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Yesterday we upgraded the hardware on one of our RAMCO Hyper-V host machines. Currently, RAMCO deployments use Microsoft SQL Server 2012 and Microsoft CRM 2011 on-premise. The server we upgraded was part of the original RAMCO infrastructure that was provisioned in September of 2012 (unfortunately just around RTM of Windows Server 2012) and therefore used Server 2008 R2.

The original server specifications of this Dell R820 Server were as follows: 192GB of RAM, 10 x 600GB 10K SAS HDs, PERC H701P RAID controller and 2 – 8core 2.2Ghz processors. The system was configured as RAID 6 (double parity) which provides excellent read speed and redundancy. This server performed very well but as the needs of the RAMCO customer base changed over the past two years we pulled it out of service in June so that we could rework our Hyper-V infrastructure to meet new customer requirements – namely substantially higher RAM usage (for both SQL Server and Sitefinity) and substantial peaks and valleys in web portal volume requiring higher disk write speeds and more virtual CPUs.

RAMCOHV02

The new requirement for faster disk writes necessitated a change to the RAID level in use. RAID 6 is excellent for redundancy and read but does not provide great write speeds. We decided to move to RAID 10 (1+0) which is simply a stripe of mirrors. The benefits of this solution are great write improvements, the negatives are that it is substantially more expensive to achieve the same usable disk size and redundancy. Our final solution was to increase the number of drives to 16, 14 of them used in the RAID 10 array and 2 set up as global hot spares. Theoretically this should provide slightly faster read performance but up to 7 times faster write performance and arguably better redundancy. The write performance is critical for the peak portal times for RAMCO customers during dues season – as these transactions can perform up to 30-40 database creates/updates per transaction (this is especially true when payment plans and multiple products and GL accounts are involved and some customers get thousands of transactions per day typically in the last few hours before a deadline).

The new requirement for more RAM and virtual CPUs was easy to solve – we simply needed to add more RAM to the server going from 192GB to 512GB, more CPUs we went from 2 x 8 core to 4 x 8 core CPUs and building out host OS and new guest OS images using Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter Edition.

At first this new environment will be utilized only for new RAMCO customers, but over the next couple of months older customers will get migrated to the new environment as we continue to upgrade the hardware and software for the other host servers.

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