Virtualization saves Microsoft almost $50 million yearly

Microsoft uses Hyper-V to virtualize a massive SharePoint environment and other apps in its data centers

The following is a guest blog by freelance editor and self-confessed keyboard geek Marco Chiappetta. In the eat-your-own-dogfood category, Microsoft recently released a pair of documents that showcase its use of Hyper-V in its own datacenters. Microsoft has been chanting for years about how much more affordable Hyper-V implementations are than VMware and few people dispute that. But they do argue that you get what you pay for, particularly with VM density, memory over-commit and management features. So it’s interesting to see how Hyper-V’s creator is using it internally with a whole lot of virtual machines and a decent cost savings story.

One of the docs is titled, “Microsoft IT Leverages its Compute Service to Virtualize SharePoint 2010” and the other “Microsoft IT Saves Millions by Using Hyper-V to Reduce Space and Power Consumption.” They are available for download here. The technical topics covered in the docs may only appeal to you when you are in a hardcore geek kind of mood, but a few facts trickled throughout may also interest your budget loving side as well.

Like virtually every other company, Microsoft uses virtualization to address data-center power consumption issues, physical constraints, and to better utilize hardware resources. In one of the docs, MS explains, “In 2004, the typical Microsoft IT (MSIT) production server’s CPU usage averaged less than 10% each day. If trends continued, the percentage would have dropped to 3% within a few years. MSIT determined that through virtualization and consolidation, IT could reduce costs associated with initial hardware expenditures, ongoing hosting charges, and datacenter growth.”

As of today virtual machines make up for more than 50% of MSIT’s server population, with about 2,500 physical servers hosting roughly 16,000 virtual machines. Through virtualization, Microsoft has also been able avoid millions of dollars of capital costs that would have otherwise been used for datacenter expansion and additional hardware in what was previously an underutilized environment.

Microsoft’s SharePoint Virtual Machine Topology source: Microsoft

Within the documents, Microsoft lays out some standards, thought processes, and best practices for configuring host servers, storage, and network infrastructure and also the technicalities, process considerations and benefits associated with deploying a virtualized SharePoint 2010 environment using the Compute Service. Although, the techniques discussed will likely apply to some other adjacent applications and environments, as well.

One of the most interesting tidbits disclosed in the SharePoint related document is that the average monthly savings per VM within MSIT data centers is $350. It goes on to say, “This accounts for $3.89M in MSIT monthly cost avoidance at the current virtualization rate of 47.40%.” (Since the document was originally written, MS’s virtualization rate has exceeded 50%). That’s roughly $47M yearly (and growing).

It's good to see how Microsoft is walking the walk and proving Hyper-V at scale. If you are looking at virtualization for an exploding SharePoint implementation, the obvious conclusion is that you, too, should be able to realize similar cost savings per virtual machine.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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