SQL Server Virtualization Tips

All topics about maintaining SQL Server from a DBA perspective.
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Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2019 6:41 pm

Mon Jun 24, 2019 2:18 pm

SQL Server virtualization is becoming more common, but it's not always easy to get it just right. Consider the following SQL Server virtualization tips before you begin.

1. Plan, plan, and plan some more. As with most complex projects, your ultimate success starts long before you get your hands on the project itself. Consider what you want to accomplish and figure out what it will take to get you there. Use a work breakdown structure to break everything down into manageable tasks. Consider everything including your existing infrastructure, new technologies, and available resources. By doing this initial planning on paper, you can anticipate problems - and solve them - before they occur.

2. Learn about the most common pitfalls you're likely to encounter when implementing SQL Server virtualization. For example, storage issues such as misconfigured disks, performance, and disk consolidation often catch administrators off guard. By learning about these pitfalls before you begin, you can prepare for them. Other common pitfalls include: misunderstanding performance benchmarks, using the wrong hypervisor type, mismanaging memory, and improper disk partitioning.

3. Watch relevant SQL Server virtualization videos. While you could attend classes or enroll in an online course, you may be able to find helpful videos online that prepare you for the challenges ahead.

4. Use the correct processor on your virtualization host. Ideally, your virtualization host should have a 64-bit, SLAT-enabled processor. Don't take SLAT (Second Level Address Translation) for granted as not all 64-bit processors, especially older ones, support it. SLAT allows for improved virtual machine performance and scalability.

5. If you have SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition (or higher) along with virtual machines that support "hot-add RAM," consider using dynamic memory. Dynamic memory allows buffers to expand or contract to accommodate changing workloads.

6. Go for a one-to-one ratio between your virtual CPUs and cores. This ensures sufficient processing power at all times for the demands of SQL Server.

7. Use the appropriate virtual hard disk system for your needs. For example, if your server runs production workloads, opt for a fixed virtual hard disk rather than a dynamic one. Fixed virtual hard disks require more disk space than dynamic ones but provide a higher level of performance. If performance isn't critical, but space constraints are, then a dynamic virtual hard disk would be a better choice. Likewise, if you need the highest performance possible, a pass-through disk may worth your consideration.

8. Customize your virtual server instance. Though easy to accept, the default option isn't always the best choice. For example, if your workloads require high performance storage, accepting the default virtual hard disk would likely lead to disappointing performance. You may want to assign different pass-through disks or virtual hard disks for your log files, data, and operating system. Make sure you understand the various disk implementation options and choose the best configuration for your specific needs that may or may not be the default option.

Planning, learning about common pitfalls, and choosing the right configuration options for your needs are essential ingredients to a successful SQL Server virtualization project.
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