thank you very much for your valued help.
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