Appliances are the latest trend in the database industry. Although businesses might not be completely used to the idea of buying them, database appliances offer important advantages over standard server installations.

Appliances such as the new HP Enterprise Database Consolidation Appliance come with all of the software preconfigured, making deployment very fast. In addition, appliance hardware configurations are optimized to support their target workloads.

The expertise and testing that goes into the design of such an appliance is beyond the capabilities of most organizations. HP’s DBC Appliance is delivered in half-rack or full-rack form factors, and it’s designed to support the consolidation of multiple database servers using Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization.

Q: If the DBC Appliance is based on virtualization, can it really deliver production-level performance for multiple database servers?

Yes. The DBC Appliance is the result of a multi-year engineering effort by both HP and Microsoft. Extensive planning and testing went into its design to ensure that it would be able to support up to 60,000 sustained random IOPS per rack. Microsoft and HP have extensively tested its scalability and conservatively estimate that in this configuration, the DBC Appliance can support about 200 database instances.

Q: Can it be customized?

You can order the DBC in either a half-rack or a full-rack configuration. You can also order multiple full racks. A single DBC Appliance can consist of up to 10 full racks. However, you can’t custom order the internal components used by the DBC Appliance.

Q: How do you manage it?

It comes with several parts of Microsoft’s System Center Suite installed: Virtual Manager 2008 R2 provides virtual machine (VM) management; Operations Manager 2007 R2 does performance system monitoring; Configuration Manager 2007 R3 handles updates, and Data Protection Manager 2010 can back up the DBC Appliance as well as its VM guests.

Q: Can it run other databases besides SQL Server?

Yes. Because the DBC Appliance is based on Hyper-V, it can essentially run any workload that can run on Hyper-V. This includes VMs with other databases installed, such as Oracle, DB2 or MySQL.

Q: Are there database workloads that it won’t run?

Larger workloads that require more than 4 CPU or more than 64GB of RAM aren’t good candidates for the DBC Appliance. This is because they exceed the limits of the current Hyper-V R2 hypervisor. However, it’s likely that this ceiling will lift in future versions of the appliance when the next version of Hyper-V becomes available. In addition, databases that require more than 2500 IOPS per spindle also exceed the DBC Appliance’s storage design specifications.

Q: Can I implement a disaster recovery plan if I use it?

You can implement a multi-site disaster recovery plan if you have a multi-rack DBC Appliance. The different racks that make up the DBC Appliance can be implemented at different locations and configured as a multi-site cluster for disaster recovery purposes.

Q: Because it comes from Microsoft and HP, who do I call for support?

You purchase the HP Enterprise Database Consolidation Appliance from HP, and HP’s First Service support installs the appliance. However, like the other enterprise-oriented appliances such as the Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW), Microsoft handles the first-line support calls for the DBC Appliance. For more information about the DBC Appliance, see “First Look: HP Enterprise Database Consolidation Appliance."