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Category: Virtualization

The Costs of Virtualization

David Klee points out that virtualization, configured correctly, should not harm SQL Server performance much:

A wonderful reader of my blog sent me a note (thanks Jess!) about a single line notation in the latest SQL Server release notes. The notes is as follows.

Running SQL Server on a virtual machine will be slower than running natively because of the overhead of virtualization.

The question was simple. Why would Microsoft add this disclaimer? It was being used as a negative talking point towards SQL Server virtualization, and holding the DBA team back from getting the benefits of virtualization.

David gives us some rough numbers on what that means. Spoiler alert: if you set up your environment right, it’s not much.

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Building a SQL Cluster Lab

Ryan Adams has started a series on building a Windows cluster in Hyper-V and layering SQL Server on top of it:

Before we start to build a SQL Cluster Lab, let’s look at the desired result. You will build a 3-node cluster replicating an environment that has two data centers. As a result, the first two nodes will reside in data center 1 and the third node in data center 2. We are creating this architecture because it is the most common architecture I see for Availability Groups. It is multi-subnet and can solve for both HA and DR.

You will notice the domain controller in the middle. That piece is certainly not representative of a production environment. However, we are using it in our lab for several different functions and being a router is one of them.

Part 1 is the only part which is currently up, but this looks like it will be a good one. Go buy a couple more sticks of RAM for your PC and get reading.

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Understanding Power BI Data Virtualization Queries

Gerhard Brueckl walks us through a few examples of queries Power BI makes when virtualizing data:

Even though this query only touches two different data sources, it is a good way to analyze the queries sent to the data sources. To track these queries I used the built-in Performance Analyzer of Power BI desktop which can be enabled on the “View”-tab. It gives you detailed information about the performance of the report including the actual SQL queries (under “Direct query”) which were executed on the data sources. The plain text queries can also be copied using the “Copy queries” link at the bottom.

Read on for the queries and for Gerhard’s analysis.

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Beware CPU Oversubscription with SQL Server

Monica Rathbun shares a tale of terror:

Recently I had a client complain of chronic high CPU utilization. The performance of their SQL Server had degraded, and it appeared to be related to higher than normal CPU utilization in conjunction with symptoms of unresponsive user queries.  The root cause was twofold—a third party hosting provider had overallocated virtual processors on the physical host where the virtual machine (VM) running SQL Server was residing, as well as a recent upgrade from a version of VMWare that was not patched for Spectre and Meltdown. The host had 16 physical cores and was hyperthreading (making it effectively 32 cores) until the hosting provider patched from VMWare 5.5 to a newer release (we believe 6.5) which was required for Meltdown and Spectre processor vulnerabilities. This patch disabled hyperthreading from the hypervisor to mitigate the security risk from speculative execution. Note, this patch is over a year old and a critical security risk; most software vendors (including VMWare) put this out as an immediate requirement after the announcement of the vulnerabilities.

Given this was a virtual machine, it shared a physical host with many other VMs; this is a very common configuration. However, this host was VERY overallocated.  As mentioned above, there were 16 cores–however 61 additional vCPUs had been allocated to other machines. That’s 4.3 times the number of CPUs available for allocation.  The screenshot below shows this singular Host, highlighting the vCPUs allocated.

So, uh, that’s a bad thing. Monica explains in detail why exactly it’s a bad thing, which is helpful when you’re trying to explain to the server admin why it’s a bad thing. CPU oversubscription can work for things like dev boxes or web servers, where they typically aren’t anywhere near 100% utilization. It does not work at all for busy database servers.

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Optimizing SQL Server Workloads On VMware

Jeff Mlakar shares a few tips on hosting SQL Server via VMware virtual machine:

Why is Over-Allocating a VM Bad?

Why is is so important to allocate just the right amount of resources for your guest VM running SQL Server? We all know the problem with an undersized system; however, what about an oversized system? What problem could that be? Here are a few common issues to consider:

  • Over-allocating CPU causes poor resource utilization across all the guest VMs

  • Over-allocating memory unnecessarily increases memory contention and overhead on other guest VMs

  • Having more vCPUs assigned to the VM can have an impact on licensing.

There are some good points in the post, so check it out.

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Configuring Disk Controllers In VMs

David Klee explains how you can get a performance improvement in high-I/O virtual machines:

Both Hyper-V and VMware’s default controller emulates the LSI Logic SAS controller, because that’s what is built into Windows driver storage, and *just works* without having to do anything fancy.

But… it’s not necessarily there for speed. It’s there for compatibility so that you can boot up a VM without having to deal with extra drivers.

VMware created a driver a while back that comes with the VMware Tools package called the Paravirtual SCSI controller, and it gives a 10-30% bump in performance (depending on the speed of the underlying storage) because it’s built for speed from the beginning. It’s just not native to Windows, so I don’t personally feel comfortable using it for the C: drive controller unless required. You can change the controller type for these controllers, so we use it by default for non-OS SQL Server object drives.

Definitely worth the read.

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Getting Fancier With VM Creation

Raul Gonzalez shows how to spin up a Hyper-V VM using Powershell:

There are a lots of command to create or manipulate VM’s and I’m still only scratching the surface, but although I’m not a PS person, I have to admit that every time I want to do something, I find relatively easy to find a powershell command or a script for it, so I like it.

For instance, creating new virtual machines it’s a simple as one command

New-VM

And that’s only the beginning, we can add the different virtual hardware like in the UI, Drives, Network Adapters and so on. And then configure memory, CPU and NUMA, etc…

This is the script which I’m more or less running to create my VM’s, this in particular will be a Hyper-V Host itself, so there are a couple of interesting settings I’ll tell you about later.

Click through for Raul’s script.

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