Sep 162014
 

vmwareThis past week I was fortunate enough to attend a three-day special session at VMware Corporation’s corporate campus in Palo Alto, CA, specifically designed to help educate and inform SQL Server MVPs with some of the most detailed training on the convergence of the VMware ecosystem and SQL Server. This was not a vendor wine-and-dine, dog-and-pony show. This was the deepest, most technical training session that I have ever had since I attended the SQLskills Immersion Events. It’s everything that I need out of a technical training environment, without any of the persuasion or marketing that you usually expect with vendor-sponsored training.

The criticality of the convergence between the infrastructure and the database is evident with today’s converged and hyper-converged virtual infrastructures. Businesses depend on the data that these systems are delivering, and if the system has an inefficiency or misconfiguration in any one of the layers in the stack, everyone suffers. If the issue is large enough, the business can fail. The education of this group of individuals is key, as this is the group that is in the position to share the knowledge with the SQL Server communities.

Attendees

The DBAs attending this event are among the best technologists in the world, and have incredible skill and years of experience with maintaining their customers systems. However, virtualization and the infrastructure around it is usually a black box and inaccessible. What VMware is trying to do is educate the people in the SQL Server space with the nuances of the VMware ecosystem and its direction, who can then share this knowledge with the community. Education is key to removing the mystery and unknowns around the virtualization technologies, and VMware did an incredible job bringing together the right people and topics to make this event a complete success.

The attendee list for this inaugural event is simply amazing. VMware recruited a select list of folks from the SQL Server community who are hands-on and neck-deep in infrastructure technologies.

Technical Hands-On Experience

Not only was it a large number of technical deep-dive sessions with key VMware leadership and technical staff members, but we also had hands-on labs. VMware used a specialized set of packages around their HOL platform to provide us customized content targeted to this audience. No explicit directions were given for any of the labs. It was more along the lines of an end-state and a technology to explore, and we were left to our own devices to get there.

I loved it. I felt like I was back in my home lab exploring a new technology over a weekend, except their equipment was a LOT faster and we had teams to facilitate group learning.

Discussions

Again, these sessions were incredible. From a candid and quite frank with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger (and thank you for a wonderfully insightful and candid response to the blunt question that I asked that has been in my head for years) and Pure Storage CEO Scott Dietzen and VP Matt Kixmoeller, to the key internal teams responsible for some of the features that I use in all of my mission-critical virtualization initiatives, the speakers were from all over VMware’s ranks and represented the best of breed from the company.

grant fritcheyThe discussions were not only centered around educating the attendees on the technical abilities and limitations of the core vSphere features, the speakers were also actively questioning us on how their products and technologies were being used, and each and every one of them wanted feedback on the features we wish could be improved and directions for future development. They wanted to know how things were being used in the field, what our primary observations were, and the scale of the systems being virtualized. I think we shocked them with the scale of some of the systems that we work on.

We also had a few outings at the end of the first two days, such as supper on the VMware campus front lawn, and then a SF Giants baseball game. Nice touch!

att park

Amazing

Now you all know by now that I am a huge proponent of complete SQL Server virtualization. I have attended and spoken at a number of SQL Saturdays, webinars, conference sessions, and post a lot of blog posts on this topic. This class has taught me even more about the inner workings of the platform and products that I have come to embrace and endorse. The fast pace of the sessions, the energy from the coordinators and other attendees, and the rush of knowing that you are helping to guide and improve one of the most important technologies on the planet, kept a smile on my face the entire week.

Thank you VMware. Your commitment to the platform and the applications that make your platform shine has never been more evident to me. I’m excited for the directions that your products are going, and am eager to continue to show the world that virtualizing mission-critical applications should just be an assumption instead of a point of contention.

Sep 102014
 

vmworld2014_thumbA few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend VMware’s VMworld 2014 conference in San Francisco, CA. The show was simply amazing. I spent the show mostly meeting with the different technology vendors and other consulting groups, and feel that the relationships created at this event will last a lifetime.

With regards to database professionals worldwide, I feel that the most important announcement of this event for the upcoming release of vSphere 6.0 (no announced release date at this point) is the enhancement of multiple vCPU Fault Tolerance (SMP-FT). Previously, the fault tolerance feature within the vSphere suite was limited to one virtual CPU per VM. For SQL Server, this essentially prohibited the use of this feature. Now, vSphere 6.0 will have up to four vCPUs and 64GB of RAM available for use with VMs configured under VMware Fault Tolerance. I claim that this is one of the most significant developments of the year. Consider a SQL Server Availability Group configuration architected with each synchronous VM built with Fault Tolerance configured. Your most important business-critical database platforms, when constructed and managed properly, might actually achieve a 100% uptime for unplanned hardware failure outages.

That’s tremendous.

Yes, the four vCPU and 64GB of RAM maximum is a limitation for DBAs, but I claim that a good number of business-critical SQL Server workloads could be made to fit within these constraints. Four is definitely better than one! It presents one more very viable option for building hardened and resilient platforms for your critical systems.

From a data professional perspective, the other announcements from VMworld are a bit less vital. For VMware administrators, the announcements are great and will save us all quite a lot of time for routine administration in the future.

  • Cross-cluster and cross-vCenter vMotions are to be supported, which helps to improve a hardware upgrade by allowing you to move VMs between dissimilar clusters without downtime.
  • A calculator called the vSphere Replication Calculator was announced that can help you determine the RPO, number of virtual machines, and the replication network bandwidth that is required to appropriately size a DR project.
  • Performance of the vSphere Web Client is supposed to get better, part of which I have already addressed here for existing installations.

Otherwise, additional details on the upcoming release are pretty slim at this time, but I have high hopes for this next revision!

FYI – the vSphere 6.0 beta is open to everyone, but specific details of the implementation any other features not publicly announced are all under NDA, so keep this in mind if you explore this beta. I can’t wait to get this fired up in the lab so I can explore this upcoming release!

Sep 022014
 

My summer event hiatus is coming to a close, and we’re now back into the conference and event season! I’ve spent the summer making some wild plans for new posts and research articles (and more) that I’ll be releasing on here this fall. Stay tuned for some exciting announcements!

I do have a number of upcoming events that I would like to share with you. Hopefully I’ll see you at some of these!

First, on September 13th I will be in Kansas City for their next SQL Saturday #300 event. The event is being held at Cerner Corporation’s Riverport Campus, 6711 NE Birmingham Road, Kansas City MO. I’ve been to this event every year for quite a while now, and it’s definitely one of my favorites. My session this year is the SQL Server Virtualization 101 session, and I always look forward to presenting this one. It’s a great introduction to virtualization for any DBA who has never had any exposure to the details on the virtualization layer. Register today for this event here!

I go from there to Las Vegas for this year’s IT/Dev Connections conference held at the ARIA Resort on September 15-19. I am very lucky to have been selected to present two sessions this year – “Make Your Virtualized SQL Server Machines Top Performers” and a joint session with my friend Ben DeBow entitled “Scaling Your Virtualized SQL Servers Up and Out“.

I fly straight from IT/Dev Connections to this year’s SQL Saturday #331 in Denver! It’s being held at the University of Denver – Driscoll Student Center, 2055 East Evans Avenue, Denver CO on September 20. I’m presenting the followup to the 101 session aptly entitled “SQL Server Virtualization 201“. Register today for this event here!

Hopefully I can catch a few zzzz’s after this event, because just one week later I’ll be at the next SQL Saturday #318 in Orlando on September 27th at Seminole State College, 100 Weldon Blvd, Sanford FL. I’m excited to attend this event for the first time. I’m hitting the tail end of the massive session lineup with my “Easy SQL Server Benchmarking” session. Register for this event here!

Heraflux-Logo-Color-SMAfter a short break, I’m presenting a preconference session entitled “Virtualization for SQL Server DBAs” on October 24th in front of the next SQL Saturday #332 in Minneapolis. The all-day training is designed to help you, the DBA, understand the intricacies of virtualization from a DBA’s perspective, and give you the foundation to take back all the tips and tricks needed to maximize your system’s performance and availability when virtualized. Seats at this all-day class are a steal at just $99. To register for this precon, click here.

I’m not the only one presenting at this event! Argenis Fernandez, Jason Strate and Adam Jorgensen, and Mark Vaillancourt are all presenting fantastic preconference training sessions. If virtualization is not your thing, please check out the other precons.  This is the best training that you can get – without having to travel – at an incredible price!

The following day is Minneapolis’ next SQL Saturday on October 25th. It is being held at the University of Minnesota – Keller Hall – 200 Union Street SE, Minneapolis MN. It’s my first time at this event too! The schedule has yet to be posted, but I know the lineup will be great based on the submissions and tales from previous events. I can’t wait! Register for this event here.

2014_header_logoA little over a week later I’ll be in Seattle for this year’s infamous SQL PASS Summit 2014 from November 2-8th. I was fortunate enough to be selected to present a really tough session – “Right-Sizing Your SQL Server Virtual Machines“. I’ve got a lot of fun demos for this session, and I can hardly wait! November will be here before we know it. If you have never made it to the SQL PASS Summit conference before, it is the defacto event for SQL Server professionals each year. I’ll never miss it again. Period. Register today to lock in a lower rate than if you wait until the last minute!

If you’d like to have me speak for your user group, either in person or remote, feel free to contact me! I’d love to talk with your group and spread the word about how DBAs can use virtualization to their advantage!

Aug 202014
 

VMWorld-blogCan you believe that this year’s VMworld conference is just around the corner? It’s next week – August 24 – 28 – at the Moscone Center in San Francisco!

If you have never been to VMworld before, it’s an amazing event. VMware has a great guide for first-timers on their site for you to reference so you can get the most out of the conference. The schedule is intense and participating in the sessions and surrounding events will really help you immerse yourself in the VMware ecosystem and community.

The full content catalog is live here. Below are some of the sessions that I think you should check out if you are interested in or work with the convergence of databases and virtualization technologies.

BCO1296 – A Blueprint for Disaster Recovery of Business Critical Applications (SAP, Oracle, SQL & Exchange)

VAPP2979 – Advanced SQL Server on vSphere Techniques and Best Practices

STO3008-SPO – Decoupled Storage: Practical Examples of Leveraging Server Flash in a Virtualized Datacenter

BCO3028-SPO – Designing Virtual Environments for Efficient Recovery and DR

INF1420 – Extreme Performance Series: Understanding Virtualized Memory Management Performance

INF1469 – Extreme Performance Series: Monster VM Performance

INF2427 – DRS : Advanced Concepts, Best Practices and Future Directions

VAPP2305 – Extreme Performance Series – Understanding Applications that Require Extra TLC for Better Performance on vSphere – Deep Dive

INF1972 – Managing Database Size Growth for vCenter Server

VAPP2389 – Use Storage Virtualization to Protect Business Critical Functionality with vSphere and Oracle Extended Distance Clusters

I’ll be floating about the conference all over the place, and feel free to contact me if you want to meet up! No matter what, not only enjoy the conference but enjoy the festivities around it tooI hope to see you there!

Aug 132014
 

vbrownbag

Next Wednesday, August 20th, at 7:30pm Central I will be presenting a webinar for the Professional VMware #vBrownBag entitled “SQL Server Virtualization for VM Admins“. The #vBrownBag webinar series covers a number of VMware-related topics, and I am very pleased to be able to present my session to the group.

This webinar goes into great detail on how virtualization professionals can stop fearing the resource consuming SQL Server platform and virtualize them as painlessly as possible. Performance data collection, host validation, proper VM design, and SQL Server configuration best practices, tips, and tricks are to be presented. Best yet, a solid approach on how to discuss virtualization with your DBAs will be presented, so that you can talk with your DBAs and get them excited about virtualizing their mission-critical database systems!

To register for this free webinar, simply click here. I look forward to seeing you on this webinar!

Aug 072014
 

SQL Server CentralI’m proud to announce that yesterday the first installment of my new Stairway series at SQL Server Central has been released – Stairway to SQL Server VirtualizationVirtualization is becoming more and more common, and without an understanding how virtualization works, the DBA will have blind spots when attempting to resolving performance issues, such as reduce resource contention, or improve the backup and restore operations, and so on.

The first Level in this series answers the questions surrounding just what is virtualization, and how does it relate to SQL Server DBAs. The differences that it makes in terms of day-to-day operations, high availability, agility, and standardization are all discussed.

I hope you enjoy reading this article, and stay tuned for more Levels coming soon!