Blackboard and Virtual Servers: VMware

On April 17th of this year, Blackboard published the statement that they now support virualization technologies such as VMware and Sun’s Zones technology.

Here at Notre Dame we’ve used VMware for our course management system (as well as plenty of other of our services) in our development, preproduction and even production environment -but only for the Admin node, for the past 2 years at least.

About 6 months ago we outgrew our first VMware ‘farm’ and have since moved our Development and Preproduction environments to our 2nd generation farm. While I don’t have the spec’s on our farm, I can offer you a comparison of application spec’s.

I can also tell you, from an application administrator’s point of view, there is no difference in administering the app on a physical box or as a virtual client inside a host VMware server.

Here are the spec’s I pulled out of our WebCT.######.log’s :

This is from a physical server, our Node A in PROD:

[05/14/2008 13:23:33] System Information [server name]
[05/14/2008 13:23:33] OS Name = Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS release 3 (Taroon Update 9)[05/14/2008 13:23:33] Kernel = 2.4.21-53.ELsmp
[05/14/2008 13:23:33] Processor Type = Intel(R) Xeon(TM) CPU 3.00GHz
[05/14/2008 13:23:33] Logical Count = 8
[05/14/2008 13:23:33] Physical Count = 2
[05/14/2008 13:23:33] Physical Memory = 4087680 kB
[05/14/2008 13:23:33] Swap Space = 8385888 kB

While this is from our DEVL NODE A, vmware slice (since we don’t do use this envirnoment for load testing, it’s not important that it be given the same resources as production, only that it functions well):

[05/13/2008 15:24:43] System Information for [server name]
[05/13/2008 15:24:43] OS Name = Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS release 3 (Taroon Update 9)[05/13/2008 15:24:43] Kernel = 2.4.21-53.ELsmp
[05/13/2008 15:24:43] Processor Type = Intel(R) Xeon(TM) CPU 3.50GHz
[05/13/2008 15:24:43] Logical Count = 2
[05/13/2008 15:24:43] Physical Count = 1
[05/13/2008 15:24:43] Physical Memory = 3615124 kB
[05/13/2008 15:24:43] Swap Space = 3686908 kB

This is from the PROD Admin instance, which is not its own physical server, but a vmware slice:

[05/14/2008 13:22:27] System Information for [server name]
[05/14/2008 13:22:27] OS Name = Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS release 3 (Taroon Update 9)[05/14/2008 13:22:27] Kernel = 2.4.21-53.ELsmp
[05/14/2008 13:22:27] Processor Type = Intel(R) Xeon(TM) CPU 3.00GHz
[05/14/2008 13:22:27] Logical Count = 1
[05/14/2008 13:22:27] Physical Count = 1
[05/14/2008 13:22:27] Physical Memory = 1025364 kB
[05/14/2008 13:22:27] Swap Space = 3686908 kB

The Development ADMIN instance (below), also a VMware slice, is bigger at the moment because it was moved to our new vmware server farm. I anticipate moving our PROD over as soon as we can, although we really haven’t had serious problems with it running as resourced above. Here’s DEVL:

[05/14/2008 11:30:42] System Information for [server name]
[05/14/2008 11:30:42] OS Name = Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS release 3 (Taroon Update 9)[05/14/2008 11:30:42] Kernel = 2.4.21-53.ELsmp
[05/14/2008 11:30:42] Processor Type = Intel(R) Xeon(TM) CPU 3.50GHz
[05/14/2008 11:30:42] Logical Count = 2
[05/14/2008 11:30:42] Physical Count = 1
[05/14/2008 11:30:42] Physical Memory = 3615124 kB
[05/14/2008 11:30:42] Swap Space = 3686908 kB

4 thoughts on “Blackboard and Virtual Servers: VMware

  1. Interesting question, yes, I checked with our VMware Admin he is using Virtual Center to manage our VMHosts. Although I didn’t ask him this, by extention we can probably infer the rest of the architecture, such as the individual LUNS being on a detached SAN and so forth… It’s kind of hard for me to get my mind around having an application cluster on a load balancer which balances client session across the application, which is then virtualized and resource balanced (CPU, Memory,I/O) by a Virtual Center!

  2. Thanks! That’s worth knowing.
    That’s the plan I’m working on now, with pretty much the architecture you describe.
    (In retrospect, I’m a bit embarrassed by the word “just” in my comment.)

  3. What version of blackboard do you have at Notre Dame with vmware? Our university is looking to upgrade to Bb 8 with 7 application servers plus chat server going to Red Hat 4? Any problems with using vmware with several days load balanced? We have Oracle db that we will need to upgrade to version 10.2

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