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Price is Right for Memory Upgrades

For many virtualization implementations that were installed a year or two (or three!) ago, you may now have an opportunity to give a mid-life boost with a memory upgrade to the host hardware without breaking the bank. Back then, the purchase price of a server with a large amount of memory could break the virtualization model.

It is always a good idea to check prices on small upgrades for the host infrastructure. Based on list prices, you can add about 1 GB of RAM for about $50 for many common server models. Of course, this depends on the type of slot availability on each host server. We still see 8 GB memory modules commanding a premium, but 4 GB modules are quite affordable. I use the Crucial store all the time to quickly get a street price on memory for the particular server in question. These prices closely align to HP, Dell and IBM prices, as they may source their material from Crucial. I have also purchased server memory from Crucial on numerous occasions and it has always worked for me first time.

When memory is added to a host, you should do a burn-in test of the new modules for about 24 hours. An ESX or Hyper-V host will use memory in the system in a more comprehensive way than a traditional application server, so you want to ensure you do not have any issues from the start. In fact, VMware says that most of the Purple Screen of Death (PSoD) messages are due to bad memory modules.

Since Windows Server 2008 has become a mainstream product, we see more virtual machines with a higher memory requirement. The Standard version of Windows Server 2008 R2 can have a maximum memory allocation of 32 GB. For Windows Server 2003 systems (still very prevalent in the data center), the maximum memory allocation for the x86 Standard Edition is 4 GB, much to the secret rejoicing of virtualization administrators.

In my virtualization practice, I keep getting an upward push in memory requirements. Do software vendors really need their products to have 8 GB, 16 GB or more memory? I will provision to the supported requirement, but closely monitor usage. After that, all bets are off!

Have you given your VMware or Hyper-V hosts a memory boost mid-life? I've done it a few times and it is a good way to boost host capacity without adding hosts and licensing, especially in light of the current guest operating system landscape.

Posted by Rick Vanover on 06/08/2010 at 12:47 PM


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