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Perception is Reality When Virtualizing Business Critical Apps

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged anything on a regular basis.  Sorry about that.  I would love to blame it on the three books I’ve written in the last year but that isn’t the only reason.  Hopefully I can turn it around and start writing on a regular basis again.

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while but finally had some time to get it down.  When it comes to virtualizing business critical applications, the perception of poor performance from virtualized application becomes reality whether it is true or not.  It might be because organizations tried to virtualize performance intensive applications years ago when the ESX/ESXi platform was less mature and that memory lingers.  It’s up to us to help educate those organizations that VMware has improved vSphere considerably and it is now capable of scaling to meet the demands of just about any application.

Fighting perception often means fighting nonsensical things that vendors say.  Before I get into this I wanted to say that I consider Microsoft to be very virtualization friendly.  They provide excellent guidance for virtualizing many of their products.  Unfortunately not all of their guidance is so great.

Take a look at the following guidance on virtualizing FAST Search Server (component of SharePoint 2010) – bold emphasis is mine:

FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint supports virtualization, but for larger deployments, we recommend that you only use virtualization for your test and development environments- not the production environment. Our rationale is as follows:

  • FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint is a heavy user of CPU and IO

  • Virtual machines only have access to a limited number of CPU cores (Hyper-V = 4, VM ware = 8)

  • Virtual machines will give 30-40% decrease in overall performance

Yes – it’s bad enough that I’m actually ignoring that they spelled VMware as “VM ware” and focusing on the fact that they say virtual machines will give a 30-40% decrease in overall performance.  I’m not sure where they’re getting this data (perhaps on older versions of vSphere or Hyper-V) but it isn’t true today.  Having been personally involved in the performance tests of production FAST Search Server deployments I can say definitively that that is not the case as long as it’s sized corrected (like any other app).

My advice to you: If you see a vendor make a claim like this, ask for the data to back it up.  Perform your own testing and validate whether it’s true.  Make them prove it.

If we all fight this perception maybe vendors will notice and finally stop saying things like this.  We all benefit when that happens.

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