Virtualization Pro

Sep 18 2009   1:45PM GMT

Virtualizing Lotus Domino servers: Support concerns

Eric Siebert Eric Siebert Profile: Eric Siebert

A reader recently sent me an email after reading some of my articles on SearchDomino.com on virtualizing Domino servers. He was wondering what IBM’s official stance is on virtualizing Domino servers in VMware.

Here’s the back story: He has a pretty nice existing VMware environment consisting of 18 version 3.5 hosts connected to a Cisco Fibre Channel fabric and EMC Clariion CX3-80 and CX4-480 storage arrays. Despite having a beefy, established VMware infrastructure, his organization is preparing to spend a good deal of money on new physical servers for a Domino upgrade to version 8.x. The reason for this is that the Domino administrators have told management that Lotus will not support a virtualized Domino environment. The person who wrote to me is trying to convince them to at least virtualize part of the Domino environment using their existing ESX hosts to save money.

First I’ll address IBM’s official support statement when it comes to virtualizing Domino servers with VMware. IBM’s support statement is similar to Microsoft’s: IBM will make a best effort to support Domino running in a VMware environment but may require you to reproduce the problem on a physical server if, in the event a problem, IBM technicians suspect the problem may be unique to the virtual environment. IBM has an older support statement for Domino here, and a newer one here. For most Domino problems this will never be an issue but it could come into play for performance-related issues.

One specific example where IBM has experienced some performance issues is with the Domino HTTP task. So the bottom line is yes, IBM does support Domino running on VMware hosts but there are some considerations you should be aware of.

The first considerion is licensing. IBM has a very convoluted and complicated licensing policy with its software running on virtual hosts (you can read more about it here). If you are running on a single ESX host it’s fairly straightforward; where it gets complicated is if you are running Domino on a VM that is part of an ESX cluster. The licensing could either work out in your benefit or not depending on your host sizes and how many Domino servers you are running on them.

The next consideration is architecture. If you are running large Domino workloads it’s absolutely critical that you architect your hosts properly to handle it. If not you will run into performance issues and end up calling IBM, which could get complicated if your Domino servers are virtualized. I’ll refer to a previous blog post that I did on the keys to successfully virtualizing Domino servers for more information on this.

In addition, IBM and VMware made many presentations at VMworld about virtualizing Domino and other IBM products, which are listed below (free registration required, 2009 sessions are for attendees only):

Your final challenge is attempting to convince your Domino administrators to like virtualization. It’s a common reaction to fear something new and unknown and want to do things in traditional ways that you are used to. Many folks are still new to virtualization, what it is, and the benefits that is provides. Slipping a virtualization layer between the server hardware and operating system will generally not even be noticeable to a Domino administrator.  They will probably appreciate benefits like snapshots and VMotion, however.

For more information on this check out my previous tips on making the case for virtualization and how virtualization reduces IT managers’ workloads.

I would start by trying to virtualize a portion of your Domino environment. Once the Domino admins have experienced a small taste of virtualization and better understand it they will probably be willing to virtualize more of their servers. VMware can help you make a strong case for virtualizing your Domino servers; you may want to try and contact Robert Campbell (rcampbell@vmware.com) from VMware — he is the Senior Technical Alliance Manager between IBM and VMware. Good luck.

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