Server Virtualization Assessment using Microsoft Assessment and Planning 3.1 Toolkit (Part 2)

by [Published on 13 Jan. 2009 / Last Updated on 13 Jan. 2009]

An overview of MAP 3.1 features that facilitate conducting a server virtualization assessment.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

The information presented in this article assumes that you have application servers deployed in a Microsoft Windows environment.

MAP 3.1 Toolkit Background

The Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit 3.1 (MAP 3.1) is a free application, available in both x86 and x64 versions, that you can download from the Microsoft website. MAP 3.1 provides a means for organizations to compile computer hardware and software inventories and performance metrics, with the goal of conducting automated assessments using the collected data, along with user input and internal algorithms, to prepare reports that can be used to plan the following technology upgrades:

  • Microsoft Office 2007
  • Microsoft Windows Vista
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • Microsoft Application Virtualization
  • Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 and Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V

MAP 3.1 can be used in a wide array of computing environments. This includes small IT departments with just a handful of deployed computers in a single location, or large, geographically-dispersed IT organizations with thousands of computer devices. This is possible because MAP 3.1 does not require an agent deployment to collect data, and also because it provides the ability to perform data collection using either a single computer, or multiple, coexisting computers that aggregate the information into a master database. The latter configuration is referred to as “scale-out” mode. If you want to maintain the data for each location individually, you would store it in a separate database representing each location. By default, MAP 3.1 will install and create database instances using Microsoft SQL Server Express. However, in scale-out scenarios that include more than 50,000 computers, the recommendation is to use a full edition of Microsoft SQL Server 2005. This will ensure proper performance and avoid running into the database size limitations of the Microsoft SQL Server Express edition.

MAP 3.1 Server Virtualization Assessment Features

MAP 3.1 provides the following specific features that support performing a server virtualization assessment:

  • Server hardware and software inventory
  • Server performance metrics collection
  • Server virtualization candidate assessment, consolidation planning, and analysis reports

MAP 3.1 uses a three-step process to perform a server virtualization assessment. The first step involves creating or selecting an existing Microsoft SQL Server 2005 database to store the inventory data and performance metrics. The second step involves the actual inventory and performance metrics compilation. Finally, the last step entails assessing the inventory and performance metrics to identify server virtualization candidates, perform consolidation planning, and produce analysis reports.

In Part III of this article, you will walk through the three-step process to perform an actual server virtualization assessment. However, the next few sections provide additional details for each of the three feature sets that form the basis of the server virtualization assessment capability in MAP 3.1

Hardware and Software Inventory Features

Before MAP 3.1 can perform a server hardware and software inventory, it must have a way to discover servers. In particular, MAP 3.1 supports the following discovery methods:

  • Active Directory Domain Services
  • Windows Networking Protocols
  • File Import
  • IP Address Range Scan
  • Manual Input

The discovery methods that are available depend on whether or not you deploy and use MAP 3.1 in an Active Directory environment or workgroup, the security techniques, such as firewalls, deployed in your infrastructure, and the type of assessment. It is possible that you may need to use one or more of these discovery methods for your server virtualization assessment.

The Active Directory Domain Services discovery method allows you to query a domain controller using the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) to select target computers in one or more domains, containers, or organizational units (OUs). Based on default Active Directory settings, a computer that has not logged into the domain for more than 90 days will have an expired computer account, and cannot be inventoried.

Using the Windows Networking Protocols discovery method takes advantage of WIN32 LAN Manager Application Programming Interface (API) calls to query the Computer Browser service on servers in workgroups and legacy Windows NT 4.0 domains. Only servers that are registered by the Computer Browser service are identified using this technique. Because of the network connection ports that must be reachable on the remote server, the success of this method is highly dependent on the proper configuration of network firewalls.

The File Import discovery method allows you to create a text file that contains a list of server names that MAP 3.1 should directly inventory. The file format requires that each computer name must be listed on a separate line without using any type of delimiter, such as a comma, space, tab, or other character.

If you cannot use any of the previous options, you may have to rely on the brute force IP Address Range Scan discovery method. With this method, you only have to specify an IP address range, and MAP 3.1 will scan and inventory only the responsive computers in that address range.

The Manual Input discovery method is really only useful if you want to target no more than a handful of servers since it requires that you manually enter the computer names.

Once MAP 3.1 discovers the target servers, it uses multiple protocols to collect server hardware and software inventory information. In particular, MAP 3.1 uses the following three inventory methods:

  • Remote Registry
  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)
  • Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI )

The Remote Registry method is used to find the roles installed on a server. By default, this service is installed on Windows servers. However, the Remote Registry service may need to be started on target servers using either an automated method such as Group Policy, or even manually, if you are dealing with only a few servers. In addition, using the Remote Registry method requires a Windows Firewall Remote Administration Exception, and Local Administrator credentials to execute successfully.

The SNMP method uses an established network protocol to collect server attribute values remotely. By default, the SNMP service may not be enabled on Windows operating. This method is used only if you select the MAP 3.1 option to generate reports listing all SNMP devices. Also, using SNMP requires that you provide MAP 3.1 with the right community strings.

The WMI method is used to collect all other hardware, device, and software information from the target servers. By default, only Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, and Windows Server 2008 support WMI. In order to connect remotely and make use of WMI, MAP 3.1 needs Local Administrator credentials to execute successfully.

Performance Metrics Collection Features

MAP 3.1 can only begin to gather performance metrics once the target servers’ inventory is complete. MAP 3.1 is configured to monitor strategic physical and logical disk, memory, network, and processor performance counters on the set of inventoried servers. This data is used in the analysis phase to identify server virtualization candidates and to perform server consolidation planning, also referred to as virtual machine placement.

By default, performance metrics data is collected every five minutes using remote WMI calls. MAP 3.1 requires that you provide a time period for the data collection, specifically a date and time that marks when the data collection should end. The recommendation is that you use MAP 3.1 to gather performance metrics for a period of at least 30 days. This is the minimum time period that you should consider to collect a representative cycle of server performance data.

Server Virtualization Assessment and Reporting Features

Once server performance metrics are collected and stored in the database, MAP 3.1 can perform the following functions to complete the server virtualization assessment:

  • Analyze the inventory and performance monitoring data
  • Exclude servers as virtualization candidates based on performance data
  • Use planned Virtual Server 2005 R2 or Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V host configuration to conduct a consolidation planning analysis
  • Provide detailed reports and proposals identifying server virtualization candidates and virtual machine placement on defined virtualization hosts

Although it is a very useful tool, remember that the MAP 3.1 server virtualization assessment does not perform optimal placement of virtual machines to minimize the number of virtualization hosts required, nor does it allow you to define server co-location rules to enforce when determining virtual machine placement. However, you can use MAP 3.1 to perform multiple location-specific server virtualization assessments.

Conclusion

In Part II of this article, you learned about the MAP 3.1 features that support the data collection, analysis, and reporting requirements for a server virtualization assessment. In Part III of this article, you will walk through the process of using MAP 3.1 to collect inventory and performance metrics, as well as generate reports to support a server virtualization assessment.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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