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Why virtualize Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and High Level Architecture

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This topic is about Microsoft virtualization with Hyper-V R2, System Center Virtual Machine Manager for virtualizing the SharePoint 2010 environment.

Here you see a picture of a High Available full virtualized Sharepoint 2010 environment on a Hyper-V 2008 R2 Cluster with Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) Architecture.

Why Virtualize SharePoint?

Virtualizing SharePoint and its server components can provide many business and technical benefits. With virtualization,
you can consolidate hardware and ease server management and provisioning—helping to promote cost savings, business continuity, and agile management. Moreover, SharePoint virtualization is ideal for organizations that have more than one SharePoint farm, such as those with high availability production, testing, and development environments. The remainder of this section describes additional benefits of SharePoint virtualization in greater detail.

Hardware Consolidation

Hardware consolidation essentially allows you to run different SharePoint servers and various server components sharing the same hardware set. Hardware consolidation yields a variety of benefits:

  • Resource utilization and balancing: With SharePoint virtualization and the built-in enhancements of the Hyper-V 64-bit multiprocessor and multicore technology, you can run multiple workloads on different, isolated virtual machines—helping to use and balance resources more efficiently. Because you manage only a single physical server that runs isolated
    virtual machines, it is easier to provision and balance various resources, such as RAM and disk space, for different SharePoint server components.
  • Reduced costs for physical infrastructure, maintenance, power, and cooling: Server consolidation reduces server count, which, in turn, reduces the cost of SharePoint infrastructure and maintenance.
    Consequently, cooling needs and power consumption are also reduced. From the perspective of environmental sustainability, SharePoint virtualization can be a major contributor to the Green IT movement.
  • Less physical space: By virtualizing SharePoint farms, you can provide required capabilities with fewer servers, thereby
    freeing up space originally allotted for servers.

Ease of Management and Provisioning

Typically, virtualization enables you to run several virtual machines on a single physical server, which can ease the management and provisioning of virtualized SharePoint farms. Microsoft provides tools to help you manage and provision
different SharePoint server components in a virtual environment. Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM)
2008, part of the System Center Server Management Suite, provides SharePoint administrators with the ability to manage multiple virtual hosts; quickly provision servers and farms that run SharePoint Server; and migrate physical servers to virtual ones.

Testing and Development

Testing and development on a SharePoint infrastructure requires replicated and simulated environments. Because these
environments need low disk I/O and memory, all components of SharePoint Server, including the Microsoft SQL Server® database server, typically can be virtualized. Using System Center VMM, SharePoint administrators can easily manage multiple testing and development SharePoint farms. With System Center VMM, administrators also can easily replicate virtual servers, allowing them to run even at the time of replication with the VMM physical-to-virtual (P2V) and virtual-to-virtual (V2V) capabilities; this can help to greatly decrease administrative overhead.

Business Continuity and Availability

To ensure business continuity, servers must be highly available so that working environments always seem transparent, as if no incident has ever occurred. To facilitate high availability in SharePoint virtual environments, Hyper-V uses Network Load
Balancing (NLB), a clustering technology that detects a host failure and automatically distributes the load to active servers. You can use the Hyper-V built-in clustering technology to help provide high availability in your SharePoint virtual farm.

Virtual Architectures for Medium-to-Large Farms

Using larger host servers, you can allocate more resources to virtual images. Figure below shows an implementation that uses
more CPUs and RAM.

To keep this SharePoint environment High Available you make a SQL 2008 R2 Cluster envionment for the Sharepoint databases.

If a particular server component consumes so many resources that it adversely affects the overall performance of the virtual environment, consider dedicating a physical server to it. Depending on an organization’s usage patterns, such a component
may include a crawl server, the server that imports profiles, the Microsoft Excel® Services application, or another
heavily used service

Managing the Virtual SharePoint Environment

Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008 R2 can help to:

  • Centralize management of physical and virtual IT infrastructure.
  • Increase server utilization.
  • Optimize dynamic resources across multiple virtualization platforms.

VMM offers a management solution that monitors and controls both physical and virtual machines, as shown in Figure below

VMM takes resource utilization a step further with end-to-end support for consolidating physical servers. It can help
you overcome key pain points in the consolidation process, as follows:

  • Provides insight into how workloads perform in the old environment: VMM uses data gathered
    from System Center Operations Manager to assess the workloads that are optimal candidates for consolidation. This holistic insight differentiates VMM from competing products and can give you greater confidence when migrating from a physical to
    virtual infrastructure.
  • Provides more efficient storage management: VMM support for the Windows Server 2008 R2 CSV allows files for multiple virtual machines to be stored on the same LUN. This can simplify storage management by radically reducing the number of LUNs required by the VMM-managed virtual machines.
  • Facilitates P2V conversion: Converting physical machines to virtual machines can be a slow and error-prone process that requires administrators to halt the physical server. However, with VMM, P2V conversions are routine. VMM simplifies P2V conversion tasks by providing an improved P2V wizard and taking advantage of the Volume Shadow Copy Service in Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. Virtual machines can be created by using block-level disk access speed without shutting down the source physical server.
  • Provides V2V conversion: VMM also supports the conversion of VMware virtual machines to the Microsoft virtual machine format. With VMM, you can convert virtual machines directly from ESX Server hosts. The VMM V2V conversion can convert either an entire VMware virtual machine or just the disk image file. The V2V conversion process performs all modifications required to make the converted virtual machine bootable. Unlike the P2V conversion, the V2V conversion is an offline operation.
  • Takes the guesswork out of virtual machine placement: VMM can help you easily identify the most appropriate physical host servers for virtualized workloads. This Intelligent Placement technology not only can make administrative tasks easier, but also can help to ensure that data center resources are deployed properly and align with business goals. Intelligent Placement in VMM inputs host system data, workload performance history, and administrator-defined business
    requirements into sophisticated algorithms. The resulting Intelligent Placement ratings provide easy-to-understand ranked results that can take the guesswork out of the placement task and help to ensure that workloads are spread across
    physical resources for optimum performance. Intelligent Placement can be used with Microsoft Windows Server hosts and VMware ESX Servers.
  • Helps to fine-tune virtual and physical infrastructure: After the virtual infrastructure is in place, VMM provides a central console from which you can monitor and fine-tune the infrastructure for ongoing optimization. With the VMM administrator console, you can tune virtual machine settings or migrate virtual machines from one host to another in order to optimize the use of physical resources. VMM also works with System Center Operations Manager so that both physical and virtual infrastructure can be managed comprehensively.

VMM as a Management Tool

The VMM 2008 R2 management console provides rich functionality that can be used to manage SharePoint Server in a virtualized environment. A distributed, virtualized SharePoint farm can be tightly managed, and the management console can
be used to move guest sessions between one or more hosts that also are performing other virtualization tasks. VMM can be a useful management tool in many ways:

  • Self-Service Portal: VMM includes a web-based self-service portal that enables SharePoint administrators to
    delegate the rights to create new guest sessions. This portal can be used by other system administrators to allow developers, for example, to provision their own test SharePoint server sessions or to allow quality assurance (QA) testers to
    provision guest Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office client sessions for testing. Overall, the self-service portal can reduce the SharePoint administration overhead.
  • Virtual Server Templates: With VMM, you can define a library of templates and virtual machines that can be used to
    provision new SharePoint sessions. For example, a Windows Server 2008 R2 server template can be created with the right amount of memory and virtual processors, plus a pair of virtual hard drives for the operating system and index files.
    With SharePoint binaries installed on that system, it then can be turned into a template that can be used to provision new SharePoint farm members or even entirely new farms.
  • VMM Template Options: With VMM template options, a server created from a template can be automatically added to a
    domain and validated with a valid server key; it also can have a script run after first login. For example, a custom Microsoft Windows PowerShell™ script can be run automatically after login to join the SharePoint template server to an existing farm or to create a new farm entirely.
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Author: James van den Berg

I'm Microsoft Architect and ICT Specialist and Microsoft MVP System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management

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