Architecting Microsoft SQL Server on VMware vSphere Best Practices Guide

Introduction

Microsoft SQL Server is one of the most widely deployed database platforms in the world, with many
organizations having dozens or even hundreds of instances deployed in their environments. The flexibility
of SQL Server, with its rich application capabilities combined with the low costs of x86 computing, has led
to a wide variety of SQL Server installations ranging from large data warehouses to small, highly
specialized departmental and application databases. The flexibility at the database layer translates
directly into application flexibility, giving end users more useful application features and ultimately
improving productivity.

Application flexibility often comes at a cost to operations. As the number of applications in the enterprise
continues to grow, an increasing number of SQL Server installations are brought under lifecycle
management. Each application has its own set of requirements for the database layer, resulting in
multiple versions, patch levels, and maintenance processes. For this reason, many application owners
insist on having an SQL Server installation dedicated to an application. As application workloads vary
greatly, many SQL Server installations are allocated more hardware than they need, while others are
starved for compute resources.

Purpose

This document provides best practice guidelines for designing Microsoft SQL Server on vSphere. The
recommendations are not specific to any particular set of hardware or to the size and scope of any
particular SQL Server implementation. The examples and considerations in this document provide
guidance only and do not represent strict design requirements, as varying application requirements would
result in many valid configuration possibilities.

vSphere Best Practices for SQL Server

A properly designed virtualized SQL Server using vSphere setup is crucial to the successful
implementation of enterprise applications. One main difference between designing for performance of
critical databases and designing for consolidation, which is the traditional practice when virtualizing, is
that when you design for performance you strive to reduce resource contention between virtual machines
as much as possible and even eliminate contention altogether. The following sections outline VMware
recommended practices for designing your vSphere environment to optimize for best performance.

3.1 Right Sizing

Right sizing is a term that is used when sizing virtual machines to contrast with sizing practices of physical servers. For example, a DBA determines that the number of CPUs required for a newly designed database server is eight CPUs. When deployed on a physical machine, typically the DBA will ask for more CPU power than the requirements at that point in time, sometimes even twice as much. The reason for this is usually that it is difficult for the DBA to add CPUs to this physical server after it has been deployed.

The general practice is to purchase the extra resources (CPU, disk, network, and memory) for the
physical server to accommodate for future growth requirements, sizing miscalculations, and any
unforeseen circumstances that can cause the database to require more resources in the future than
originally anticipated.

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