IT Peer Network

4 Posts authored by: SudipChahal

ERP applications tend to be mission-critical.  Accordingly, the server platform strategy for ERP environments must be approached carefully.    Centralized versus distributed, scale-up versus scale-out, how to size the servers correctly – are some of the key questions that have to be addressed.   A repeatable and disciplined platform selection and sizing methodology is called for.

 

Karl Mailman and I discuss these considerations and Intel IT’s approach in a couple of their papers with regard to Intel IT’s ERP environment, An ERP Platform Strategy Based on Industry-standard Servers and ‘Sizing Server Platforms To Meet ERP Requirements’

 

 

The questions covered in these papers are not exclusive to the ERP environment – concepts and considerations discussed in these papers may be applicable to other mission-critical environments as well.

 

What are your serve sizing challenges? How do you address those? I look forward to hearing your experiences and solutions. Please share them in comments below.

Live migration is an essential technology for an agile, dynamic data center environment based on server virtualization. Until now, it has not been possible, however, to perform successful live migration between servers based on different generations of processors, each with different instruction sets - this limited our ability to implement large resource pools, creating islands of servers and hindering the implementation of advanced data center capabilities.

 

Combined, Intel VT FlexMigration assist and Enhanced VMotion are designed to overcome this limitation by enabling all servers to expose the same instruction set to applications, even if they are based on different processor generations from a single CPU supplier.

 

Intel IT and Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group, End User Platform Integration, conducted proof-of-concept (PoC) testing of live migration using Intel® Virtualization Technology FlexMigration (Intel® VT FlexMigration) assist and the Enhanced VMotion feature of VMware ESX 3.5U2*. All migrations completed without problems and our testing demonstrated that we can use Intel VT FlexMigration assist for live migration of Intel IT business applications in a mixed production environment. As a result, we can create resource pools that combine servers from multiple generations, eliminating incompatible islands of servers and allowing full implementation of advanced data center capabilities. Accordingly, we expect to standardize on systems with Intel VT FlexMigration assist in the future.

 

Our recently published IT@Intel white paper:  Testing Live Migration with Intel® Virtualization Technology FlexMigration' documents the details pertaining to our tests – the types of systems tested, the workloads used, different scenarios examined and the results.

 

The paper can be downloaded at Testing Live Migration with Intel® Virtualization Technology FlexMigration

 

On behalf of our team, I’d like to invite you to view this whitepaper and comment about how you are using or intending to use these technologies in your datacenters and your experiences to-date with these capabilities.

The relative positioning of 2 and 4-socket servers for server virtualization has been an open question for a long time - a question that has stumped the most astute of IT professionals time and again.  In fact it might not be an exaggeration to say that this open question is almost in the same class as the famous Riemann's hypothesis that has remained unsolved for over a century! (If you accept that premise, then there's some real estate on the moon that I'd like to bring to your attention as well). Although advocates for either class of servers have been emphatic in their respective positions, compelling data-points supporting their positions have been few and far between.

 

To remedy this sorry state of affairs, an Intel IT team conducted in-depth tests and analysis using current quad-core processor based 2 and 4-socket servers in a virtualized environment.  This effort culminated in a comprehensive framework for comparing server platforms for virtualization. This comparative framework encompasses the majority of common deployment scenarios and usage models and answers - once and for all - the long unanswered question "which server is more appropriate for my virtualization project?"

 

The whitepaper detailing the findings can be found here Comparing Two- and Four-Socket Platforms for Server Virtualization. If time is short, click on the icon below for a short video overview.

 


 

 

 

 


 

Is hypervisor based server virtualization basically a “useful” tactical consolidation “play” or does it form the basis for much more? For several years, server virtualization has been used with good success by many organizations to consolidate legacy workloads as well as to cost-effectively provision test and development virtual machines (VMs). During the same timeframe, there has been significant discussion pertaining to “the datacenter of the future” – a centrally managed “dynamic” datacenter where resources will be dynamically assigned “on demand” to workloads in an agile manner thereby allowing the datacenter operations teams to quickly adapt to fluctuating demands for compute resources. So, “where is the connection?” you ask.

 

The recently concluded VMworld 2007 may offer some hints. At that conference, VMware Chief Scientist, Dr. Mendel Rosenblum, demonstrated some key capabilities that show where compute virtualization is headed in its evolution to becoming the “datacenter operating system” of the future. Dr. Rosenblum demonstrated “storage live migration” and “lockstep VMs”. Transparent migration of storage “owned” by a VMs from one disk (LUN) to another (potentially on a different storage frame) without impacting application availability was demonstrated in the first demo. He also demonstrated the ability to transparently failover an executing VM to a “secondary” VM – on another host - that has been executing in lockstep with the primary VM! If you did not have a chance to see Dr. Rosenblum’s keynote, a webcast is still accessible here.

 

Per the VMworld demonstrations mentioned above, the hypervisor based virtualization capability and upcoming hardware assists for virtualization in combination with a “compute virtualization manager” that collectively enable policy-based management of the datacenter including virtualization hosts, VMs, storage is well on its way to evolving to the dynamic “Datacenter OS” of the future. This powerful Datacenter OS of the future – evolved from today’s “tactical” virtualization capabilities - will dynamically manage compute, memory, power, storage and network resources of the Datacenter in an automated, highly efficient manner. Pre-packaged applications in portable VMs will be landed on these dynamic datacenters in a flexible and agile manner.

 

While the hypervisor based virtualization based evolutionary path may not be applicable to highly specialized datacenters (e.g., HPC), its applicability to Business computing environments is clear. Am I oversimplifying and underestimating the technical challenges (security and scaling to name a few) along this evolutionary path? Probably. Am I glossing over the organizational and business process related challenges? Almost certainly. On the other hand, are all the major building blocks like efficient hypervisors, virtualization hardware assists, VM live migration, storage live migration, power management, record and replay, lockstep VMs…) successfully prototyped or better (in production)? The answer is an emphatic “Yes”. Do you agree or do you forsee insurmountable barriers that will thwart attempts to evolve the virtualization capabilities of today into the dynamic data-center of the future along the lines suggested by the ground-breaking capabilities demonstrated at VMworld? Either way, I’d really like to hear your perspective.

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