There is a lot of advice on whether to virtualise SQL Server and many dbas are under pressure to do this.  There’s good advice here from SQL CAT on best practice on hyper-V and if you are in the business of acquiring hardware to run SQL Server virtualised then there are two reference architectures that are relevant depending on how many databases in your organisation:

Hyper-V Fast Track is a generic hyper-v solution available from several hardware vendors including HP designed to maximise generic workloads running on Hyper-v, including SQL Server.  Up from this you might consider putting all your SQL Server virtual machines on one optimised server and HP have their Database Consolidation Solution for this.  Like the Hyper-V Fast Track, this is preconfigured with System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM). What makes it different is that there are ready to use template SQL Server VMs of different sizes which you can then quickly deploy.  

However there comes a point when a SQL Server database is so large and so widely used that it is consuming all the resources of a physical server an obvious example of this is business intelligence.  Rather than work out how to set this up there Fast Track reference architectures and appliances for this.

The Microsoft Fast Track Data Warehouse reference architecture built into the HP Business data Warehouse provides for data warehouses of up to 5Tb of compressed data. It has a bigger brother the Parallel Data Warehouse  (available from HP as the Enterprise Data warehouse and also from Dell) and this scales to 500Tb, but does so by using multiple physical servers which behave as one.

The other interesting appliance is the is the Business Decision Appliance which is specifically configured for PowerPivot for SharePoint as this can be a little tricky to set up and even if you have a SharePoint 2010 farm you’ll probably want a dedicated server for PowerPivot if it is to be used widely in your organisation. So this appliance has SQL Server enterprise with all the BI components installed plus SharePoint 2010 enterprise with all the integration configured for you. All you have to do is to use the HP web config tool to join it to your network domain and you are ready to use it.

So these appliances might seem a little bit different from a scalable elastic private cloud, and that’s because what you typically want from a database platform is predictable performance.