Over the last 18 months we have been involved in a number of projects helping clients deploy SharePoint into virtualized environments. As a result of these projects we learnt a great deal about how to virtualize SharePoint, and during November 2008, Martin Kearn, James O`Neill and I presented two sessions at the TechEd 2008 Conference in Barcelona to share our field experiences.

At both these sessions, we asked the question: “How many of you are planning on, or have deployed your production SharePoint farm in a virtualized environment?”.  At least 60-70% of the audience indicated they either had already or were planning on virtualizing their SharePoint environment. It clearly demonstrated the need for more guidance, and is one of the reasons for this series.

Why consider virtualizing your SharePoint farm?

The following is a list of the main drivers we have experienced in existing customer environments:

  • Data Centre issues such as limited or no power and rack space available.
  • Saving your company money by reducing your infrastructure footprint and reducing the power and cooling costs required.
  • Green IT : reduce carbon footprint by reducing the power consumption of your organization.
  • The need for greater mobility, flexibility and manageability in your data centre.
  • Your salary increase and bonus :)  … Implementing strategies that save your company money, that promote Green IT, and that still provide a great service to end users is a fantastic way to justify your salary increase or bonus, in measurable terms, to your boss. It’s a win - win situation!

Is SharePoint virtualization supported?

One of the first questions my customers ask when considering virtualization is “Is SharePoint supported in a virtualized environment?” This question breaks down into two questions that need to be answered. 

  1. Is SharePoint technology supported in a virtualized environment at all?
  2. Is my chosen virtualization vendor’s technology supported?

The SharePoint and windows product team announced support for virtualization of SharePoint on Windows using a number of virtualization products. From a Microsoft perspective, Virtual Server 2005  and Hyper V are fully supported. Third party products, such as VMWare, are also supported via the Windows Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP). This is  fantastic news for the enterprises with existing investments in virtualization products, such as VMWARE ESX virtualization stack. Here are links to the official statements on Microsoft websites:

Real World Support Caveats

  • Microsoft may require the issue to be reproduced independently from the non Microsoft hardware virtualization software (KB897615). This  means that Microsoft will still support you, but if the issue is due to the virtualization vendor, you will need to approach them first.
  • The snapshot feature of Hyper V and other virtualization products  are not supported for SharePoint farms; See : Using SharePoint Products and Technologies in a Hyper V environment. Snapshots in farms with more than one server may cause inconsistencies when rolling back to a previous snapshot on one of the servers in the farm which may result in data corruption.

Virtualizing SharePoint Series Overview

Some points to make about this series:

  • This series is primarily aimed at people involved in architecture and infrastructure roles such as SharePoint Infrastructure Architect, Consultant and IT Infrastructure Administrator. Other roles, such as Developer role, may not find this as valuable and useful although Build and Test Lead role in large SharePoint projects will find some of the posts useful.
  • This series is aimed to help you design and architect virtual SharePoint farms.
  • This is aimed at both Hyper V and VMware (and other certified virtualization vendors)
  • Although Microsoft recommends Hyper V, other products, such as VMware and ESX Server technology, do a fantastic job. The purpose of this series is not to compare these products, but rather to provide guidance to help teams using any certified virtualization product implement SharePoint in the best way possible.
  • As this is a SharePoint blog, and not a virtualization blog, we focus on virtualization aspects that apply to SharePoint. We will prefer to link to existing virtualization content rather than go into two much detail on the virtualization.
  • Lastly, Hyper-V is discussed more frequently but the principles and topics in this series apply to most virtualization products.

Optimizing the performance of a virtualized SharePoint environment

  • "Hosted" versus "bare metal" hypervisor and recommendation for your SharePoint farm
  • What are the physical and virtual hardware boundaries for hosting your SharePoint farm?
  • What are the layers of a virtual SharePoint farm?
  • The difference between a physical and virtual resource
  • Recommendations for your SharePoint environment from a physical and virtual perspective for CPU, Memory, Disk and Network
  • Plan for virtualized SharePoint farms

SharePoint server role recommendations in the virtualized SharePoint environment

  • Virtualizing the web role
  • Virtualizing the query role
  • Virtualizing the index role
  • Virtualizing other roles
  • Why virtualizing the database role is not recommended :) plus recommendations if you still decide to virtualize.
  • Other farm considerations

Monitoring and managing a virtualized SharePoint environment

  • Measure performance of your CPU, memory, disk and network of your physical and virtual SharePoint environment
  • Recommendations for managing your virtual SharePoint environment

High Availability and disaster recovery, deployment best practices, common mistakes and summary

  • Recommendations for high availability and disaster recovery in the virtualized SharePoint environment
  • Deployment best practices for a virtual SharePoint environment
  • Common mistakes that customers make when virtualizing SharePoint
  • Conclusion and summary

Need assistance virtualizing your SharePoint Farm? Chat to MCS UK!

If you need assistance virtualizing your SharePoint Farm, Microsoft Consulting Services can help you. Please send me an email with your contact details, and I will put you in touch with someone from our engagement team who can assist you. Alternatively, if you have a technical question, I will do my best to respond to it.

I hope you find this series as useful and interesting, as I am enjoying putting it together! Am I missing a section or area? Do you have a performance tip I can list? Let me know and I will add it! My contact details are list below.

This article was authored by:

Brian Wilson
Senior Consultant
Microsoft Consulting Services UK
Brian.Wilson@Microsoft.com

Click here for my bio page