Assistance building a host for several virtual machines.

I have been given a project to build a Windows host server, to migrate physical machines to hyper-v clients. I would like assistance in provisioning the server with the proper equipment.

Number of users: 25.  Slow or no employee growth in the forseeable future.

Current applications on one physical application server:  Sage BusinessWorks 2012 with a Pervasive SQL engine for 25 users. Web Help Desk with a FrontBase database, for 5 users. No upgrade planned to applications, strictly a move to VM.

Current applications on second physical server: MS Exchange 2010 for 25 users.  Modest 26GB mail store, with a forecast of only modest growth.  Planned migration to MS Exchange 2013 in a vm.

Under consideration:  An installation of Sage ACT! that uses SQL Server 2008 Express Edition.

Questions: What would be the best practice hardware configuration for a system to host:
(1)  The application server with Sage BusinessWorks 2012 / Web help desk
(2)  The new Exchange 2013 server.
(3)  And where should I install the anticipated Sage ACT! and it's db?  **Should I be wary of installing Sage ACT! that uses SQL Server 2008 Express on the existing application server that already has a Pervasive SQL engine and a FrontBase engine?**
Who is Participating?
I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

Bill BachPresident and Btrieve GuruCommented:
Let's first discuss the issue of how many VM's you need.  It is certainly possible to install PSQL and SQL Server on the same server at the same time -- this will work with no problems.  However, both database engines will be demanding memory and CPU resources to achieve the levels of performance that you want.  Further, both will run slower on a virtualized environment, so you will always want to have more resources than you'd otherwise configure.  (For a reason why, check out this paper:

Based on this, and based on the fact that standing up an additional virtual server will have a very low cost, I would recommend that you leave the ACT! system on a new server.  This not only keeps the systems separate from a resources point of view, but it also makes it easier to migrate one or both to new hardware in the future, completely independent of the other.

Right now, computer hardware is really inexpensive.  For the three VM's, I'd recommend a minimum of 4 cores (8+ is better) and a minimum of 16GB of RAM, allocating 4GB to each VM and leaving 4GB free for the host.  Anything you can do above that is even better.  In fact, I'd probably look at nothing less than 32GB of RAM, because it is so cheap right now, and (depending on your exact OS release), 64GB or even 128GB.  This would allow you to increase the memory resources of each VM accordingly, allowing more data to remain in cache, improving performance further.
Bill BachPresident and Btrieve GuruCommented:
I should add one more thing -- check to see if your PSQL engine is a Server Engine or Workgroup Engine.  (Check in License Administrator, or in Add/Remove Programs.)  If it is a Server Engine, check if it is 32-bit or 64-bit.  A 32-bit engine (Workgroup or 32-bit Server) will be able to leverage only 2GB of memory space on a 32-bit OS, or 4GB of memory space on a 64-bit OS.  Therefore, if you have a 32-bit OS, plan on 4GB of RAM for the PSQL VM.  If you have a 64-bit OS, plan on 8GB of RAM for the PSQL VM.  If you have a 64-bit Server Engine, then you can use as much RAM as you want to give it. In that case, check the total size of the database and assign memory accordingly.

After you get onto the new platform, be sure to adjust the L1 cache upwards to use the memory for data cache.  This is the "Cache Allocation Size" value in the PCC/Configure Local Engine screen.  If you don't have this screen, you may need to use a Sage tool to adjust the L1 cache, or modify the registry directly.
GPCDIADMINAuthor Commented:

Thank you for the insightful information regarding VM's, ram and processor cores.
As you are recommending 3 virtual machines, how should I provision a RAID system for the two application server VM's and the Exchange 2013 VM?

Powerful Yet Easy-to-Use Network Monitoring

Identify excessive bandwidth utilization or unexpected application traffic with SolarWinds Bandwidth Analyzer Pack.

Bill BachPresident and Btrieve GuruCommented:
You don't provision RAID for separate VMs.  Instead, build a RAID10 array (if possible, otherwise RAID5 would work) for the host system with enough disk space for your current and future needs.  Then, when you create the VM's (or do a physical-to-VM migration), you just specify a normal disk in the VM, and the hypervisor handles the storage space.
GPCDIADMINAuthor Commented:

I thought that it was always recommended that the Exchange databases be on different spindles from the O/S, or other database applications.

Is this true only for large organizations or larger databases than my business will see?
Bill BachPresident and Btrieve GuruCommented:
A) Since the environment has so few users, this shouldn't matter.
B) Since you are planning on virtualizing the server, this shouldn't matter either.

I have made several small business servers over the years with PSQL running with SQL Server and MSExchange all at the same time.  I doubt you'll have enough load to stress out even one host computer.

Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today
Server Hardware

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.