I was working with a partner architect last week on a ideas for a SQL Server architecture that would best fit a large customer that we are working with. We both were starting from the same place in our architecture discussion of private cloud with automated database provisioning massive server consolidation.
What was interesting is that we both called this “private cloud”, yet he was assuming no virtualization – just automate the provisioning based on application catogorization and consolidate under specific SQL Serverinstances. I had the same ideas, but ASSUMED virtualization.
The moral of this story, for me anyway, is not get caught into thinking too black box, that is, that to achieve many of the same benefits of a virtualized private cloud, that you must fully adopt virtualization. Now that being said, I prefer VMs as a consolidation practices generally speaking, because of the OS isolation and elastic scale.
But a key think to remember is that you can still take advantage of overall data center automation with private cloud on bare metal database instances, not just virtualized. I was sent a link to this Charles Joy demonstration of using the beta of System Center’s new Orchestrator (formerly Opalis) which is automating SQL Server. So certainly VMs are not mandatory for many of the private cloud benefits.
UPDATE: I just wanted to clarify what I mean above by “categorization”. When consolidating servers, to take best advantage of different hardware and networks and utilize the most expensive and fastest assets for the most appropriate purposes, you should classify databases & applications in accordance with their business requirements as opposed to simply putting systems on machines that were pegged for that purpose. The classic taxonomy is silver, gold, platinum with different SLAs with RPO and RTO measurements. For example, 24 hour SLAs with 24 hours for resolution and 24 hours of data retrieval would probably fall into a silver category. While each level increases the responsiveness of the SLA, the corresponding RPO & RTO requirements mean that ultimately, you will end up with the most critical business systems residing on the most expensive and top-of-the-line equipment and staff. This is where part of the business value and ROI of server consolidation can be found whether you are creating a private cloud on bare metal or virtualized infrastructures.