During my journey towards VCAP-DCD Certification, I found a nice topic on the exam blueprint. It was about “Gathering and Analysis Business Application Requirements”. When I began to examine it, I found that it was not only about as stated by its headline, but also about the best practices to deploy some Business Critical Applications (BCAs) in your vSphere environment. It included all of “Microsoft Exchange, SQL and Sharepoint, Enterprise Jave Applications, SAP HANA & Oracle”. These applications are considered -in most of environments if not all- Tier 0/1 applications that require wide eyes and careful attention when dealing with and specially when migrating to virtual world on vSphere Infrastructure.
I tried to gather all I could found in this topic during my readings, as I know it’s a critical topic and mastering it requires some deep knowledge about vSphere capabilities and how to leverage them to serve these applications. In addition, this topic is a point of VCAP-DCD exam blueprint and one of its most tricky points if not the most at all.
First, let’s define what a Business Critical Application (BCA) is:
“Business Critical Application is the one without which the business is either stopped or suffers great losses in its revenue. It’s so critical to lose that application and business requires always the highest levels of performance, availability and recoverability -in case of a disaster- for this application.”
Now, someone will ask about the reason for taking the difficult road of virtualizing BCAs as long as they’re running physically without any problems. The answer is plain simple: Better availability, same performance and may be better in case of scaling out, easier recovery and all for lower cost. vSphere 5 Platform, and the new comer: vSphere 6, is capable of delivering performance requirements of these applications. In addition, VMware vSphere has its own HA capabilities that can be used solely or with other clustering solutions for highest levels of availability. HA isn’t only the clustering feature available, VMware offers another clustering feature: DRS, which helps to load balance and distribute the load on many ESXi Hosts to maintain the required performance for BCAs while not affecting other lower-tiers applications. Last but not least, VMware offers its own DR solution: Site Recovery Manager (SRM), which automates the process of DR as well as allowing the responsible personnel to test their DR plan whenever they want.
After defining these two points, now we will discuss the best practices to deploy Business Critical Applications in your vSphere environment and will include all of:
Microsoft AD DS, Microsoft Cluster Services, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Lync, Microsoft SQL, Microsft Sharepoint, Oracle DB, SAP HANA & Enterprise Java Applications.
I tried as much as possible to make it related to the main Design Qualifiers (Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security – AMPRS). I also added another aspect: Scalability, as I felt that this aspect is important to consider when designing for such applications.
** 03/06/2015: Added Virtualizing Microsoft Lync 2013 on vSphere 5 Best Practices link.