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Virtual Machines

11/24/2007

Permalink 05:26:16 pm, by Dana Comolli Email , 564 words   English (US)
Categories: Disaster Recovery, Virtual Machines

Virtual Machines

A subject which we have getting a lot of questions about is the use of virtual machines. We at DMAXX have been using virtual machines in our operation for more than three years. In fact, we are so dependant on them that virtually everything in our network is a virtual machine. It is safe to say we could no longer operate effectively without them.

We use VMWare in our operation and have effectively virtualized all of our systems with the exception of our primary domain controllers and our SQL Servers.

Our use of virtual machines can be grouped into three major categories:

  • Development/Testing
    Because we usually have at least two and sometimes three versions of TheBooks in the field at once, having separate build and test systems for each version is a must. Virtual machines allow us to maintain these systems within the context of a single large server without the need to maintain separate systems for each version.

    In addition, installation testing is much easier as starting with fresh version of an operating system is simply a matter of copying some files.

  • Production
    The use of virtual machines allows us to segment functionality within our network to the point where each system performs a single function. This makes maintenance and upgrades much easier. It also allows the movement of servers from one physical computing platform to another by simply moving the files which represent the virtual machine.

    Hardware upgrades become much easier as upgrading a single platform results in the upgrade of all virtual machines resident on that system.

  • Experimentation
    Since we have to stay on top of the latest releases from Microsoft, we need to test our software prior to the release of their new operating systems and platforms. By using virtual machines, we are able to configure a standalone system with the new software and test it without going through the trouble of loading a physical system with the new operating components. Once we are finished, we can simply delete the virtual machine.

Disaster Recover
Another huge benefit of the virtual machine environment is in the disaster recovery area. Because the functionality within the network becomes portable, the ability to implement remote sites becomes greatly simplified.

Each of our VMWare host servers have backup scripts which iterate their inventory of virtual machines and one-by-one shuts down a VM backs up its configuration (virtual disks, hardware configuration, etc) to an NAS storage array and then re-starts the VM.

The NAS storage array is replicated to a remote location which also houses VMWare servers. If the primary site goes down, the replicated virtual machines can be started at the remote locating in a matter of a few minutes.

Virtual Machines and TheBooks
Needless it say, TheBooks will operate just fine within a virtual machine environment; all of our testing is done that way. We do, however, suggest the following guidelines:

  • SQL Server should be running “on the metal” and not within a virtual machine.
  • You can host your virtual machine on the same system that is hosting SQL Server. We would not recommend this for higher volume environments, but for smaller advisors or those with relatively low trading volume or small numbers of accounts, this will work fine.
  • For higher-volume environments, we would suggest hosting the virtual machine which is running TheBooks on a server which is separate from the SQL Server.
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