Virtualizing? You need more skills


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If you are planning on building a Private Cloud and virtualizing your SQL Servers there are some new skills you MUST acquire.  In addition to all the skills you need to effectively manage your SQL Server instances and databases now you will need to be able to effectively manage the virtual environment that is hosting them.  Even if you work in an environment where the management of the virtual environment is not under your control you need to know how it works.

You will thank me for making you learn this.

Some of the new tasks for managing a virtualized SQL Server Environment

Virtualization

Windows Server w/ Hyper-V

Monitoring

System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM)

System Center Operations manager (SCOM)

SCOM Management Packs

Physical to Virtual Migration

SCVMM

Minimize planned downtime

Windows Server Hyper-V Live Migration

Manage unplanned downtime

Guest Failover Clustering

Load balance across physical hosts

SCVMM

Standardize Server Builds

SCVMM VM Templates

Automate Server Provisioning

SCVMM Self-service portal

Measure Usage

SCVMM Self-service portal

Backup and Recovery of SQL Server Virtual Machines

Systems Center Data Protection Manager (DPM)

Patch Management

System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)

 Windows Hyper-V and Live Migration

Learn how to build and configure a Hyper-V environment with SQL Server guests. Learn this by doing it yourself. Learn how to create a guest VM, configure the CPUs, Memory, Networking and Storage. Learn about Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV).  Know what Pass-Through vs. Fixed disks are and why Dynamic disks are not a good choice for SQL Server storage. Next, install SQL Server on it and install some test databases. Create a SQL Cluster. Implement AlwaysOn Availability Groups.  You will need to know how the hypervisor manages memory and CPU and what the various configuration options do.  You will need to know how each configuration option works and how it effects SQL Server. Practice cluster failovers and Availability Group failovers and Live Migration moves. Learn how to make them work in harmony. Push all the buttons, turn all the knobs.

"Planning, Implementing and Supporting SQL Server Virtualization with Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and Live Migration" http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff898403(v=sql.105).aspx

“Running SQL Server 2008 in a Hyper-V Environment – Best Practices and Performance Recommendations” http://sqlcat.com/sqlcat/b/whitepapers/archive/2008/10/03/running-sql-server-2008-in-a-hyper-v-environment-best-practices-and-performance-recommendations.aspx

Managing the Environment

System Center 2012.  Yes, you can try and monitor everything without using any tools other than your own scripts and PowerShell but why would you?

"System Center 2012 Capabilities Overview" http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/system-center/datacenter-management-capabilities.aspx

Monitoring your virtual environment

System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Operations Manager with the right management packs will make your life much easier. Like learning to monitor SQL Server performance you need to understand what to monitor on both the host and the guest and what the values mean. 

"Virtualization" http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sqlserver/Video/gg429826

"System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012: VMM Gets Major Upgrade" http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/hh300651.aspx

System Center Monitoring Pack for System Center 2012  - Virtual Machine Manager http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=29679

VM Templates

System Center Virtual Machine Manager will allow you to create guest machine templates so that you do not need to manually craft each and every precious SQL Server by hand.  You will need to master not only the VM template abilities of SCVMM but now is the time to dig into sysprep for SQL Server if you have been putting this off.

"About Virtual Machine Templates" http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb740838

"Install SQL Server using SYSPREP" http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee210664.aspx

"SQL Server 2008 R2 Sysprep Step by Step" http://blogs.msdn.com/b/petersad/archive/2009/12/17/sql-server-2008-r2-sysprep-step-by-step.aspx

SCVMM Self Service Portal

The wisdom of allowing just anybody to create a SQL Server whenever they want may be questionable, but you need to get to know the SCVMM Self Service portal. Using this feature you can quickly provision new servers. The features supporting the self service portal also provide for usage tracking and charge back.  Choosing to implement charge back is another heated debate but either way you go the Self Service portal will allow you track SQL Server usage and have some insight into where all that capacity is going.

"Virtual Machine Self Service" http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb740810

Backup and Restore - Data Protection Manager

Work with DPM and practice backing up and RESTORING your virtual environment.  See how the DPM recovery interacts with your SQL Server restore and recovery plans and update your recovery plans accordingly.  Learn how to recover from a wide variety of failures and practice, practice, practice.  It is a lot easier to learn how to recover successfully and document the recovery before the next disaster (I say this a lot).

"DPM: Managing Hyper-V computers" http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh757970

 

It is important for you, the SQL Server professional, to know how to host SQL Server on a Hyper-V environment.  The virtualization specialists at your company may not be as well versed in the needs of SQL Server as you are and it will be your responsibility to make sure that the virtualization of your SQL Servers is performed to provide the best performance, availability and recovery for your clients. Virtualizing SQL Server is coming of age and there are more skills to learn to provide your customers with a reliable "it just works" SQL Server environment.

 

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