This is a matter of opinion but I'm looking for some advice regarding an upcoming migration of physical servers to the cloud. I'm looking for some perspective - any opinions are welcome.

Scenario: Migrate 15 Application Servers and 4 Database Clusters to the Cloud

We are a small shop hosting a few dozen high traffic websites. Here is the inventory list:

  • 8 Front-End Webservers (Server 2008 SP2 - IIS 7.0)
  • 3 Indexing servers (SOLR - one master, two slaves for load balancing)
  • 2 Media servers (APache Linux - millions of small image files, about 2.8TB volume, 2TB full)
  • 2 Application servers (legacy applications on server 2003 - low traffic)
  • 4 active/passive database clusters (Server 2008, SQL 2008 - high traffic)

A few more details about the setup:

  • All servers are physical, we are looking to use virtualization (VMWare ESXi - strong in house experience with this product)
  • The 15 application servers can all be virtualized in my opinion. Do you recommend virtualizing databases? I have many mixed opinions on this. The goal is to have the ability to horizontally scale from the active passive model to having three or four active nodes (using Enterprise SQL)
  • Would you consolidate 4 database clusters into one large one? Why or why not? There are four different products on each cluster which were acquired over time - perhaps it's better to "put all the eggs in one basket?" Or not, open to opinions.


For this size, we are considering Rackspace, Amazon, IBM and private (co-locating in a datacenter using VMWare ESXi in HA configuration - two large hosts, a SAN, etc).

What would you do?

Thank you for your time.


  • 2
    For something like this you'd really need to hire a consultant who specializes in this. – Nathan C Jul 8 '13 at 13:08

Plenty of options for you. I'd specifically look into a firm that can provide a "hybrid cloud" solution and allow you to manage onsite and co-located systems in the same pane of glass.

I build cloud solutions for a firm that caters to many organizations in your situation. It's not uncommon at all. However, in my time there, I've learned that Amazon isn't necessarily a good fit for most application stacks. People are happy-ish with Rackspace (we steal their clients, though), but perhaps you may be more satisfied with a VMware vCloud Director-based setup.

Of course, managing your own colo is an option as well... but this goes back to determining your primary reason for wanting to move systems off-premises. Is it bandwidth? High-availability? Networking? Remember, you'll need to provide your own SAN storage as well.

Another consideration is licensing. A good provider shield you from the obscene licensing costs associated with VMware, Microsoft, etc. and break it down into more palatable chunks.

I run some pretty serious applications in our private cloud environments. Databases can be virtualized just like anything else.

In your case, I'd really recommend starting the process with a private cloud provider and letting them assess your existing environment. Without solid requirements, we can't help you with specific recommendations.

  • Thanks for your reply, it's mainly a cost savings initiative. Each of the physical servers is expensive and because most of them can be easily virtualized, I was thinking that VMWare ESXi is the best solution. But what about a large SQL cluster? Better as VMs with Raw Disk Mapping to a SAN? Or would multiple EC2 instances be a better solution. A CDN is also required to deliver large pages (about 3MB) in under 5 seconds as per business SLAs. HA and speed are of high importance. – Mike J Jul 8 '13 at 13:20
  • @Mike I see this type of environment all the time. Yes, it can all be done... but at a cost. I have organizations that pay us over $250k/month for their private cloud infrastructure, encompassing SAN, VMware, licensing, etc. But then there are smaller firms that may be $5k/month. This all depends on your requirements (bandwidth, IOPS, storage space, etc). – ewwhite Jul 8 '13 at 13:24
  • For the DB, you can share VMDKs or you can go direct to SAN. I think the SAN-direct approach is complicated, but it's well-documented. – ewwhite Jul 8 '13 at 13:25
  • Thanks @ewwhite. We are currently paying about $50k/month for our 'physical solution'. I think we can easily drop at least $20k/month by virtualizing. – Mike J Jul 8 '13 at 13:26
  • @Mike Should I put you in touch with a sales team? :) – ewwhite Jul 8 '13 at 13:29

For this you would need to do your own research we cannot even come to imaging your environment.

What is it you’re looking for? Do you think going to the cloud is going to give your more DR/Performance/Capacity?

If your looking for the above your Probbly just going there because it’s a buzz word. Without thinking about it you will not get the redundancy etc. For this you would need someone on site to look at your environment and needs so hire a consultant.

You mention you have skills on site in VMware? Why put things in the cloud then?

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