Test Lab Virtualization – Performance and Storage

test_infrastructureIs the VMWare or any other virtualization solution ready for prepare test infrastructure with heavy storage and performance requirements ?
This doubt is recently appeared in my current company, we have applications that need huge amount of disc space and processor performance. Is that really vast requirements ? I do not think so, but let have a look at several hints which help us, you configure great, stable and fast virtual test lab.

My deliberations will rally round VMWare but you can map it to other, similar solutions.

First take a look at Cath Jennings article “Five Biggest Challenges of Server Virtualization” it covers the base five areas that must be well prepared to deliver expected performance:

  • Network – provide subnetwork with specialized routers, cables and speed – simple 1GB is a crap
  • Storage – this must be a NAS(Network Attached Storage) device (hardware or software)
  • Size of the storage – be careful with that 🙂
  • Back-up challenges – how to fight with back-up problem of virtual machines – use snapshots !
  • Application support – how to deal with application support which often says that virtualization is not supported

In summary Cath talks about skills which is the key of that mess – I am absolutely agree to that – virtualization needs configuration, it is not an out of the box, ready for everything solution.
Well now we know the basics, let them start working for our testing purposes. Every test manager dreams about great, stable, unlimited and distracted test lab infrastructure, very rare that dream becomes a reality. The one of the best cutting costs trick is to go inside virtualization but again it is not zero dollar way.

James Pearce in his “VMware vSphere ESX: Install, Configure, Manage – Preparing your Test Lab” article tries to build vSphere ICM Course test lab at one computer and he did it ! Amazing that 10 to 13 virtual machines work at simple quad-core ML115G5 with 8GB of RAM with good performance. There are: Vyatta – virtual router application, OpenFiler as a NAS, virtual switches, domain controller etc.

After one real world example we have another complete solution installed on Dell D630 Laptop with 4GB RAM. Thanks to TDA-Terry and please look at “VMware Virtual Infrastructure Test Environment”

As I mentioned before the second huge problem is a storage, storage size and speed. Assume that we already have fast subnet, now we must establish NAS device or even better and cheaper OpenFiler server. Purportedly we can achive very high scalable and independent system. I will check this prediction later, now we must base on tutorials presented below.
Kiwi Si wrote “How to configure OpenFiler v2.3 iSCSI Storage for use with VMware ESX” essay on Techhead portal. He uses two phisical machines   , one for storage, second for ESX hosting.

Patrick Yuen on his blog give us a little comparsion “Openfiler vs FreeNAS: Tips for building your own NAS”. He describes install process for both OpenFiler and FreeNAS solutions, serves few tips and great discussion in comments.

I am not sure that using these described ways we can get the medicine for our requirments but I will check it and give a feedback for sure.
From my point of view virtualization is the only and obvious way, you can say “Yes, but there are many issues!” – ok, but real computers have other issues too. I think that global approach is the clue to reach adequate level of benefits when doing virtualization, any palliative activity will only increase the costs. My recommendation is to build one complete virtual network, then test and try it, then give the feedback.


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