Analyzing Candidates for Virtualization

Almost all workloads are now supported on one virtual platform or another.  There is a knowledge base article from Microsoft that outlines the support policy of it’s products that will help you determine what level of host OS, guest OS and application version you need to be at to obtain support but how do you determine if a machine should be virtualized or if it should stay a physical machine?  It isn’t as hard as it sounds as there are some great guidance out there as well as some tools to help make the decisions easier.  The first thing you need to determine is the limitations of your virtualization platform.  With this information it will be easy to eliminate physical machines that cannot be virtualized.  These will include any that aren’t supported (see the KB article or application vendor) as well as those with physical attributes that are not supported in a virtual environment.  This might be specialized hardware but most likely it will be machines with CPU and/or memory requirements that are beyond the support of virtualization platforms.  These limitations include:

Hyper-V R2:

  • Maximum 4 virtual CPUs per VM
  • Maximum 64GB RAM per VM
  • Maximum 12 NICs per VM (4 synthetic, 8 emulated)
  • Maximum 260 virtual hard disks (4 IDE, 256 SCSI)

VMware ESX 4.1:

  • Maximum 4 virtual CPUs per VM (8 in Enterprise Plus edition)
  • Maximum 255GB RAM per VM
  • Maximum 10 NICs per VM
  • Maximum 64 virtual hard disks (4 IDE, 60 SCSI)

Now if you have a reliable and up to date hardware inventory it should be easy to cut out the physical machines that can’t be virtualized.  But even still there is a determination to be made, just because something can be virtualized doesn’t mean it should be virtualized.  There are two ways to help make this decision and both will also help you if you don’t have a reliable and up to date hardware inventory.  One is the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit, which is free, and the other is System Center Operations Manager with a few select management packs.

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