SharePoint 2010 done virtually – A pilot

In 2007, Westminster College bought into SharePoint 2007, moving the entire institutional web presence from an older content management system into SharePoint. Since that time, we’ve expanded our use of SharePoint through the use of internal portals and new web sites, such as the one that we built for our National Churchill Museum entity.

When we originally implemented our current SharePoint system, we did so in a very simplistic way using just two physical servers – one for SharePoint and the other as a dedicated database server for SharePoint.

With the release of SharePoint 2010, we’re starting from scratch and rethinking everything… And going virtual (for the most part). This time around, we’re moving into SharePoint with much more intentionality and are building out a six server environment.

Of these six systems, five are brand new virtual machines and the sixth is an existing physical server that houses our campus databases. We’re also planning an implementation of a second SQL server to create a cluster, but these are the only physical machines that will be used by SharePoint 2010.

The other five systems – virtual machines – break down into three groups. The first group is two virtual machines that will be load balanced to support external audiences. The second is another set of two VMs that will be load balanced to support internal audiences. The last virtual machine holds other supporting SharePoint services.

All five of the virtual machines are running Windows Server 2008 R2 and have 4GB of RAM assigned and have been provided with two virtual CPUs. We’ve also enabled the ability to hot add both RAM and additional virtual processors in the event that we’ve undersized these machines. For this project, we’re erring on the side of resource conservation. I fully expect that we’ll quickly find a need to add another VM to provide additional resources for supporting SharePoint services, but that’s the beauty of the flexibility provided by a virtual environment: you can flex resources based on need.

On the ESX host side, we run a total of four ESX 4.0/4.1 hosts on Dell M600 and M610 blade servers. The three M600 servers each have 32GB of RAM and the M610 blade has 48GB. All four servers sport dual quad core Xeon processors.

For storage, we have a fully redundant EMC AX4 storage array with three disk shelves of twelve disks each. This SAN is used to support our entire virtual environment and has thus far proven to be a rock solid tool.

We’re still very much in the testing/pilot phase of our project so these specifications can – and probably will – change as we identify potential bottlenecks, but I wanted to share with you our to-date real world deployment of a virtual SharePoint 2010 infrastructure.

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