Introducing a bigger, badder, greener shared SQL environment

Tech blogger Jon Stokes of ars technica observed that the term “cloud” is so overused that it now means everything and nothing all at once.

He has a point.

Depending on who you ask, “cloud” still means different things to different people. For some it means Google Apps,, or even Facebook, which is to say it’s SAAS. To others it’s on-demand scalability. To others, still, it has to do with where data is located—i.e. not on a single server. Et cetera.

But to be fair, over the last couple of years the idea of what cloud computing means has grown from the anecdotal to something we’re seeing more and more in practice, and it turns out a lot of these competing definitions of what the cloud means and how it’s applied are just different ways of approaching the same basic concept, which is the delivery of services across a virtualized computing infrastructure.

And this brings us to our own big announcement today, which is that we’re upgrading our entire shared Microsoft SQL segment to a new, highly available environment—one that leverages a cloud approach through virtualization and hardware clustering.

So what does this mean to you?

First and foremost, this move is a profound upgrade to our existing SQL environment. It’s much more powerful and robust, it provides a much higher level of availability, it’s much more scalable for us in terms of how we’ll be able to effectively support the environment for years to come, it’s substantially greener, and it’s even more secure with Microsoft’s latest release of Windows Server 2008.

And while our customers may notice a higher level of performance, it’s important to point out that we’re doing all of this without passing any of the cost down to you.

We’ve already begun migrating databases to the new platform, and for those of you who haven’t received notification yet on when your database(s) are to be migrated, you’ll be notified once your server is scheduled.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you won’t see any changes whatsoever in terms of how you interact with your Microsoft SQL database(s). So you don’t need to worry about changing the code on your site or application. Your SQL server address(es) will remain the same and you can continue to add, delete, or modify your SQL database user details in the WebControlCenter as you always have.

Under the Hood

It’s easy to talk about the benefits of an upgrade in an abstract way, so let’s get into some real details.

Now, we should probably say that we’re not making claims of higher performance and reliability simply because we’re utilizing a virtualized or cloud infrastructure. We’re actually using some serious hardware, in conjunction with Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V virtualization technology. Here’s some highlights of what we’re using:

Also, be sure to check out our Vice President of Research and Innovation, Justin Russell, talk about our new SQL environment in this month’s Technically Speaking Video.

Dell PowerEdge M610 Blade Servers

  • We’ve packed 48 GB of RAM into each blade, with the ability to increase it to 96 GB and higher.
  • Integrated power gates in Intel Intelligent Power Technology allows individual idling cores to reduce to near-zero power independence from other operating cores, reducing idle power consumption by up to 50 percent versus previous generation two-socket server processors.
  • DDR3 memory provides a reduction in power consumption of 30% compared to DDR2 modules.
  • The Dell PowerEdge M610 server has a greater than 20 percent performance-per-watt advantage over comparable solutions from other manufacturers.
  • M-Series blades allow us to scale up to 128 cores.

Dell PowerEdge M1000e Blade Enclosure

  • Centralized management controllers (CMC) provide redundant, secure access paths for administrators to manage multiple enclosures and blades from a single console.
  • With additional I/O slots and switch options, we have the flexibility we need to meet increasing demands for I/O consumption.
  • Dell’s FlexIO modular switch technology lets us easily scale to provide additional uplink and stacking functionality.
  • Redundant Power Supplies support 3+3 (AC redundancy), 3+1 (Power Supply Redundancy), or 3 + 0 (non-redundant) modes.
  • The M1000e is the most power efficient blade solution on the market, built on Dell’s energy smart technology.
  • Ultra-efficient power supplies.
  • Dynamic power efficient fans.
  • Optimized airflow design that can efficiently cool the chassis to enable exceptional performance in a lower power envelope.
  • Lead-free chassis reduces overall cooling requirements.

Compellent SAN

  • Compellent has won “Technology of the Year Awards” from InfoWorld Media Group three consecutive years.
  • Clustered controllers – no single point of failure.
  • Consistent, online backup and recovery.
  • Compellent Thin Provisioning, called Dynamic Capacity, delivers the highest storage utilization possible by eliminating allocated but unused capacity, minimizing the environmental impact of enterprise storage.
  • Cut power and cooling costs by as much as 93 percent by combining Server Virtualization with Storage Virtualization.
  • Eliminate the power draw of internal server drives with Boot from SAN.
  • Identify the ideal mix of disks based on power and carbon savings reports generated by Enterprise Manager.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter Edition*

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 supports up to 256 logical processor cores for a single operating system instance. Hyper-V virtual machines are able to address up to 64 logical processors in the host processor pool.
  • Reduced operating system overhead for graphical user interface.
  • Improved performance for storage devices.
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 was designed to perform as well or better for the same hardware base as Windows Server 2008. In addition, R2 is the first Windows Server operating system to move solely to a 64-bit architecture.
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 reduces processor power consumption in server computers with multicore processors by using a feature known as Core Parking. The Core Parking feature allows Windows Server 2008 R2 to consolidate processing onto the fewest number of possible processor cores, and suspends inactive processor cores.
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 has the ability to adjust the ACPI “P-states” of processors and subsequently adjust server power consumption. ACPI “P-states” are the processor performance states within the ACPI specification. Depending on the processor architecture, Windows Server 2008 R2 can adjust the “P-states” of individual processors and provide very fine control over power consumption.

*Note that Microsoft SQL 2000 databases will be utilizing Windows Server 2003. SQL 2005 and 2008 will utilize Windows Server 2008 R2.

So what do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts or any questions you have in the comments below.

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5 Responses to “Introducing a bigger, badder, greener shared SQL environment”

  1. Hopefully this also means that you are going to increase the dedicated shared SQL space! Your shared plans offer more than twice the dedicated plans space (1200 mb vs 500mb), we have been begging for years so please update this!

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  2. Sounds great! How much speed/power/memory will a single shared database receive?

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  3. The upgrade sounds nice and am very exciting about this cloud technology. Does this mean more space on the plans? I am on a semi-dedicated and 2GB has become obsolete if you are talking about database space and performance. In order for a database to perform at it’s peak indexing is neccessary and indexing takes up more space in many cases than the data stored.

    Thanks again!

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  4. Seth and Ngozika,

    Thanks for commenting. Changes to allocations aren’t a part of this roll out, but your feedback is appreciated and it will be communicated.

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  5. Randy,

    Great question. The resources you mention aren’t allocated on a per database level. Like the traditional shared environment we’re upgrading from, those resources are still shared — but the architecture behind the environment (for example the Dell Hardware & Compellent SAN & the amount of RAM we’ve packed into it, etc.) is significantly more powerful and faster than before.

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