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Peek Inside Microsoft’s Internal Virtualization Practice

I always find it fascinating when a technology company reveals some of its internal practices on any infrastructure segment that is of interest to me (see "What we can learn from the big boys"). Recently, I came across a Microsoft resource on how they have adopted Hyper-V with Windows Server 2008 R2 in one of their internal IT infrastructure teams that supports the Microsoft.com Web presence. The TechNet page outlining how the Web presence was moved to Hyper-V has a nice document outlining the infrastructure and operational practices as well as a video.

Though the material is presented to show that Microsoft is not immune to virtualization challenges with infrastructure that you and I face, I take a few issues with the points raised. Primarily, Microsoft has one fundamental advantage to almost everyone else in the world: Microsoft licensing costs. I would assume that Microsoft's internal licensing costs are much less than that of the rest of the world, and possibly zero. This is a big distinguishing factor that isn't raised in the material.

The other thing I take issue with is that at one point in the video, it is mentioned that Live Migration with Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V is the centerpiece of a private cloud offering. Migration as a centerpiece? I had to listen to that section twice.

But the one thing I really was scratching my head on the most was the concept of a maintenance node. In their blade server implementation, one of the 16 blade server hosts was allocated to the role of a maintenance node. This presented 15 active hosts in the blade enclosure once the maintenance node was accounted for. This is a fundamental difference than my VMware background and I've never done anything like that, but I do see the operational benefit to have extra capacity on demand for maintenance. It isn't additional available for extra compute capacity or memory, however.

There are plenty of good nuggets in the material. One section links to how Microsoft maintains high availability for the Microsoft.com Web site architecture. These are good design principles that anyone can roll into their environments. Of course, we all cannot design to the level of the Microsoft's of the world, but it is nice to know how they do it.

What is your impression of Microsoft's implementation for Hyper-V for Microsoft.com?

Posted by Rick Vanover on 06/22/2010 at 12:47 PM


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