How to Install Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 for VMware vCenter 5 – The Lone Sysadmin

by Bob Plankers on October 6, 2011 · 9 comments

in Best Practices,How To,Virtualization

My venerable post on installing MS SQL Server 2008 for vCenter 4 was getting old, so I thought I’d update it, if only because I have a new admin helping me and I’m going to stick him with doing a bunch of installs. Ha!

I thank the VMware folks who have incorporated a lot of the tweaks from my original document into the defaults for vCenter 5. They were probably obvious, and not taken from my work, but it’s content I don’t need anymore. Awesome.

While I don’t mean this page to become a general support site for vCenter SQL Server installations please leave a comment if something needs to be clarified or corrected, or if I’m doing something dumb here. I consider my DBA skills to be somewhere between amateur and semi-pro, I’m self-taught mainly via Googling stuff, and may not have an answer for you if you are asking a support question. It should go without saying that you should talk to VMware or Microsoft Support if you are having issues.

There are some decent installation resources on Microsoft’s TechNet site for preparing SQL Server installations. It’s worth the read through. Likewise, the first installations I did were on a non-Active Directory, standalone Windows Server VM that I’d taken a snapshot of. The ability to revert the snapshot and try again is priceless.

I am using Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 running on Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2. As with all things in IT your mileage may vary, so use your head. These instructions assume a familiarity with Windows, and a general ability to figure things out once you’ve seen it once (towards the end you’ll see why I say this, I start omitting a lot of repetitive maintenance plan stuff). I tend to create local accounts, even with Active Directory, because I’m just paranoid about network authentication. Do what you like or what you need to.


1. Create an individual role account, ‘sqldb’ for SQL Server. Assign it a long, random password, set “Password never expires” and “User not allowed to change password.”

2. Decide where you are going to do the install. On my hosts I have a system drive, C:, and an application/data drive, E:, which I use for installations like this. This might be a good time to use a database sizing calculator.

3. Download the latest VMware-certified Microsoft SQL Server service pack (from Microsoft) for immediate installation afterwards.

4. Install Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 through Server Manager->Select Server Roles. Check “Application Server” and permit it to add the required features, then advance to the “Select Role Services” page. Check only the “.NET Framework 3.5.1? option, then continue through the installation.


1. Run Setup.The SQL Server Installation Center will start. I usually pick the “System Configuration Checker” from the Planning menu, just to make sure nothing is seriously wrong. If it is I fix it, then exit the Checker.

Once that is complete I choose “Installation” on the left, then “New installation or add features to an existing installation.” This will start the installer. Follow along and enter the license key, then advance to accepting the license terms. I usually don’t opt to send usage data offsite, but do whatever you want.

2. The installer will prompt you to install Setup Support files. You don’t have much choice so go ahead with it.

3. Fix anything Setup Support identifies as a warning or error. If it’s the firewall rules generating a warning consider if you will be connecting from off-machine. If not, no worries, else the warning text has a URL to follow for instructions on how to modify the firewall.

4. On the “Setup Role” page choose “SQL Server Feature Installation.”

5. On the “Feature Selection” page:

Check “Instance Features -> Database Engine Services”

Under “Shared Features” choose Client Tools Connectivity, Management Tools – Basic, and Management Tools – Complete.

I usually also select SQL Server Books Online, too, because I like having the reference available.

I change the Shared Feature directories from C: to E:, with the same path.

6. On the “Instance Configuration” page:

I choose the default instance, leaving the instance ID set to the default (MSSQLSERVER) and change the instance root directory from C: to E: with the same path.

7. Keep clicking Next until you get to the “Server Configuration” page:

Click “Use the same account for all SQL Server services” and enter the account information for the ‘sqldb’ user you created.

Set “SQL Server Agent” to startup type of Automatic. Ensure the “SQL Server Database Engine” is also set to Automatic.

Double-check that “SQL Server Browser” is set to Disabled and has the account name set to “NT AUTHORITYLOCAL SERVICE”

8. On the “Database Engine Configuration” page:

On the “Account Provisioning” tab choose Mixed Mode (SQL Server authentication and Windows authentication). Set a password for the built-in SQL Server system administrator account that is nice and random. This is the superuser account for the database.

Under “Specify SQL Server administrators” add any additional users that will need to maintain the SQL Server (such as yourself). This makes it easy for them to log in and do things. The “Add Current User” button is nice…

On the “Data Directories” tab I change all the C:s to E:s, but that’s just how I roll.

9. Keep moving through the pages of the installation wizard and finish the installation, then install the latest SQL Server Service Pack. Manually run Windows Update to also check for any updates available that way. Reboot if it tells you to.

Database Configuration

1. Start the Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio and log in as the ‘sa’ user.

2. Right-click the topmost SQL Server object, usually named with the machine name or “local” (depending on how you logged in). Choose “Properties.” Choose the “Memory” page. Set “Maximum Server Memory (in MB)” to something sane for the host. I usually set it to 25%-50% of the RAM on the host. The more memory you can give it the better, as the database will cache data in RAM, but you also want to leave room in RAM for the OS (2 GB), some file cache, and vCenter (4 GB) if you are going to install it on the same host. Swapping is bad, remember you can always go in later and increase it again. Click OK.

3. Right-click the “Databases” folder, pick “New Database…” Under “General” I set the database name to “VCDB” but you can name it whatever you want as long as you remember the name. Under “Options” set the recovery model to “Simple.” Click OK.

4. Right-click the “Security” folder, pick “New->Login.” In the General page enter the username ‘vpxuser’, select “SQL Server authentication” and enter a nice long random password that you’ll remember and/or record. I uncheck “Enforce password policy,” “Enforce password expiration,” and “User must change password at next login.” Set the default database to VCDB and the default language to English.

Click the “User Mapping” page on the right. Check the “Map” box for VCDB, then choose db_owner from the role membership list below. Then check the “Map” box for msdb, and choose db_owner for that, too.

I click the “…” box in the “Default Schema” column for both msdb and VCDB, and set the default schema to ‘dbo’. Then click OK.

By the way, you have some options here, as outlined in the VMware documentation. However, I think their documentation is a bit confusing, and the installer will take care of most of this for you. I like that.

5. Grant “VIEW SERVER STATE” to vpxuser in the database in order to enable database monitoring. The quickest way to do this is to click the “New Query” button in Server Management Studio, then enter:

grant VIEW SERVER STATE to vpxuser

and press the “!Execute” button.

6. Configure the SQL Server TCP/IP options. By default TCP/IP is enabled for MS SQL Server, but VMware has instructions on changes that need to be made for JDBC support. Make sure you make those changes to the IPs that will get connections, not just the first one you see. If you’re using IPv6 (and you should be) make sure you set the parameters on those IPs, too.

7. Create an ODBC data source. VMware has instructions on how to do this in their vSphere installation documentation. I usually provide the database name and vpxuser login information so I can test the connection when it offers.

8. Grant “Local Launch” permissions to SQL Server 2008. This fixes a known issue that generates event log errors and may prevent some scheduled jobs from running. To do this open Administrative Tools->Component Services.

Browse to Console Root->Component Services->Computers->My Computer->DCOM Config->MsDtsServer100. Right-click MsDtsServer100 and pick “Properties.”

On the “Security” tab, under “Launch and Activation Permissions” select “Customize” and then click Edit. Add the local ‘sqldb’ user you are using and allow Local Launch. Click OK all the way out.

9. I usually reboot at this point. Some of these changes require restarting the SQL Server anyhow, and if you haven’t rebooted for Windows Update and SQL Server service packs it’s a good opportunity.

vCenter Installation

1. Install vCenter. The specifics of this are documented by VMware. If you are prompted, connect to the VCDB database using the ODBC connection you created above, using the ‘vpxuser’ username and password.

Weekly Database Maintenance Tasks

This part of the installation will set up some regular jobs to clean up the database, make backups, and do some performance optimization. I’ll walk you through the basics, figuring that you can handle schedules and whatnot yourself.

1. Start the Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio again and log in as the ‘sa’ user. Open the “Management” folder and right-click “Maintenance Plans.” Select “Maintenance Plan Wizard.”

2. On the “Select Plan Properties” page give it the name “Weekly Maintenance Plan.” I select “Single schedule for the entire plan or no schedule” and click the “Change” button to pick when I want it to run. I usually have the weekly job run at 2100 on Sunday, as nobody is usually doing anything then, and it’s before my server’s backup window. When you figure this out say OK to the schedule and then Next.

3. On the “Select Maintenance Tasks” page I choose: Check Database Integrity, Reorganize Index, Rebuild Index, Update Statistics, Back Up Database (Full), and Maintenance Cleanup Task. Click Next.

4. On the “Select Maintenance Task Order” page I move “Back Up Database (Full) to after “Check Database Integrity” if it isn’t there already.

5. For “Define Database Integrity Check” I choose all databases, including indexes.

6. For “Define Reorganize Index” I choose all databases, compact large objects.

7. For “Define Rebuild Index” I choose all databases, reorganize pages with the default amount of free space. I also check “Keep index online while reindexing.”

8. For “Define Update Statistics” I choose all databases, all existing statistics, full scan.

9. For “Define Back Up Database (Full)” I choose all databases, and ignore databases where the state is not online. I set the backup set to expire after 21 days, back up to disk, and create a backup file for every database. I set the backup folder to be on my data drive, E:Program FilesMicrosoft SQL ServerMSSQL10.MSSQLSERVERMSSQLBackup, and to use a backup file extension of “bak”.

The “Compress Backup” option seems like a good one but it isn’t supported on 64-bit SQL Server. It’ll let you set it, then fail on execution. This is how I learned where the logs are (E:Program FilesMicrosoft SQL ServerMSSQL10.MSSQLSERVERMSSQLLog). You’ve been warned.

10. For “Define Maintenance Cleanup” I have it delete backup files, using “E:Program FilesMicrosoft SQL ServerMSSQL10.MSSQLSERVERMSSQLBackup” as the search path and “bak” as the file extension. I have it delete files older than 22 days, but you can set it to whatever you need. Pick whatever report options you’d like (if you want email you’ll have to define yourself as an operator elsewhere in the Management Studio).

11. Click OK. I usually go into the Maintenance Plans folder now, right click on this job, and choose “Execute” to see if it runs. Check the logs if it doesn’t.

Daily Database Backup Task

1. If you took the steps above you get a weekly full backup. I like daily backups, too. So go back into the Maintenance Plan Wizard and create a new plan called “Daily Differential Backup.” Set the schedule to recur Monday through Saturday at a good time (like before your system backup). You don’t need to schedule it on Sunday if you have the full backup happening then.

2. Choose only “Back Up Database (Differential)” and configure the plan. Again, I set it to back up all databases, ignoring databases where the state is not online, and to back up to the same location as above (E:Program FilesMicrosoft SQL ServerMSSQL10.MSSQLSERVERMSSQLBackup) with the “bak” extension, expiring after 21 days. Same “Compress Backup” warning as above.

3. Pick the report options you like, click through to save the plan. You might try executing it to see if it works.

Regular Reorganize Database Task

1. One of the performance suggestions buried in the VMware KB is to regularly reorganize the indexes, since the historical statistics tables get unwieldy. You can do this manually (boo), or schedule a job to do it by running the Maintenance Plan Wizard again (yay). Choose only “Reorganize Indexes” and set the schedule to recur every six hours, every day (or however often you want, I figure four times a day is a nice compromise). This keeps the logical fragmentation of the indices down.

2. Click through the pages of the wizard until you get to “Define Reorganize Index Task.” Have it only reindex VCDB, choose “Tables and views” in the Object selection, and check “Compact large objects.” Click through until you’re done.

Check Your Work

You’re done. At this point I’d make sure that all the scheduled jobs run, then wait a couple days to make sure the backups are happening. You might want to try restoring a backup then, too, so you know how to do it if you ever need to, or perhaps practice kicking off a manual backup (for upgrade situations, etc.). Watch your disk space for backups and logs, too. If you are getting a lot of logs you can add or change a maintenance plan with a maintenance cleanup task to delete old logs.


via How to Install Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 for VMware vCenter 5 – The Lone Sysadmin.

How to configure Multi-NIC-vMotion in VMware vSphere 5

We have two new videos for your viewing pleasure today. Both videos discuss and demonstrate the processes involved with configuring Multi-NIC-vMotion in vSphere 5.0

The first video details the process relating to a Standard vSwitch and the second video shows the process concerning a Distributed vSwitch.

Both of these videos were created with the assistance and guidance of our friend Duncan Epping over at Yellow Bricks. Thanks Duncan!

We hope you enjoy these videos!


Towards Virtualized Networking for the Cloud

Towards Virtualized Networking for the Cloud

Posted by Steve Herrod
Chief Technology Officer

VMworld 2011 is well-underway with more than 19,000 attendees gathered in Las Vegas to learn about, celebrate, and drive the future of both virtualization and cloud computing. The amount of news has been staggering, but I want to take more time to focus on one particularly important announcement in this blog; a new vision and approach for networking in the cloud era.

Cloud computing holds the promise of accessing shared resources in a secure, scalable, and self-service manner, and these core tenets place huge demands on today’s physical network infrastructure.  While compute and storage are virtualized, network is still a physical impediment to full workload mobility and can inhibit multi-tenancy and scalability goals. Even with VLAN technologies, the network continues to restrict workloads to the underlying physical network and to non-scalable, hard-to-automate constructs.

Have we seen this before?

I like to think about this problem as similar to one we’ve previously seen in the telephony industry. One of the fundamental challenges with today’s networking is that we use an IP address for two unrelated purposes, as an identity AND as a location. Tying these together restricts a (virtual) machine from moving around as easily as we would like. We had the same challenge with telephony before wireless came of age… our phone number rang for us at a specific destination rather than following us wherever we went!


Just as our mobile phone numbers allow us to take calls virtually anywhere, separation of a machine’s network ID from its physical location enables more mobility and efficiency for applications. And this is exactly what we’re after in the cloud… a model that enables the efficient and fluid movement of virtual resources across shared cloud infrastructures both within and across datacenters. This improved mobility will ultimately enable better approaches to load balancing, disaster recovery, power-usage optimization, datacenter provisioning and migration, and other challenges approaching us in the cloud era.

Welcome VXLAN!

VMware has collaborated with Cisco and other industry leaders to develop an innovative solution to these challenges called “VXLAN” (Virtual eXtensible LAN). VXLAN enables multi-tenant networks at scale, and it is the first step towards logical, software-based networks that can be created on-demand, enabling enterprises to leverage capacity wherever it’s available. How does it work?

Using “MAC-in-UDP” encapsulation, VXLAN provides a Layer 2 abstraction to virtual machines (VMs), independent of where they are located.  It completely untethers the VMs from physical networks by allowing VMs to communicate with each other using a transparent overlay scheme over physical networks that could span Layer 3 boundaries.  Since VMs are completely unaware of the physical networks constraints and only see the virtual layer 2-adjacency, the fundamental properties of virtualization such as mobility and portability are extended across traditional network boundaries. Furthermore, logical networks can be easily separated from one another, simplifying the implementation of true multi-tenancy.

And VXLAN enables better programmability by providing a single interface to authoritatively program the logical network. Operationally, it will provide the needed control and visibility to the network admin while allowing the flexibility of elastic compute for the cloud admin.

And VXLAN can be implemented to be very efficient and resource savvy. We take advantage of efficient multicast protocols for the VM’s broadcast and multicast needs. We leverage Equal-Cost Multi-path (ECMP) in the core networks for efficient load sharing. And within the virtualized environment we leverage vSphere’s DVS, vSwitch, and network IO controls to ensure the VMs get the bandwidth and security that they require. Cisco will certainly leverage the N1000V switch as one key place for VXLAN implementation, and other partners will soon announce their approach as well.

A Collaboration

VMware has collaborated closely with Cisco and industry leaders including Arista, Broadcom, Brocade, Emulex, and Intel in making this an industry-wide effort and to ensure a seamless experience across virtual and physical infrastructure. As part of this effort, we have published an informational IETF draft (see to detail the use case and the technology. To achieve its full potential, VXLAN must be adopted across the industry, and we’re committed to helping this happen in an open and standards-compliant way.

In Closing… 

VXLAN is the flagship in a growing set of capabilities that deliver a new model of networking for the cloud. For some additional context, be sure to check out Allwyn’s blog on logical networks from May. It addresses the physical limitations associated with today’s networking infrastructures in an evolutionary way, and offers a model that enables the efficient and fluid movement of virtual resources across cloud infrastructures. And what’s more, it does so in an evolutionary way that leverages today’s network infrastructure investments. Stay tuned for even more updates on this exciting new development!








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VMware vSphere 5 Licensing and Pricing Update

As you are probably aware, when VMware announced our new Cloud Infrastructure Suite, we also introduced changes to the vSphere licensing based on a consumption and value-based model rather than on physical components and capacity. 

While we believe this model is the right long-term strategy as we move into the cloud-computing era, the announcement generated a great deal of passionate feedback from partners and customers that led us to examine the impact of the new licensing model on every possible use case and scenario - and equally importantly, taking into consideration our partners’ and customers’ desire to broadly standardize on VMware. We’ve listened to your ideas and advice, and we are taking action with the following three updates to the vSphere 5 licensing model:

  • We’ve increased vRAM entitlements for all vSphere editions, including the doubling of the entitlements for vSphere Enterprise and Enterprise Plus. Below is a comparison of the previously announced and the new vSphere 5 vRAM entitlements per vSphere edition:


  • We’ve capped the amount of vRAM we count in any given VM, so that no VM, not even the “monster” 1TB vRAM VM, would cost more than one vSphere Enterprise Plus license. This change also aligns with our goal to make vSphere 5 the best platform for running Tier 1 applications.

  • We’ve adjusted our model to be much more flexible around transient workloads, and short-term spikes that are typical in test & development environments for example. We will now calculate a 12-month average of consumed vRAM to rather than tracking the high water mark of vRAM.

Finally, we introduced the vSphere Desktop Edition to address vSphere licensing in a desktop environment. vSphere Desktop is licensed on the total number of Powered On Desktop Virtual Machines allowing  customers to purchase vSphere for VDI use case on per user basis.  Our price books are being updated and will be available on Partner Central shortly. 

If you have additional feedback please we welcome your comments here. We also have several resources on Partner Central available to provide clarity for you and your customers, a vmLIVE session available for replay, and an additional vmLIVE scheduled for August 10th 

We value our partnership with you and look forward to a successful introduction of vSphere 5 into the marketplace this quarter!

-- Scott Aronson
Senior Vice President of Global Channels and Alliances.

Talk of the Town – VSphere 5 Licensing

A somewhat surprising popular topic at the moment considering the amazing features announced by VMware this week is vSphere 5 Licensing, so says Alan Renouf, a Senior Technical Marketing Architect here at VMware.

Alan has just posted a blog post: vSphere 5 License Entitlements where he speaks to the confusion and misunderstanding of the new licensing model.

Alan also provides a powerful script that you can run on your current system to determine where you stand when you decide to upgrade to vSphere 5. Here is a demo video of that script.

Be sure to head on over to Alan's blog to pick up the source script.

Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 64bit fails to install and experiences blue screen error (1015624)

Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 64bit fails to install and experiences blue screen error (1015624)

· Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 64bit fails to install · If you install Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 64bit in a virtual

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Virtualizing Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server (and a free book contest!): VMware Community Podcast #139

Virtualizing Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server (and a free book contest!): VMware Community Podcast #139

Our podcast topic this week on the VMware Community Roundtable (#139) was Virtualizing Business Critical Applications on vSphere. Our guests were two of VMware's Technical Solutions Architects. Alex Fontana specializes in Microsoft Exchange, and Wanda He in Microsoft SQL Server. Both also contribute to the relatively new blog, Business Critical Applications. As usual, you can listen to the podcast via the widget on the right, via the mp3, or via iTunes. 

Some of the pages and blog posts we discussed:

Alex is a co-author of the book Virtualizing Microsoft Tier 1 Applications with VMware vSphere 4 with Charles Windom and Hemant Gaidhani. Charles and Hemant were both on Podcast #107 last August. Since Charles was nice enough to give me a copy of the book, I would like to pay it forward by sending it to one of you via a contest here. In the comments to this post, tell your story about virtualizing a business critical application. You don't have to make it a long story, and you don't even have to identify your workplace. Just lay out an interesting detail, funny incident, something you hadn't anticipated, or best of all, how well everything went. Be sure and put your real email in the comment (it won't show up on the page, but I'll need to contact you.) I will take all the entries on the comment form - one entry per person - by next Wednesday's podcast and we'll pick a random entry to send the book to. 

Thanks and good luck!


p.s. We're live every week at noon CA time. You can join us live on our podcast platform Talkshoe every week and join in the chat and ask questions. Please come by -- we have a good time! Next week I'll be doing the podcast live in New York at the VMware Forum. To follow all the latest virtualization podcasts, whether you listen to them at your desk or on your commute, come over the VMTN Communities Podcast Group and see the latest content!

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A week in virtualization

A week in virtualization

Weekly virtualization news, as featured on the Community Roundtable podcast.

Yesterday, VMware announced acquisition of SlideRocket. SlideRocket delivers innovative presentation solutions that use modern concepts of cloud computing, collaboration, social media and mobile computing platforms. To find out more, visit You can also check out Steve Herrod's blog post about the acquisition, at

We are still accepting vExpert applications for 2011. In order to be selected as a vExpert, the applicant should have gone above and beyond their day job in contributing to the virtualization and VMware user community. For more details, and to apply, visit VMTN blog at

VMware Studio 2.5 is now available. This release provides a number of cool enhancements, such as provisioning using vCloud Director, Multiple NIC support, ability to deploy an appliance without specifying IP pools. LVM support now allows you to extend appliance disk size after deployment. For a full list of new features, go to

Coming up in the next days and weeks, we have number of events going on in the world of virtualization.

On May 11th, we'll have a webinar on Reliable Disaster Protection with VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager. To find out more and register, head over to

VMware Forum events are taking place in early May in Paris, Frankfurt, Brussels, Rome, as well as in Washington DC, New York, Anaheim, and Mexico City. The web page with details is linked directly from – simply click on the box that says “VMware Forum 2011” on the lower left.

There are four full-day regional VMUG conferences happening over the next couple of weeks, starting with Milwaukee, Wisconsin, tomorrow, and continuing on to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, Dublin, Ohio, and finally Palo Alto, in Silicon Valley, California. Regional VMUGs are full-blown virtualization conferences, with agendas spanning a whole day and up to 1000 people attending.

Additionally, the following VMUGs are meeting over the next seven days: Grand Rapids, Melbourne, Helsinki, and Charlotte. Details and registration links for all these VMUG meetings are at and click “Events.”

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Reduce vCenter Tomcat Memory now

1. Open registry with regedit.exe

2. move to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREWow6432NodeApache Software FoundationProcrun 2.0vctomcatParametersJava

3. change these entries to the following values

JvmMs = 0×0

JvmMx = 0×0

JvmSs = 0×0

4. restart this service “VMware VirtualCenter Management Webservices”

5. enjoy and relax :-)

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Experimenting with Cluster Scale-Out Utilizing VMmark 2

Experimenting with Cluster Scale-Out Utilizing VMmark 2

The first article in our VMmark 2 series gave an in-depth introduction to the benchmark while also presenting results on the scaling performance of a cluster based on a matched pair of systems.  The goal of this article is to continue to characterize larger and more diverse cloud configurations by testing scale-out performance of an expanding vSphere cluster.  This blog explores an enterprise-class cluster’s performance as more servers are added and subsequently the amount of work being requested is increased. Determining the impact of adding hosts to a cluster is important because it enables the measurement of the total work being done as cluster capacity and workload demand increases within a controlled environment.  It also assists in identifying the efficiency with which a vSphere managed cluster can utilize an increasing number of hosts.

VMmark 2 Overview:

VMmark 2 is a next-generation, multi-host virtualization benchmark that models not only application performance but also the effects of common infrastructure operations. VMmark 2 is a combination of the application workloads and the infrastructure operations running simultaneously.  Although the application workload levels are scaled up by the addition of tiles, the infrastructure operations scale as the cluster size increases.  In general, the infrastructure operations increase with the number of hosts in an N/2 fashion, where N is the number of hosts.  To calculate the score for VMmark 2, final results are generated from a weighted average of the two kinds of workloads; hence scores will not increase linearly as tiles are added.  For more general information on VMmark 2, including the application and infrastructure workload details, take a look at the expanded overview in my previous blog post.

Environment Configuration:

  • Systems Under Test : 2-5 HP ProLiant DL380 G6
  • CPUs : 2 Quad-Core Intel® Xeon® CPU 5570 @ 2.93 GHz with HyperThreading Enabled
  • Memory : 96GB DDR2 Reg ECC
  • Hypervisor : VMware ESX 4.1
  • Virtualization Management : VMware vCenter Server 4.1
  • ?

Testing Methodology:

To test scale out performance with VMmark 2, five identically-configured HP ProLiant DL380 servers were connected to an EMC Clarion CX3-80 storage array.  The minimum configuration for VMmark 2 is a two-host cluster running one tile.  The result from this minimal configuration was the baseline used, and all VMmark 2 scalability data in this article were normalized to that score.  A series of tests were then conducted on this two-host configuration, increasing the number of tiles being run until the cluster approached saturation.  As shown in the series’ first article, our two-host cluster approached saturation at four tiles but failed QoS requirements when running five tiles.  Starting with a common workload level of four tiles, the three-host, four-host, and five-host configurations were tested in a similar fashion, increasing the number of tiles until each configuration approached saturation.  Saturation was defined to be the point where the cluster was unable to meet the minimum quality-of-service requirements for VMmark 2.  For all testing, we recorded both the VMmark 2 score and the average cluster CPU utilization during the run phase.


Organizations often outgrow existing hardware capacity, and it can become necessary to add one or more hosts in order to relieve performance bottlenecks and meet increasing demands.  VMmark 2 was used to measure such a scenario by keeping the load constant as new hosts were incrementally added to the cluster.  The starting point for the experiments was four tiles.  At this load level the two hosts had approached saturation, with nearly 90% CPU utilization  The test then determined the impact on cluster CPU utilization and performance by adding identical hosts to the available cluster resources.


As expected, scoring gains were easily achieved by adding hosts until the environment was generating approximately the maximum scores for the four tile load level, as CPU resources become more plentiful.  In comparison to the two-host configuration, the normalized scores increased 6%, 12%, and 12% for the three-host, four-host, and five-host configurations, respectively.  The configurations with additional hosts were able to generate more throughput while also reducing the average cluster CPU utilization as the requested work was spread over more systems.  This highlights the additional CPU capacity held in reserve by the cluster at each data point.  By charting two or more points at the same load level, it is much easier to approximate the expected average CPU utilization after adding new hosts into the cluster.  This data, combined with established CPU usage thresholds, can make additional purchasing or system allocation decisions more straight-forward.

The above analysis looks at scale out performance for an expanding cluster with a fixed amount of work.  To get the whole picture of performance it’s necessary to measure performance and available capacity as the load and the number of hosts increases.  Specifically, as we progress through each of the configurations, does the reduction in cluster CPU utilization and improved performance measured in the previous experiment hold true for varied amounts of load and hosts?  

VMmark2-ScalingHostsScores VMmark2-ScalingHostsCPU 

As shown in the above graphs, the vSphere based cloud effortlessly integrated new hosts into our testing environment and delivered consistent returns on our physical server investments.  It’s important to note that in both the two-host and three-host configurations, the test failed at least one of the quality-of-service (QoS) requirements when the cluster reached saturation.  Also important, the five-host configuration was not run out to saturation due to a lack of additional client hardware.  During our testing the addition of each host showed expected results with respect to scaling of VMmark 2 scores.   As we went through each of the configurations, the normalized scores increased an average of 13%, 13%, and 16%, for the three-host, four-host, and five-host configurations, respectively.  Each of the configurations exhibited nearly linear scaling of CPU utilization as load was increased.  Based on these results, the VMware vSphere managed cluster was able to generate significant performance scaling while also utilizing the additional capacity of newly-provisioned hosts quite efficiently. 

Thus far all VMmark 2 studies have involved homogenous clusters of identical servers.  Stay tuned for experimentation utilizing varying storage and/or networking solutions as well as heterogeneous clusters…


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