Virtualize Microsoft Enterprise Applications (Exchange, Sharepoint and SQL Server) on FlexPod for VMware

February 28, 2011 - 0 Comments

Few days back I blogged about how FlexPod for VMware is a great solution that can accelerate your cloud journey and help move beyond 30% virtualized datacenter (Test & Dev workloads, infrastructure servers, web servers etc.) to virtualizing enterprise applications (e.g. Microsoft, Oracle, SAP etc.), and finally – implement a fully automated IT as a Service solution.

In lot of customer environments, Microsoft applications (e.g. Exchange, Sharepoint, and SQL Server) support a good portion of mission critical business operations. These Microsoft applications have traditionally been hosted on siloed, underutilized IT infrastructure and operational processes that were built based on the requirements of individual applications and processes. The end result is increased total cost of ownership and inability to help business be more agile, introduce new services, and achieve operational efficiency.

Here are some of the key operational benefits to virtualizing Microsoft Apps on FlexPod for VMware:

  • Cost efficiently host multiple instances for virtualized Microsoft applications on a pre-validated, shared IT infrastructure stack with granular end-to-end QoS, ability to meet performance SLAs, and have centralized management
  • Efficiently roll out new instances of virtualized Microsoft applications to achieve business agility
  • Flexibility of hosting the virtualized Microsoft applications in a secure multi-tenant cloud environment
  • Achieve standardized deployments enabled by detailed Microsoft application focused solution architectures and partners enabled deployment services
  • Optimized security, mobility, and fully automated, application-aware data protection and DR
  • Streamlined response to identify and quickly solve potential issues, enabled by the Cisco, NetApp, and VMware cooperative 24/7 support model

In addition, virtualizing Microsoft Apps on FlexPod also provides a lot of benefits to the application owners and end users accessing these apps locally or remotely:

  • No change in the way Microsoft applications have to be managed
  • Enhanced availability, security, and data protection
  • Enhanced performance, particularly for branch office and mobile users accessing these applications hosted in the data center
  • Application-aware load balancing and optimized end-user experience
  • More efficient application roll out to meet the ever changing business needs

How does FlexPod for VMware accelerate Microsoft Applications?

FlexPod for VMware allows you to run the mission critical Microsoft Application with the desired performance, efficiency, and cost efficient backups and DR.


  • VMware vSphere provides a robust and highly-scalable server virtualization platform for Microsoft applications
  • High availability and resource optimization with VMware HA/DRS, and Cisco Nexus and NetApp storage array level HA
  • Cost effectively meet the I/O service level needs for virtualized Exchange, Sharepoint, and SQL Server VMs with UCS I/O virtualization, workload prioritization, and end-to-end 10Gb Ethernet network
  • Increased availability, performance, end-user experience, and security of virtualized Exchange, Sharepoint, and SQL Server applications with Cisco ACE and WAAS, NetApp Data ONTAP, FlashCache, deduplication, and WAFL write I/O optimization
  • ACE improves end-user productivity with application load balancing and faster response time. WAAS provides WAN optimization for faster, cost-efficient application delivery to remote users accessing E-mail, uploading/downloading files/folders to Sharepoint sites, etc.


  • Dynamic provisioning and scale out of compute and storage resources enabled by UCS Service Profiles and NetApp VSC vCenter plugin
  • Rapid deployment of new instances of virtualized Microsoft applications enabled by the NetApp VSC vCenter plug-in. VSC invokes NetApp FlexClone to create zero-cost, hardware-assisted VM clones in a few minutes
  • Very high VM density per FlexPod enabled by UCS Memory Expansion capability, NetApp thin provisioning, deduplication, and FlexClone. This allows efficient hosting of multiple instances of virtualized Exchange, Sharepoint, and SQL Server VMs on the same FlexPod.
  • VMware VAAI integration allows offload of I/O operations from vSphere hosts to NetApp storage (currently for block-based storage), ensuring availability of UCS compute resources to serve application needs
  • Efficiently meet the varying storage requirements for all the virtualized Microsoft applications from the same unified storage array
  • Offload networking tasks for virtualized Microsoft applications to network administration by leveraging the vCenter integrated Cisco Nexus 1000v distributed virtual switch. Nexus 1000v also allows virtualized Microsoft applications to have the same network configuration, security policy, and operational models as in the physical world
  • The security and port settings for individual VMs are retained with VM mobility across different vSphere hosts leveraging VMware vMotion

Cost Efficient Backup and Disaster Recovery

Achieve the desired RPO and RTO with application-aware, hardware-assisted NetApp snapshot backups, fully-automated backup verification, Microsoft VSS integration, and granular recovery (individual Exchange mailboxes and attachments, SQL transactions, Sharepoint files and folders, and VM files).

  • Deduplication-aware remote replication of application data with NetApp SnapMirror
  • Reduced network bandwidth for remote replication to the DR site, enabled by WAAS
  • Reduced DR cost and optimized RTO with VMware SRM
  • Zero cost, zero downtime DR testing enabled by VMware SRM and NetApp FlexClone integration

Here is the initial list of Cisco Validated Designs (CVD) and Architectures developed in close collaboration by virtual team comprised of Solution Architects from the three companies.

Here is what Wen Yu – Sr. Infrastructure Technologist and VMware’s lead architect on a lot of these CVDs and Architectures had to say about his experience working closely with Cisco and NetApp.

“Working with Cisco solutions team has been a blast – my very first engagement started when we were architecting the Secure Multi-Tenancy architecture together.  All our conversations always revolve around solving customers’ biggest problems. Together with Cisco and NetApp, we were able to deliver our promises to the customers – addressing their pain points by providing technical guidance in architectural design, and providing proof points by jointly validating the architecture.  We have some pretty exciting work underway to further enhance our cloud solutions, please stay tuned for more!”

As always, feedback is highly appreciated. We would love to hear your thoughts on future FlexPod focused CVDs and architectures to help accelerate moving Tier-1 enterprise applications to cloud.

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