More Advancements in our Hosted Services Platform

My colleague Nathan Sanders who heads up the technical side of our hosted services business, sent me through some information on the recent upgrades that we have made at the data centre. I’m really impressed we have made the jump to Windows Server 2008 R2 for a couple of reasons.

Firstly as Nathan points out we take advantage of the new features meaning we maximise our investment in the hardware and can offer a more resilient and flexible system for our customers.

Secondly it’s important for Technology Management to be using the solutions we promote and implement for our customers. It shows the confidence that we have in the products and recognise the benefits it brings to our business.

Our cloud computing offering continues to grow and at a recent event we ran around it, we had a great response. I think its strong message that we can offer both hosted or on premise solutions, or even a combination of both. It’s what’s right for the customer that matters, not whatever implementation model our business is based on.

Anyway here’s the technical bit….

We have just finished the upgrade of our Hyper-V virtual server cluster to Windows Server 2008 R2 on our hosted solutions platform.  This is a significant upgrade to our backend servers due to the improved features that Windows 2008 Server R2 give us, especially the Hyper-V and Failover Clustering roles

The improvements to Hyper-V and Failover Clustering help us with the Live Migration function between our Host backend virtual servers, and with the Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) storage to maximise our guest virtual server storage.

Hyper-V Live Migration

In the standard release of Server 2008 Hyper-V to change the owner (the Hyper-V host server that runs the guest virtual server) from one host to another, it required us to shutdown the guest virtual server in what they called “Quick Migration”.  This was a hindrance if we wanted to get the most out of our Hyper-V host servers by running more guest servers on one host, and more importantly in the event of any hardware maintenance being performed on any given Hyper-V host server.

What the new Live Migration feature of Hyper-V R2 give us is to allows to us change the owner (the host server) which the guest virtual servers are running on LIVE, so no shutdown of the guest virtual server at all …hence the name “Live Migration”.  This flexibility to change the host server which runs a guest virtual server without any downtime is great for us so we can move our guest virtual servers in the event of Hyper-V Host server maintenance, or to try and squeeze the most we can out of particular Hyper-V host servers at the click on a button.

Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) storage

Traditionally, to keep our guest virtual server highly-available (which uses Windows 2008 Failover Clustering on top of Hyper-V) we had to partition our hard disks up with a separate section of the disk for each guest virtual server.  The downside for this was on each disk had to allow space for the guest virtual servers hard disk to grow, free space for snapshots (a Hyper-V feature allowing us roll back server changes), and try to spec the partition size big enough that we don’t run out of room for that guest virtual server.  To try and keep that “free” space for 20 plus guest virtual servers meant that we were not utilising our hard disk space very efficiently.  So along comes the Server 2008 R2 Failover Clustering feature “Cluster Shared Volumes” (CSV).  CSV has radically changed our approach in guest virtual server storage as it has removed the need to have a separate partition of the disk for each guest virtual server.  It lets us have one big disk for our guest virtual servers to sit on, so rather than working on a partition per server basis, we now work on a folder per server basis.  This cuts the amount of disk space that we have to anticipate were going to use, and our guest virtual servers are no longer tied to the size of the partitions that we used to have to create making our virtual environment more flexible.  Comparing the free useable disk space we had before the upgrade, to the free useable disk space we have now, we are now running with 20% more free useable disk space just by taking advantage of new CSV feature when upgrading to Windows Server 2008 R2.

While I’m talking upgrades, we have also had a major infrastructure upgrade to our Firewalls.  We have implemented two new clustered firewalls which give us more processing power for the data that travels in and out of them, while checking the traffic for threats.

Nathan Sanders

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