[ #SharePoint in @Azure ] Which VM for my farms ? (part 2)

This article is the second of a series on [ #SharePoint in @Azure ] :

  1. My farm in only a few clics !
  2. Which VM for my farms ?
  3. Tuning and optimization

 

 

As shown in my first article of this serie : A #SharePoint farm in @Azure in only a few clics (first part) !, it’s now so simple to create a new SharePoint farm in Azure that it may seem leaving no choice for architectural decision or so.

Nothing can be more false. One of the main and very important decision the architect should take is to choose the right VM types and sizes for its architecture.

With the recent introduction of D-Series VM in Azure, the choice can be even harder. And basic Tier for D series are also expected very soon.

Default choices from the Wizard

Let’s first review the default sizes proposed by the standard template :

Domain controllers

SQL Server

SharePoint

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From the old (:-) ) days of on-premises installations, there is a reference page about minimal sizing for SharePoint infrastructure : Hardware and software requirements for SharePoint 2013. This page is still valid and the first surprise come from the fact that Microsoft default template for SharePoint Farm in Azure (in solid red and green on the graph below) doesn’t follow Microsoft default hardware requirements (in white square)  !

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Building a sizing tool

To help me choose the correct VM sizes I first created an Excel spreadsheet that will help choose the correct VM size for a specific need.

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And, here is a graphical summary of the whole choice of VMs we have today on Azure :

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However for a SharePoint farm,

  • Basic VMs are not an option because they can’t allow network access between VMs
  • CI (Computer Intensive) VMs are designed for HPC solutions, they are not useful either for a SharePoint farm.

So here is the simplified choice we have :

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I was also able to incorporate the standard prerequisites for SharePoint servers, which gives the following table :

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Standard Excel panel and graphic tools are a great way to understand the whole Azure VM offering. However, at this stage, I decided that a PowerView Panel would be more helpful to choose my VMs for my SharePoint farms.

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On the Power View report, we can then easily exclude non interesting features:

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And also choose the VM size according the targeted tier :

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With the help of this report it is then much easier to choose the right VM for my farms. There is no “one size fit all” answer for every farm. However, the tool and related analysis can help a lot to start a sizing reflection. Here are my starting choices (before knowing more on what the customer want to do with its farm J).

AD tier

For a production Environment, I would strictly follow the hardware prerequisites from Microsoft. But I would also take the less expensive config, depending of the size (in users) of the expected config:

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For AD, sizing rules are not as well defined as for the other tiers. But here are some estimates, based on my experience. As this is not the main subject of this post, to go further I would recommend Technet Wiki – Capacity Planning for Active Directory Domain Services.

Small VM are good for usual testing and even production purposes:

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SQL Server tier

As far as SQL Server is concerned, for production environment, and without more sizing information, I would take a A6 standard (with 4 cores and 28 GB) for a config with less than 1000 users (This config is the cheapest to follow the prerequisites of 4 cores and 8 GB of memory).

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For more than 1000 users, A7 (8 cores, 56 GB) is the cheapest option, reaching the prerequisite levels ( 8 cores, 16 GB) :

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At this point we should notice the lack of a A series VM with 8 cores and 28 GB of memory. The new D4 size is filling the gap but is more expensive than A7 (so this later one is a better choice).

If we accept to be under prerequisite figures, for a test or integration environment, A3 is a good compromise.

image

SharePoint tier

For the SharePoint, in production environments, and without more sizing information, I would take a A6 VM which with its 4 cores and 28 GB of memory, is the cheapest VM being above prerequisites levels ( 4 cores and 12 GB).

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At this point we should also notice the lack of a A series VM with 4 cores and 14 GB of memory. The new D3 size is filling the gap but is more expensive than A6 (so this later one is a better choice).

image

So here are the whole set of VMs that are following the prerequisites figures (4 cores and 12 GB of memory) for SharePoint tier :

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With some more details on their respective configurations:

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If we accept to be under prerequisite figures ( 4 cores and 12 GB), for a test or integration environment, A5 (with 2 cores and 14 GB) is a good compromise.

Here are others options available for testing purpose :

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Summary

To summarize here are my best picks for a small production environment (under 1000 users) :

Domain controllers

SQL Server

SharePoint

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image

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50 €

332 €

332 €

For a medium production environment (from 1000 to 10000 users) :

Domain controllers

SQL Server

SharePoint

image

image

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100 €

665 €

332 €

And for a test environment:

Domain controllers

SQL Server

SharePoint

image

image

image

50 €

200 €

166 €

Here is the final price comparison between these environments:

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Final notes on pricing

Please note that all prices are those displayed on http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/virtual-machines/ in € as of 2014-10-06 for the North Europe (Dublin) Datacenter.

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They are based on Microsoft estimations for a VM running one month. There are some difference with those displayed on http://portal.azure.com. For example, for a A6 standard :

 

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D series prices are priced at US Central rates until January 1, 2015.

We have used on this study final rate for North Europe.

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Sources :

Virtual Machine Pricing

http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/virtual-machines/

New D-Series Virtual Machine Sizes

http://azure.microsoft.com/blog/2014/09/22/new-d-series-virtual-machine-sizes/

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Virtual Machine and Cloud Service Sizes for Azure

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/azure/dn197896.aspx

Hardware and software requirements for SharePoint 2013

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc262485(v=office.15).aspx

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