Virtualizing Microsoft SQL on VMware vSphere

Accelerate application lifecycles and improve application quality of service by consolidating your SQL Servers on the private cloud with VMware vSphere. With vSphere, you can consolidate your SQL infrastructure by 4X to 20X and cut hardware and software costs by more than 50 percent while avoiding the painful compromises associated with traditional database consolidation. Run SQL on vSphere with the confidence that even large databases will perform well in virtual machines.

- Deliver databases as dynamic, cost-efficient and reliable IT services on your private cloud.
- Accelerate database delivery with on-demand provisioning, automated release cycles and streamlined testing and troubleshooting
- Guarantee database Quality of Service with dynamic scalability, built-in availability and simple disaster recovery
Global Industry Research Reveals 4 Key Hybrid Cloud Trends

Elite Database Workshop

VMware Expert Database Workshop for SQL Server Experts with Tintri – April 2015.

SQL Server Performance on vSphere

Virtual machine combinations were tested on current-generation hardware to show that vSphere 6 can handle hundreds of thousands of online transaction processing (OLTP) database operations per minute.


Architecting Microsoft SQL Server on VMware vSphere

This document provides best practice guidelines for designing Microsoft SQL Server on vSphere.


What Virtualizing Microsoft SQL on VMware vSphere Does

Accelerate Application Delivery

Provision new databases on demand in a matter of minutes from pre-configured virtual appliances. 

Guarantee application Quality of Service

Leverage VMware High Availability, VMware Fault Tolerance, vMotion, Dynamic Resource Scheduling and Disaster Recovery to create robust availability with minimal configuration changes.

Match or Exceed physical server performance

More than 95 percent of database instances running on vSphere will match the performance achieved on physical servers. 

Reduce hardware and software costs by 50%

VMware customers are able to consolidate their databases by a ratio of 4X to 20X. By consolidating, you not only reduce your hardware footprint, but also consolidate your expensive database licenses and realize tremendous cost savings on software. 

SQL Needs a Better Consolidation Platform

Business Critical Application Series - SQL on VMware

IT departments have been undertaking database consolidation projects for many years, hoping to rein in the costs associated with rapidly increasing number and size of databases supporting a multitude of applications.

Unfortunately, conventional database consolidation solutions are painful and require significant tradeoffs. Whether consolidating multiple database instances on a shared operating system image, or consolidating multiple logical databases on a shared database instance, you risk loss of configuration, fault, operating system and resource isolation. Traditional consolidation requires significant lead time and overhead to prepare all databases to run on the shared environment and can negatively impact database availability and performance.

Related Products

VMware vSphere

VMware vSphere is the leading server virtualization platform enhanced with consistent management. 

VMware vRealize Operations (Enterprise)

Automate IT operations management, manage performance and gain visibility across physical and virtual infrastructure with VMware vRealize Operations.

VMware vCloud Suite

VMware vCloud Suite is an integrated offering that brings together VMware’s industry-leading vSphere hypervisor and VMware vRealize Suite multi-vendor hybrid cloud management platform.

VMware Site Recovery Manager

VMware Site Recovery Manager is the industry-leading solution to enable application availability and mobility across sites in private cloud environments.


Traditional database consolidation requires painful application migrations, and rigorous processes for version control and continued application compatibility.

Virtualizing Microsoft SQL Server on VMware vSphere simultaneously consolidates databases and optimizes compute resources, while maintaining application flexibility by isolating each database in its own virtual machine. You can migrate SQL Servers in their current state without expensive and error-prone application migrations. We and our partners have demonstrated the capabilities of vSphere to run the most challenging SQL Server workloads with high performance databases. For smaller, departmental databases, vSphere offers high consolidation ratios and advanced resource scheduling features.

Achieve 10X Consolidation on Large Multicore Servers

Large multicore servers have become the norm, but most SQL instances do not require 8 or more cores. With vSphere, smaller SQL databases can be consolidated easily to fully utilize large servers and achieve consolidation ratios of 10X or more.

Minimize Impact on Applications

Preserve your existing SQL Server configurations when you consolidate SQL Server using vSphere by doing a “Physical to Virtual” (P2V) migration. No changes are required to the operating system or SQL Server versions, and no application migration is required. Even the IP address and server name remain unchanged.

Consolidate SQL Server Licenses

Realize significant cost savings on your software licenses. Once all the physical processors of a host have been licensed, you can deploy an unlimited number of SQL virtual machines (depending on the SQL edition that is licensed), consolidating licenses on a small number of physical processors.


Consolidate multiple resource-heavy SQL Server virtual machines on a single host without compromising performance or scalability.

vSphere 5.0 delivers the best performance out-of-the-box thanks to key enhancements such as:


  • Virtual machine scalability increased to 32 vCPU and 1TB of memory
  • VMware vSphere Disk IO scalability increased to more than 1,000,000 IOPS, enabling VMware ESX to support IO-intensive applications including large SQL databases
  • VMware vSphere network IO increased to 36 Gbps
  • Improved resource management for greater scalability of multi-CPU virtual machines

Scale Up SQL Server Performance

VMware vSphere 5.0 can match or exceed native performance for more than 99 percent of SQL instances. A recent TPC-E workload study demonstrated that in typical situations, virtual machines provide 90 percent to 98 percent of the native physical performance, even for larger 8 vCPU configurations.

SQL Server Performance in Consolidation Scenarios

Mutiple SQL Server virtual machines can be consolidated onto a shared ESXi host with minimal impact to individual virtual machines. vSphere ensures fair distribution of resources even with the most intensive workloads to achieve impressive aggregate throughput.

Improve Business Agility

Rapidly Provision SQL Servers with Virtual Machine Templates

On physical hardware, deploying a new SQL Server can take days or weeks to procure the hardware, install and configure the infrastructure, and install the associated applications and updates. Eliminating repetitive operating system installation and patching tasks with virtual machine templates can speed deployment times. You can deploy new virtual machines with a core configuration in a matter of minutes, allowing rapid provisioning of applications into production.

Scale Dynamically with CPU and Memory Hot-Add

Databases are particularly difficult to size. Administrators are often forced to forecast capacity requirements for three to five years in the future and then translate that estimate into system specifications (CPU, memory, storage). Any sizing errors require the application to be re-provisioned, causing downtime and major disruption to the application. With the vSphere Hot-add feature, applications can be provisioned in a “future proof” manner. As applications grow over time and require more compute, memory, network or storage resources, scale up virtual machines dynamically and on the fly, without disrupting the application or requiring complex re-provisioning.

Enhance Testing and Troubleshooting with Cloned Production Virtual Machines

Shorten time to resolution of critical issues and reduce their overall impact on the production environment with VMware-enabled testing and troubleshooting. Use live snapshots of virtual machines to instantly roll back to a previous known good configuration. Make an exact, independent copy of any virtual machine in your environment with cloning. The copy can then be installed in a test environment for offline testing and troubleshooting. Share virtual machines with third parties such as consultants, other partners and vendors and eliminate the need to create a duplicate environment to reproduce problems. In complex application environments supported by SQL Server, this capability is especially valuable.


Improve Your Business Continuity

Protect All Applications with Simple High Availability

Simplify application availability by eliminating the need to use complex and expensive application-specific clustering solutions. VMware vMotion and DRS can reduce planned downtime and balance workloads dynamically while VMware HA can help recover SQL Servers in the case of host failure. At the application level, all Microsoft features and techniques are supported on vSphere, including database mirroring, failover clustering and log shipping, so you can use the best features from both VMware and Microsoft.

Provide Cost-Effective Disaster Recovery

Ensure fast, simple and cost-effective recovery by automating the recovery process and eliminating the complexity of managing and testing customized recovery plans with VMware Site Recovery Manager. Reduce costs by eliminating the need for dedicated hardware at the remote site.

Enjoy Full Microsoft Support

Microsoft officially supports Windows Server and Server products running on VMware ESX. This includes Windows Server 2000 SP4, Windows Server 2003 SP2 or later, and Windows Server 2008 and specialty roles provided by the operating system such as Active Directory or File Services. Major applications that are supported include Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and SharePoint Server. Microsoft has published a complete list of supported applications, and continues to update it. Supported ESX configurations are also listed.

VMware ESX was the first hypervisor to be validated under the Microsoft Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP), providing customers who run Windows Server and Microsoft applications with cooperative support from Microsoft and VMware. Customers can now run Exchange on VMware with the peace of mind that they will receive the support they need.

Microsoft Adopts vMotion-Friendly Licensing

Microsoft licensing has recently been modified to allow customers to reassign licenses between physical servers as frequently as desired. In the past, licenses could only be reassigned once every 90 days, limiting the benefits of vMotion. The new licensing flexibility enables efficient use of vMotion for Windows Server and major applications including Exchange, SQL Server and SharePoint Server.

Non SVVP-Validated Configurations

What happens if you are running a non SVVP-validated configuration of ESX and Microsoft products? Customers routinely tell us they still receive the Microsoft support benefits. Support options vary, however, depending on how customers purchase VMware and Microsoft products.

The following scenarios are common:

Scenario 1: VMware software was originally purchased through a server OEM

Server resellers including Dell, Fujitsu, Fujitsu-Siemens, HP, IBM and Unisys offer end-to-end support for Microsoft software running on their servers and VMware if VMware products are purchased with the server hardware and are covered by a valid support agreement with the server reseller. This provides customers one-stop support via the server reseller if an issue arises. See Support for Microsoft Software in VMware Virtual Machines for more details.

Scenario 2: VMware software was originally purchased direct from VMware or a VMware authorized reseller and the customer has a valid Microsoft Premier-level support agreement

Microsoft states that it will use “commercially reasonable efforts” to support its products running on VMware virtual machines. Customers regularly tell us Microsoft’s commercially reasonable efforts are effective and appropriate to maintain operations as planned. There may be confusion within Microsoft’s field and channel organizations regarding the scope of support that can be provided, and in some cases, customers may perceive that “commercially reasonable efforts” will not meet their expectations. In general, Microsoft offers its large customers excellent support for their products running on VMware. Microsoft’s policy states that after such efforts are exhausted, Microsoft support specialists may request that customers replicate the issue on a physical machine in order to proceed with the investigation. See Microsoft KB 897615 for more details.

Scenario 3: VMware software was originally purchased direct from VMware or a VMware authorized reseller and the customer does not have a Microsoft Premier-level support agreement

Microsoft’s level of support for these customers can be more restrictive. Before providing support, Microsoft specialists may request that customers first replicate the issue on a physical machine per Microsoft KB 897615.

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