Recommendations for new VMWare setup

Hi everyone,

We want to replace our 8 Dell Tower servers with a VMWare setup.  I have some ideas but want to get some recommendations from the community.  We have 3 terminal servers (1 for production Workstations and 2 for administrative PC's).

Server 1: DC
Server 2: Symantec Endpoint/SQL/File & Print
Server 3: SQL
Server 4:  Misc. Software
Server 5: Syncs Data with Remote Location DC

We actually have a 9th server that does image backups with shadow protect

Anyone have recommendations on how many servers, backups, etc?
Sean RhudyPresidentAsked:
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
It really comes down to 1 or 2 host servers, are you going to *purchase* VMware vSphere Essentials plus?, and Backup, use Veeam Backup and Replication.

as for hardware, Dell will give you a good price, on entry level hosts.
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
Yes, we will purchase VMWare.  What is the best way to provide redundancy?
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
There are two methods, providing how much redundancy you require:-

You could purchase two host servers, and if a host server was to fail, restore VMs to the other host server, replicate VMs to the other server, or use redundancy features of VMware.

e.g. VMware HA,

but these features would also need Shared Storage e.g. a SAN or NAS
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dipopoCommented:
I'd say 3 servers will give you more head room for maintenance and effective DRS. Technically you no longer need shared storage for HA using VSA.

http://www.vmware.com/uk/products/vsphere-storage-appliance/

But as Hanccocka has pointed out above shared storage is the preferred way to go better IOPS/Redundancy, especially with a virtualized SQL database, I'd prefer RDM Physical with their disks, less overhead for the vmkernel, hence better performance IMHO.

http://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-51/index.jsp?topic=%2Fcom.vmware.vsphere.storage.doc%2FGUID-4B2479B1-541D-4FF4-865E-2EE711294478.html
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aleghartCommented:
The VSA shared storage means that 2-host systems must have double the required storage installed.  An 3-host system needs treble.  So, if you want each host to have 4TB, you'll need 8TB usable or 12TB usable installed on _each_ host.

At some point, a cheap SAN with something like a Drobo, Netgear, or Synology might be more efficient to manage.  On a home- or SMB-budget, you can get a VMware-ready 4-drive Synology NAS bare for $700.  Link-aggregation on dual-gig ports gets you 150+MB/sec, depending on RAID level and drive type.

A SAN can be replicated to another SAN.  Can't do the same with VSA shared local drives.
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
We have a "corporate" budget and would rather do it the best way.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
If you require redundancy, VMware vSphere licenses and a Storage Array Network or NAS are required, but not necessary.

It really depends, on how much downtime, can the business afford?

none, 1 min, 1 hour, 4 hours, 8 hours or 1 day?
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
Sorry guys, I was out of town last week.  As for downtime, I'd say none - 1 minute.  This is a manufacturing facility so any downtime would really hurt the bottom line.
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
I'm leaning towards vSphere with HA and a Dell iSCSI SAN.  Can someone explain the difference between using 2 or 3 hosts?  Either way, would  1 server hold all of the VM's?  Also, if I use HA, will I need a second SAN that is replicated?
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
And would the other 1 or 2 servers need matched hardware to the main server?
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aleghartCommented:
HA with VMware runs a ghost machine in parallel (hopefully on a separate hardware host).  Memory is replicated between the two, and each machine is processing the same info.  Only one machine performs the writes to the SAN.  The failover occurs to the ghost machine with the exact same memory state.  It's good for host failure.  If the OS crashes, the ghost machine will crash from the exact same problem.

3 hosts allows you to take down one for maintenance (or crash) and still maintain hardware redundancy.  You can keep HA with separate hosts.  If the maintenance is extended time, you still have the ability to load balance or handle another hardware failure without being 100% down.  The Essentials bundle includes 3 hosts for that reason.  It's the most basic building block.

SAN replication is another idea altogether.  Has nothing to do directly with the VMware environment.
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aleghartCommented:
Hosts do not have to match, except that mixing Intel and AMD may limit some options for vMotion.  But you could have Dell, HP, Cisco, white-box, as long as you have enough sockets and cores to handle the guest VMs.

For instance, if you have a guest with 4 socket x 2 cores each, you couldn't move it to a 2CPU host.  Better to provision your guests with minimal sockets and cores and test if they really need that much horsepower.  Some people will spec SQL with extra CPUs and cores because they're used to getting a single hardware server without take chance to upgrade for 3-5 years.  They over buy at te beginning.  With virtualization, upgrading is a bit easier, so you can start smaller.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
You may need to think again, VMware HA, might just be outside, of 1 minute availability, if a Host should fail.
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aleghartCommented:
Was that an actual 1-minute goal, or "we measure downtime in $/min"?

Some measure in $/5min or $/hr.
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
It could be longer than 1 minute, but we would need to get up and running very quickly.  So I understand that HA would replicate any OS issues to the ghost machine.  So could I add something to protect against host OS failure?  I was planning on adding 2 SAN's that are replicated.
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dipopoCommented:
I think you need to look at things from several points of view:

HA - Is for host failure rather than vm failure.
FT - Is vm failure focused [This is where you have a FT VM (ghost)]

I would prefer in your case to have:

1. HA/DRS cluster with 3 hosts as I said before [Better load distribution and will not cause your cluster to become invalid as a result of 1 host failure]

2. VSS/Application aware backups [Explained better below] [Continuous data protection will allow you to restore to before a corruption occurred]

3. Storage snapshot/replication

For host level failures HA will remedy but with a 5 min overhead, for application data corruption a full vm restore is overkill hence application data backups are needed, this works better for such scenarios, and lastly for storage failures, the ability to either fail over to another DC [manually] as DR is best.

One other very nice solution would be to use Veaam backup, I believe this now offers granular support for backup/restore of application data, as well as performing vm level backup/restores.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
No, VMware HA, restarts the Virtual Machine on other hosts, and can take 1-2 minutes before a VM is back online.

That's a Host Failure! (not shutdown or controlled shutdown!)

OS Failure is VMware FT, but you need to be careful here, because if the OS has a fault, this is also replicated to the secondary VM, so it will also fail!
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aleghartCommented:
Sorry, I mixed the term HA with FT.  FT replicates to a ghost machine...app/OS crash will happen on both VMs.  Limited to small VMs (1 CPU, 1 core in ESX 4-5).

Even if you turn everything down to 5-10 seconds, you might miss a sub-one-minute spawn if another VM.  Even on SSDs, a VM with Server 2008 takes ~30-45 seconds, then other services have to launch and stabilize.
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
If I purchase Essentials Plus which allows 3 hosts w/ 2 CPU's each, how can I allocate those 2 CPU's across 9 VM's?
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dipopoCommented:
So will you be having 9 vm's per host? 27 vm's altogether? Just asking because you should reserve capacity for failure mitigation.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
You create a VM, and assign 1 vCPU per VM.

roughly you can assign 5-6 VMs per core of the physical processor.

The Hypervisor will then schedule the workload, and move it across the physical cores on the physical processors.

You do not really assign 1 physical cpu to 1 VM, there is not a one to one relationship.
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dipopoCommented:
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
I planned on 1 host with 9 VM's and the other 2 hosts for redundancy.  The existing servers are using a total of 36GB of RAM and 2.23 TB of Data.  All 9 existing servers have 3Ghz Xeon CPU's.
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dipopoCommented:
Wow that's a lot of horse power, but I guess this is in line with the guest workload. Yes you look good from where I'm standing.

You could spread your vm workload across the 3 servers, DRS should help here.

http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/VMware-Distributed-Resource-Scheduler-DRS-DS-EN.pdf
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aleghartCommented:
DRS doesn't exist in the Essentials bundle/kit.  Or storage vMotion.
You'll have to move the VMs across the hosts manually.
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dipopoCommented:
Very true! No DRS/vMotion in essentials, manual load balancing will be the way. I would look at comparing the essentials package with the VSPP approach to see which is cheaper for you long term, that is, if you are a service provider that is.

http://www.vmware.com/uk/partners/service-provider.html
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aleghartCommented:
VMware also told us that we can't attach "Essentials" host to our Standard vCenter server.  They can only be managed by the vCenter server that comes with the bundle.  So, no expansion to your environment is available.  Not a big issue for many small environments.  I'm sure there's an upgrade path if you have money and you stay current on support.
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dipopoCommented:
Essentials plus I find is a bit better as it offers more features including DRS, as it's corporate..... :-) I doubt it would be an issue with a few .ppt presentations.
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
So just to clarify, would all 3 hosts load balance AND be available for to use with VMWare HA?  Or do I need a dedicated host for VMware HA?
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aleghartCommented:
You add all 3 hosts to an HA cluster.

Unless you have DRS, your load balancing will be done manually by you monitoring the loads and vMotion-ing between hosts.
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
Does DRS come with the Essentials Plus kit?
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aleghartCommented:
No. The kits don't have DRS.
vSphere Essentials and Essentials Plus kits support up to three ESX hosts. Essentials Plus supports vMotion and HA for clustering, but without DRS.

DRS comes with "Enterprise" and "Enterprise Plus"
Storage DRS comes with "Enterprise Plus"
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
NO DRS I'm afraid.
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
So I'm looking at pricing on vmware.com and it looks like VMware vSphere Enterprise is $2,875.  And that's what includes DRS?  Do I need anything in addition to that regarding vmware?
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
And would that license cover all 3 hosts?
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aleghartCommented:
One license covers 1 host for up to 2 sockets.  (It's a 2-socket pack.). If you have four sockets, you need 2 licenses.
Then, do the same math for each additional host.
There's no limit to number of cores or RAM.
Then, add support.  Either 10x5 or 24x7.  For each host.
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
So if I wanted to save some money, I "could" do this using 2 hosts.
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
Also, I saw a vCenter Converter for migrating my physical servers to VM.  I'm assuming there is an additional cost as well.  What's the easiest way without breaking the bank?
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aleghartCommented:
Yes, using 2 hosts would save you licensing for VMware, Microsoft Server and the cost if the physical box.  But if one host goes down, you may overload the last host, and will be running without redundancy.

I've done P2V with their free tools, and using Paragon HD Mgr for Server 2000 and 2003 boxes that don't complete with Vmware's converter.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Will you be purchasing a SAN or Shared Storage?

You will need this for DRS?

Do you need DRS ?
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
I'll be purchasing a SAN, and Yes, I'd like to use DRS.

I have a question about the hosts... Since I'll be using a SAN, do I need any Hard drives in the hosts?
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Sean RhudyPresidentAuthor Commented:
And I don't need an OS for the hosts, correct?
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aleghartCommented:
Host OS is ESXi from VMware.
They can boot from SAN, so local drives not required (IIRC).
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
no local disks required in the hosts, you can install ESXi OS onto SD cards or USB flash drives.

ESXi installs on bare metal.

Do not BOOT from SAN, SAN storage is too expensive for this.

Here is the VMware KB on installing 5.0 on USB/SD:
http://kb.vmware.com/kb/2004784
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