Delivering a Complete Data Platform for the Modern Datacenter with Cloud OS

Today’s organizations need the ability to seamlessly build, deploy and manage applications and services across on-premise and cloud computing environments. The Cloud OS platform with Windows Server® 2012, Windows Azure, Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012, Microsoft System Center 2012 and Visual Studio 2012 work together to provide a consistent platform from on-premises to cloud computing environments.  For database applications, we have identified 3 (three) important scenarios where customers will benefit with the Cloud OS platform:

  1. Tackling mission critical OLTP workload SLAs and performance requirements
  2. Revolutionizing enterprise data warehousing
  3. Migrating large mission critical SQL Server workloads into Microsoft private cloud

For non-virtualized environments in an on-premises data center, Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 provide the best platform for mission-critical workloads in these areas:

    • Performance & Scalability:  SQL Server 2012 can consume the operating system maximum for both processors and memory.  Windows Server 2012 supports logical 640 processors (cores) over a max of 64 sockets and up to 4 TB of RAM, allowing SQL Server applications to scale to meet the demand of most mission critical applications. The new NIC Teaming feature in Windows Server 2012 allows 2 or more network adapters to behave as a single, virtual device.  This improves the reliability of the networking subsystem – if one NIC dies, the other continues to function – and allows the bandwidth available to each to be pooled for greater total network throughput for SQL Server data. With SMB improvements in Windows Server 2012, SQL Server can store database files on remote (SMB) file shares, providing customers with many more deployment options for their database server storage. The new data de-duplication feature in Windows Server 2012 provides compression on steroids and delivers 30-90% storage savings for FILESTREAM BLOBs and other external files in SQL Server applications.
    • Availability:  SQL Server 2012 support for Windows Server Core is expected to eliminate the need for 50-60% of the OS-level patches.  With Windows Server 2012, the server admin can configure the SQL Server to run with full support for graphical interfaces and then switch to run in Server Core mode. Cluster Aware Updating automates SQL Server cluster node maintenance, making the process easier, faster, more consistent and more reliable with significantly less downtime. With dynamic quorum management, the cluster can dynamically reconfigure itself to keep running down to the last surviving node to allow a SQL Server AlwaysOn cluster to adjust the number of quorum votes dynamically that are required to keep running, while simplifying set up by as much as 80%.

Organizations are also seeking a cloud-optimized IT infrastructure that can span from a private cloud behind your firewall to a public cloud behind a service provider’s firewall.  One key element to achieving this is having a common virtualization platform across private and public clouds.  This increases efficiency and performance across infrastructures, which is essential for database applications. Windows Server 2012 offers the best virtualization platform for SQL Server 2012. By working together, SQL Server 2012, Windows Server 2012, and System Center 2012 offer a seamlessly integrated, on-premise and cloud-ready information platform to meet the demands of today’s enterprise.  We have just published a white paper on the detailed benefits on this integration. Key benefits include:

    • Better Scalability: Higher capacity vCPUs (up to 64), memory (up to 1 TB), and VM density (up to 8,000 per cluster)
    • Better Performance: Hyper-V support on NUMA and fiber channel
    • Better Availability: Faster & simultaneous live migration and dynamic quorum support in SQL Server AlwaysOn cluster
    • Better Manageability: Same management tool (System Center) for SQL Server virtual machines in both private and public cloud

We have also published the latest performance report for SQL Server 2012 running on Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V. Key points from the performance report include:

    • With Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V’s new support for up to 64 vCPUs, ESG Lab took an existing SQL Server 2012 OLTP workload that was previously vCPU limited and increased the performance by six times, while the average transaction response times improved by five times.
    • Manageably-low Hyper-V overhead of 6.3% was recorded when comparing SQL Server 2012 OLTP workload performance of a physical server to a virtual machine configured with the same number of virtual CPU cores and the same amount of RAM.

When compared to VMware vSphere 5.1, Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V offers a number of advantages for SQL Server workloads:

    • Performance & Scalability: Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V is better equipped to deploy mission critical SQL Server workloads in virtualized environment, allowing up to 64 virtual processors per VM with no SKU-specific restrictions. By contrast, the free vSphere Hypervisor, along with vSphere 5.1 Essentials, Essentials Plus and Standard editions support only 8 vCPUs per VM, with vSphere 5.1 Enterprise supporting 32vCPUs and only the most expensive edition, vSphere 5.1 Enterprise Plus, allows support up to 64 vCPUs. No such SKU-specific restrictions are in place with Hyper-V. Hyper-V offers superior performance for SQL Server virtualization, supporting 320 logical processors per host, whilst vSphere 5.1 supports just half that number, restricting scalability and density. Hyper-V also supports up to 4TB of host physical memory, with an individual VM able to utilize up to 1TB of memory. Compared with VMware, where the vSphere Hypervisor host physical memory is capped at 32GB and 2TB for vSphere 5.1 Enterprise Plus.
    • Storage & High Availability: For the mission critical SQL Server AlwaysOn scenario that makes use of Windows Server Failover Clustering (WSFC), customers retain full Hyper-V functionality, whereas when virtualizing Windows Server based clusters, VMware recommends turning off key features such as vMotion for VM mobility, DRS for dynamic resource allocation, Memory Overcommit, meaning sacrificed density, and finally, vSphere Fault Tolerance (FT). Also, when using Fiber Channel for Guest Clusters, VMware restrict scale to just 5 nodes. No such restriction applies with Hyper-V, with unmatched scale for failover clustering, with support for up to 64 nodes and 8,000 VMs per cluster. Hyper-V Live Migration also offers unlimited simultaneous Live Migrations and Shared-Nothing Live Migration for seamlessly moving VMs between hosts and clusters. Additionally, Hyper-V fully supports Guest Clustering with Live Migration and Dynamic memory, unlike VMware. On storage, Hyper-V is optimized to take advantage of increased capacity of single virtual disks to store huge databases, file repositories or document archives of up to 64TB in size, while vSphere is restricted to only 2TB per virtual disk. Hyper-V also supports the latest hardware innovations such as 4K Advanced Format Disks, which comes with higher capacities, better alignment and resiliency, and ultimately, higher performance. vSphere unfortunately, doesn’t support this new innovation in hardware.
    • Deployment & Management: Hyper-V, combined with System Center, supports VM migration and management from private (behind your firewall) to public cloud (behind service provider’s firewall) through a single pane of glass. This provides organizations with unparalleled levels of flexibility. Additionally, System Center not only supports Hyper-V, but also VMware vSphere and Citrix XenServer based infrastructures. Hyper-V, combined with System Center also provides complete infrastructure monitoring (hardware, hypervisor, operating system, and applications) which is especially useful for deploying, optimizing and monitoring the ongoing performance of workloads such as SQL Server. With VMware, customers are required to purchase expensive additional products to deliver any form of monitoring beyond the standard virtual machine metrics.
    • Lower costs: Hyper-V provides a significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than VMware vSphere for initial licensing and ongoing operations. More details on the cost comparison can be obtained through this web site where the analysis shows that a VMware private cloud solution can cost 5.5 times more than a Microsoft based private cloud solution.

Hyper-V proves to be the best solution for virtualizing SQL Server databases, with superior capabilities in many areas, whilst offering significantly better TCO than VMware. Many customers understand the benefits outlined in the summary and they have chosen to run their SQL Servers using Hyper-V or have switched their existing SQL Server to Hyper-V from VMware. See these case studies for more details.

Microsoft’s Cloud OS platform consisting of SQL Server 2012, Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012, Windows Azure, and Visual Studio 2012 offer a unique and consistent platform, from on-premises, to cloud computing environments, to help organizations modernize their datacenters by leveraging the CAPEX and OPEX efficiencies that cloud computing environments provide. Customers should consider using this platform by trying SQL Server 2012, Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012, Windows Azure, and Visual Studio 2012.