Virtualizating Microsoft SQL on Cisco UCS, The Usual Suspects of why people don’t virtualize SQL Server

June 21, 2011 - 4 Comments

Virtualizating Microsoft SQL on Cisco UCS,  The Usual Suspects of why people don’t virtualize SQL Server


  • Maybe its performance

In a recent ESG survey, 25% of respondents reported that performance issues were a leading factor preventing them from using virtualization more pervasively. The main stream hypervisors today have low overhead (between 10-12%) with negligible impact on virtualized SQL database environments. In addition, performance testing has proven the overhead impact. Cisco UCS B-Series and C-Series servers provide a range of performance options for high-end SQL compute and consolidated SQL environments.

ESG Whitepaper

SQL Server consolidation with virtualization on Cisco UCS B200 and B250

SQL Server Consolidation 8 to 1 on Cisco UCS

  • Maybe its scalability

Virtualization gives you more flexibility, than any other implementation option. Easily change the number CPUs, RAM, Disks (either Sizing or Adding Additional) and NICs. The Cisco UCS B250 can have 40 Gbps of redundant I/O throughput to handle concerns about over commitment of switch up-links in blades chassis. The UCS B250 can have two UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Cards with support for the unified fabric with consolidated I/O via 10GB Ethernet and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). This also allows flexibility concerning storage protocol choices. Scaled performance testing on both VMware and Hyper-V prove virtualized SQL workloads can match physical systems. Don’t let the old, “When in doubt run physical” be your usual suspect. Remember the goal is not to compare performance for virtual systems to physical systems. There will be overhead involved for both compute and management resources. Set the correct expectations and ensure proper testing is completed to validate your workload requirements. Virtualization provides a number of features to your SQL environment that are not possible with traditional physical deployments and this is an implementation decision not a constraint.

  • Maybe its supportability

Virtualized SQL implementations are completely supported and have been documented by just about every major vendor.

MS SQL 2008 Virtualization

Microsoft’s SQL Virtualization support KB

Cisco’s SVVP participation

Understand your licensing options for SQL and how to take advantage for new systems with higher core density and larger memory footprints. Cisco now has B440 M2 with 40 core and 512GB of memory. The current B250 M2 has up to 12 cores and 384 GB of memory. As this systems scale up in sockets and cores, matching the proper virtual machine workload can save on wasted compute cycles and allow for proper database caching with larger memory footprints.

SQL Server 2008 R2 (licensed in Per Processor mode) Enterprise

  • Maybe its manageability

While the method and process for troubleshooting SQL environments will require additional tools to provide visibility into the hypervisor, these are integrated into the current solution offering from the vendors.

In the case of Hyper-V:

System Center provides in-guest monitoring, physical hardware, hypervisor, operating system, and applications layer visibility with a single console interface

Hyper-V is the best virtualization solution for SQL Server

For VMware:

vSphere Client for viewing performance and configuration data of ESX/ESXi

esxtop/resxtop provides interactive, batch, or replay mode and detailed performance data of a single ESX/ESXi host

Monitoring SQL performance on VMware

  • Maybe its flexibility

There is no need to change your design requirements for SQL implementations. You may even to be able to add a few by consolidating existing physical environments and taking advantage of virtualization benefits including backup, recovery, availability, automated cloning of both SQL environments and databases for development and testing.

Support policy for Microsoft SQL Server products that are running in a hardware virtualization environment

Two areas I would like to point out in this policy are:

Guest Failover Clustering is supported for SQL Server 2005, for SQL Server 2008, and for SQL Server 2008 R2 in a virtual machine for the supported hardware virtualization environments

Any feature or usage that is not stated in this article or in the SQL Server product documentation is assumed to be supported in a virtualization environment by using the same restrictions and support as a “bare metal” hardware environment.

Hopefully this helps put administrators and DBAs at ease when considering their implementation options concerning both clustering and mirroring. Both are support with Hyper-V and VMware. There are a few additional configuration requirements for both, but it is good to see Microsoft supporting the option where availability is a key concern.  

The most commonly virtualized application is SQL Server (73%), followed by SharePoint (53%) and Exchange (46%) Source Windows IT Pro & SQL Server Magazine

The two top hypervisors? VMware vSphere and Hyper-V

There are few more links I want to provide that really standout as great resources for successful SQL virtualization.

High Performance SQL Server Workloads on Hyper-V

VMware DBA Guide to Database

Last but not least,  a good list of SQL bloggers.

If you have the time, please feel free to watch our upcoming webinar on Cisco UCS and Microsoft SQL Server.  We’ll cover the topics mentioned here and more such as OLTP and Data Warehouse. It’s happening on Tuesday, June 28th @ 7:00am PDT and 10:00am PDT. Registration is at

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  1. Vadi,

    Thanks for the comment. I double checked all the links and they appear to be functioning. Some of the links are actual documents and all the links are set to open in a new window. Could you let me know which links are giving you problems?

  2. David,

    Very nice article. However some of the links pointing to microsoft are not working.. Can you please provide the proper link.

  3. Thanks Josh! I agree, utilizing these kinds of features provide advantages to SQL deployments. In addition to licensing, DRS Host affinity rules should also be used in conjunction with virtualized MSCS SQL deployments on VMware vSphere.

  4. Excellent post David. I also think it prudent to point out that using DRS Host affinity rules (in vSphere 4.1) means you can possibly reduce licensing costs by not having to license every host in the VMware cluster. I’m not sure what similar availability may lie in a Hyper-V environment.