VMware HA / DRS Solution Scenarios on Dell PowerEdge Servers

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1 VMware HA / DRS Solution Scenarios on Dell PowerEdge Servers By Scott Hanson Dell Enterprise Technology Center Dell Enterprise Technology Center dell.com/techcenter April 2007

2 Contents Executive Summary...3 Introduction...4 HA / DRS Concepts...5 HA Concepts...6 HA Setup... 6 HA Isolated Hosts... 6 HA Heartbeat Network... 6 DRS Concepts...7 DRS Automation Features... 7 DRS Resource Distribution... 8 DRS Affinity Rules... 9 HA / DRS Scenarios...10 Lab Setup...10 Planned Maintenance...10 Unplanned Outages...12 Dynamic VM Movement with Workload Spikes...13 Proactive Maintenance and Power Management...13 Conclusion...14 Figures Figure 1 - VMware Cluster and DRS Automation Levels... 7 Figure 2 - DRS Resource Distribution Graph... 8 Figure 3 - Unbalanced Cluster... 8 Figure 4 - DRS Affinity Rules... 9 Figure 5 - Dialog Box for Confirmation of Maintenance Mode Talk Back Tell us how the Dell Enterprise Technology Center can help your organization better simplify, utilize, and scale enterprise solutions and platforms. Send your feedback and ideas to April 2007 Page 2 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

3 Section 1 Executive Summary Servers are increasing in performance at an exponential rate and customers are discovering that they are able to run many applications on a single server through the use of virtualization. This means that customers run the risk of multiple virtual server downtime if a single physical server goes down. To mitigate this risk, it makes sense to use industry standard based Dell PowerEdge servers running VMware Infrastructure 3 to create a virtualization farm or virtualization cluster to host these virtual servers and the applications running on them. This solution provides server virtualization with load-balancing and high availability features that make it possible to manage a large number of virtual systems across a cluster and also provide a mechanism to make the applications running on these virtual machines highly available in the case of a physical server failure. Using several scenarios, this paper will evaluate the setup, use, and performance of VMware Infrastructure High Availability (HA) and Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) using Dell PowerEdge 2950 and 1955 Servers. Enterprise class reliability and functionality can be obtained by using VMware s HA and DRS Solution on Dell PowerEdge servers. This solution provides cost effective enterprise class computing with easy to use availability features. April 2007 Page 3 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

4 Section 2 Introduction In the previous paper Advantages of Dell PowerEdge 2950 Two Socket Servers over Hewlett-Packard Proliant DL 585 G2 Four Socket Servers for Virtualization 1, it was shown how Dell two socket servers can be a better solution for virtualization than HP four socket servers when considering performance, price/performance, or performance per watt. The central comparison in this previous paper was three Dell PowerEdge 2950s against two HP DL 585 G2 servers to examine them from a cluster point of view because most customers are not running virtualization on a single server. It can be argued that using more servers in a VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) cluster solution increases overall availability. With smaller more cost effective servers used as building blocks for the virtualization cluster, it is easier to recover from a server failure than if those building blocks were larger systems with more VMs. The two-socket server is an ideal base for building VI3 clusters as there are not as many eggs in one basket. However, it would be best if there were a mechanism to restart the virtual machines from the failed hosts on remaining hosts in the VMware farm. Using VMware s HA (High Availabilility) and DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduler) it is possible to obtain this functionality. VMware HA allows virtual machines on failed ESX server hosts to restart on surviving ESX hosts. The DRS solution uses system algorithms and user created rules to determine the optimal placement of the virtual machines. In order to better understand the management and performance of these VI3 clusters, the Dell TechCenter set up and documented the results from the following scenarios with PowerEdge 2950 and 1955 servers.: Planned Maintenance Unplanned Outages Dynamic VM Movement with Workload Spikes Proactive Maintenance and Power Management 1 April 2007 Page 4 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

5 Section 3 HA / DRS Concepts A cluster in VMware ESX is simply a collection of hosts with shared resources and a shared management interface. Any host added to the cluster will have its resources added to the cluster s resource pool. VMware High Availability is a licensable feature that can be added to the cluster. VMware HA allows virtual machines in the cluster to restart on other hosts in the cluster in the event of a host failure. This failover occurs automatically within the cluster. VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler is also a licensable feature that can be added to the cluster. VMware DRS collects resource usage information for all hosts and virtual machines in the cluster and generates recommendations for VM placement. These recommendations can be automatically applied or applied through administrator interaction with the VirtualCenter Client console. VMware HA and DRS are separate features but are typically used together and complement each other in the cluster. For detailed information on the topics discussed in this section, please refer to Sections 4 through 8 of VMware s Virtual Infrastructure 3 Resource Management Guide 2 2 April 2007 Page 5 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

6 HA Concepts HA Setup It is important to understand the difference in VMware HA and traditional HA failover solutions. Traditional HA solutions such as Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS) focus on keeping an application alive during a failure. In order to obtain that level of availability it is necessary to duplicate much of the hardware. The standby boxes in the traditional HA solution are typically not running any workload. When the primary server fails, only then does the standby server pick up the work of the primary. Users would typically experience no loss of connectivity, or very minimal downtime. VMware HA handles a failover situation by restarting VMs on remaining hosts in the cluster. When a host fails with VMware HA, all VMs on that host are powered off and then restarted on another host. When this happens, users must wait for the server to go through the boot process before they can regain connectivity. Traditional HA and VMware HA can be used together to provide a higher level of availability. Setup of this configuration is covered in VMware s documentation, Setup for Microsoft Cluster Service 3 VMware HA is set up in the VirtualCenter interface through the click of a checkbox after setting up a cluster. This action installs an agent on each ESX Host in the cluster. This agent is responsible for sending heartbeats to all the other nodes in the cluster. If the agents stop receiving heartbeats from the other nodes in the cluster, it is considered failed and the restarting of VMs process begins. VirtualCenter is only required for the initial setup of HA. VMware HA will function without VirtualCenter running in the environment. HA Isolated Hosts If a host in the cluster becomes isolated, the default action for VMware HA is to power down the VMs on the isolated host. This allows remaining hosts in the cluster to restart the VMs on surviving hosts. If the VMs were allowed to run on the isolated hosts, VMFS disk locking would prevent the starting of VMs on other hosts in the cluster. HA Heartbeat Network VMware HA monitors status of the nodes in the cluster by sending and receiving network packets called heartbeats to all nodes. If nodes do not respond to heartbeat packets within 15 seconds, they are considered failed. Therefore, it is important to have robust network connections for the heartbeats. A best practice is to install redundant physical network adapters in each host of the cluster. You can then either team them with NIC teaming, or setup two service console interfaces to enable a redundant heartbeat connection. 3 April 2007 Page 6 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

7 DRS Concepts VirtualCenter using DRS, manages all resources of a VMware cluster. The memory and CPU resources of each individual ESX host become part of a global resource pool that all VMs in the cluster can use. DRS provides automatic resource optimization and dynamic movement of VMs through VMware s VMotion technology. DRS Automation Features With DRS, when you create a new VM in the cluster, you do not specify the specific host. DRS handles the initial placement of the host at power on, depending on the Automation Level that has been specified for DRS. Manual DRS will make recommendations for which host when the VM is powered on. DRS will not move the VM during normal operations, only make recommendations in the VirtualCenter Console. Partially Automated DRS will automatically choose the host for the VM when powered on. DRS will not move the VM during normal operations, only make recommendations in the VirtualCenter Console. Fully Automated - DRS will automatically choose the host for the VM when powered on. DRS will automatically migrate machines during normal operations to optimize resource usage. Automatic migration is controlled by a Migration Threshold slider bar that the user can set from conservative to aggressive. Figure 1 shows an example cluster of HA-DRS Test. The HA-DRS Test Settings box shows the cluster set to an automation level of Partially Automated. The General box in the Summary tab also shows the total memory and CPU resources for the cluster. The resources are a result of adding all the resources from the 3 Hosts in the cluster. Figure 1 - VMware Cluster and DRS Automation Levels April 2007 Page 7 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

8 When a VM is created within a cluster enabled for DRS, it is not associated with any particular host until powered on. Then DRS according to the automation level and Resource Distribution levels will place the VM on a host in the cluster. DRS Resource Distribution DRS keeps track of the CPU and memory utilization percentages of the hosts in the cluster and the percent of entitled resources delivered. DRS uses these statistics to determine optimal placement of VMs within the cluster. The DRS Resource Distribution graph is located on the Summary tab of the VirtualCenter management console for the cluster. An example is shown below in Figure 2 Figure 2 shows an example of a balanced cluster. The number of hosts vertical axis is dynamic and will change with changing utilizations of the hosts. This shows that all three hosts are within a 40-50% Memory Utilization range and within a 0-10% CPU Utilization range. This shows that the cluster is balanced and DRS does not need to move VMs. If this changes the bars will split and show different ranges. Figure 2 - DRS Resource Distribution Graph Figure 3 shows a cluster in an unbalanced condition. Notice that the number of hosts axis has changed to 2. This shows that 2 of the hosts are in the 60-70% Memory Utilization range and one in the 20-30% range. In general, DRS will move VMs to other hosts to try to get the bars closer together, with a single bar representing completely balanced. So in this example, DRS would move some VM s from the 2 hosts in the 60-70% memory utilization range to the host in the 20-30% range. Thus increasing utilization on the single host and decreasing on the other hosts, bringing the bars closer together. Figure 3 - Unbalanced Cluster April 2007 Page 8 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

9 DRS Affinity Rules DRS allows the creation of rules to determine if VMs should run on the same host, or be separated from each other. The figure below shows DRS Affinity rules. In this example, wina1, wina3, and wina5 will always run on the same host in the cluster. Wina1 and wina2 will always be started on separate hosts in the cluster. Figure 4 - DRS Affinity Rules April 2007 Page 9 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

10 Section 4 HA / DRS Scenarios Lab Setup The PowerEdge 1955 is a dual-socket server that supports Intel Xeon 5000, 5100, and 5300 series processors. The Dell test team configured the PowerEdge 1955 with two quad-core Intel Xeon X5355 processors at 2.66 GHz. The PowerEdge 1955 was configured with 8 GB of memory using 2GB DIMMs. The PowerEdge 1955 was connected to a storage area network (SAN) with dualport QLogic 2462 PCI Express host bus adapters (HBA) and utilized storage on a Dell/EMC CX3-80 array with twenty 146 GB, 15,000 rpm disks. The scenarios tested below used VMware Infrastructure 3 as the virtualization platform; this package includes ESX Server 3 and VirtualCenter 2 as well as the VMware DRS and VMware HA features. ESX Server allows multiple virtual machines (VMs) to run simultaneously on a single physical server. Each VM runs its own OS, which in turn has its own set of applications and services. Because ESX Server isolates each VM from other VMs on the same physical server just as physical systems are isolated from one another, administrators have flexibility in using ESX Server to run different types of applications and operating systems at the same time. VirtualCenter 2 enables administrators to consolidate control and configuration of ESX Server systems and VMs, which can improve management efficiency in large environments. Planned Maintenance The first logical scenario to use VMware HA/DRS functionality is with planned maintenance windows. Servers typically require several updates to BIOS or firmware per year. Not to mention the fact that many I/O adapters in the system typically require updates as well. These updates will typically require a reboot of the physical server. With VMware HA/DRS enabled, you simply have to place the host into Maintenance Mode. This event triggers DRS to VMotion VMs running on that host to remaining hosts in the cluster based on the DRS rules. The DRS Automation level must be set to Fully Automatic for this to occur. If the automation level is set to Manual or Partially Automated, the host will not enter Maintenance Mode until the VMs have been manually migrated. The Virtual Center console interface uses a dialog box, figure 5 below, to remind the administrator about this requirement. April 2007 Page 10 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

11 Figure 5 - Dialog Box for Confirmation of Maintenance Mode One of the scenarios set up in the Dell TechCenter lab was a simulation of planned maintenance using 3 blades with 2 VMs on each blade for a total of 6 VMs. One of three blades was placed into maintenance mode which caused the two VMs from that blade to migrate via VMotion to the remaining blades in the cluster. DRS moves each of the VMs to different servers in the cluster to maintain balance. The time it took DRS to migrate the two VMs after placing the host in maintenance mode took 1 minute and 10 seconds. During this time, users connected to the two VMs experienced no loss of connectivity. The host in maintenance mode can then be updated and rebooted with no loss of user connectivity to the VMs because they are now running on the other servers in the cluster. When the maintenance with the server is finished and maintenance mode is turned off, DRS will automatically migrate VMs back to the hosts to balance the workload. The team increased the number of VMs on the hosts to see the increased amount of time this task would take with a larger configuration. The number of VMs on each host was increased to 16 on each host, for a total of 48 VMs in the cluster. Each host was then put into maintenance mode separately and timed. The comparison of the first test with these tests average time is shown in the table below. One Host with 2 VMs One Host with 16 VMs Completion Time 1 min 10 secs 8 mins 15 secs Table 1 - Time to Enter Maintenance Mode The increased amount of time for more VMs is due to the fact that VMware queues up the VMotions two at a time. Therefore; the more VMs on a host, the longer time it takes to enter maintenance mode. When planning your cluster design, this should be taken into consideration. A video of this planned downtime scenario can be viewed at the Dell Enterprise Technology Center website. Please visit to download the demonstration. April 2007 Page 11 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

12 Unplanned Outages One of the biggest advantages to using VMware HA is the ability of VMs to restart in the event of an unplanned outage. The VMware HA Agent on each host sends a heartbeat to all the hosts in the cluster. In the event that the heartbeat is lost, the VMs on that host are restarted on remaining hosts in the cluster. DRS affinity rules can also be defined in the event that you require VMs to either stay together on a single host, or to separate the VMs to different hosts. To test how VMware HA and DRS function during an unplanned outage scenario the Dell TechCenter team used three blades installed in a VI3 cluster with 2 VMs running on each blade. The unplanned outage was then simulated by physically removing one of the blade servers from the chassis. It took about 15 seconds for the VirtualCenter console to detect the host loss. This is the amount of time in which the HA heartbeat timed out. The VMs were then automatically restarted on remaining hosts in the cluster. This operation took approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The total time that the user experiences application outage will vary depending on the amount of time it takes to restart the VM and associated applications and services. Traditional HA solutions such as Microsoft Cluster Server experience no application outages, or outages in the seconds range. It is recommended that these solutions be combined with VMware HA to provide a more robust solution for applications that truly require high-availability. To get an idea of how long a user might experience the outage, a ping test was performed while simulating the unplanned outage. A continuous ping was initiated to a VM on the blade in test. After the blade was pulled from the chassis, the amount of time from when the ping stopped to when it started again was measured. This test was performed separately three times on the three blades in the cluster. The time it took for each ping to recover is shown in the table below. VM on Blade 1 VM on Blade 2 VM on Blade 3 Ping Recovery Time 5 mins 40 secs 7 mins 28 secs 3 mins 10 secs Table 2 - Ping Recovery Time The average time for these three tests was 5 mins and 26 secs. If the applications being hosted by VMware are not of a mission critical nature and downtime of a few minutes is acceptable, then a VMware HA only solution may be a good choice. This unplanned outage scenario is illustrated in a video that can be viewed at the Dell Enterprise Technology Center website. Please visit to download the demonstration. April 2007 Page 12 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

13 Dynamic VM Movement with Workload Spikes A strength of DRS is the ability to move VMs around the cluster in response to dynamic changes in workload. An example would be spikes in internet activity to an online retailer during the holiday season. Another example is end of month processing or payroll processing at financial firms. In each case, specific servers are suddenly much more heavily loaded than under normal conditions. When all of these systems are running as VMs as part of a VI3 cluster the DRS function has the ability to use VMotion to automatically rebalance the cluster so that performance is optimized. The Dell TechCenter setup a third lab scenario to test the dynamic movement of VMs in response to changes in workload. The test used the Dell DVD Store Version 2 4 to simulate online web orders to 3 VMs in the cluster. The VMs are named wina1, wina2, and wina3. Wina1 and wina2 are hosted by the first blade in the cluster. Wina3 is hosted by the second blade in the cluster, and the third blade in the cluster has no VMs. Workload was started on wina1 and wina2 which maximizes CPU utilization of the first blade to almost 100%. A workload was then started on wina3 which generated about 50% CPU utilization to that blade. The third blade in the cluster had no workload and therefore very low CPU utilization. DRS recognized that the heavy workload on blade 1 should be spread out across the cluster. Using VMotion technology, DRS migrates the wina1 VM to Blade 3. After the DRS migration, each host in the cluster had a workload that was generating approximately 50% CPU utilization. The demonstration scenario for this section can be viewed at the Dell Enterprise Technology Center website. Please visit to download the demonstration. Proactive Maintenance and Power Management The Dell Virtualization Solutions Engineering team (www.dell.com/vmware) has produced a paper that describes how administrators can combine Dell s OpenManage Systems Management suite with the cluster resources of VMware Infrastructure 3 to achieve proactive maintenance that enhances service continuity and adaptive power utilization that further drives down power and cooling costs. The scripts and programs provide a framework to integrate systems management with VMware VirtualCenter by using the VMware SDK. Users can download and modify the code to fit their environment. The title of the whitepaper is Proactive Maintenance and Adaptive Power Management using Dell OpenManage Systems Management for VMware DRS Clusters by Balasubramanian Chandrasekaran and Puneet Dhawan April 2007 Page 13 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

14 Section 5 Conclusion Customers looking for enterprise class reliability and functionality can obtain it by using VMware s HA and DRS Solution on Dell PowerEdge servers. To obtain the highest levels of availability it is recommended to combine traditional high availability solutions, such as Microsoft Cluster Server, with these VMware Infrastructure 3 features. This solution provides cost effective enterprise class computing with easy to use availability features. By using more servers in a VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) cluster solution you can increase overall availability. Enterprise class reliability and functionality can be obtained by using VMware s HA and DRS Solution on Dell PowerEdge servers. This solution provides cost effective enterprise class computing with easy to use availability features. THIS WHITE PAPER IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND MAY CONTAIN TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS AND TECHNICAL INACCURACIES. THE CONTENT IS PROVIDED AS IS, WITHOUT EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND. 1 Advantages of Dell PowerEdge 2950 Two Socket Servers Over Hewlett-Packard Proliant DL 585 G2 Four Socket Servers for Virtualization by Todd Muirhead, Dave Jaffe, and Terry Schroeder, Dell Enterprise Product Group, December 2006, Dell and PowerEdge are trademarks of Dell Inc. EMC, and is a registered trademark of EMC Corp. Intel and Xeon are registered trademarks of Intel Corp. Qlogic is a registered trademark of QLogic Corporation. Microsoft, Microsoft SQL Server, and Microsoft Windows Server are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. VMware, Virtual Center, and VMware Infrastructure 3 are registered trademarks of VMware Inc. NetBench is a registered trademark of Ziff Davis Media Inc, or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. Other trademarks and trade names may be used in this document to refer to either the entities claiming the marks and names or their products. Dell disclaims proprietary interest in the marks and names of others. Copyright 2007 Dell Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of Dell Inc. is strictly forbidden. For more information, contact Dell. Information in this document is subject to change without notice April 2007 Page 14 Dell Enterprise Technology Center

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