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I am in charge of monitoring, troubleshooting, tuning and optimizing a few dozens production SQL Servers 2008 R2/2012 in my company that are being run inside VMWare virtual machines.

I've requested a read-only access to VMWare infrastructure without much success. I feel that I should provide irrefutable and clear for non-technical people (company's management) proofs and illustrations why I need such access.

What are they?

UPDATE:
Recently, I downloaded and "tried" Confio Ignite trial for monitoring "my" SQL Servers running inside (VMWare) virtual machines.

Ignite's access to VMWare's infrastructure

Why is such access necessary?
Which of this info is important for DBA that cannot be got from Window's PerfMon VM counters?

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5 Answers 5

Short Answer: Yes.

There are many reasons but the few that stick to mind:

1.) Trust but verify - SQL cares a lot about its environment, the hardware or virtualized system it is on. When I help a company with SQL on VM issues it is normally a misconfigured VM. In many cases the idea of SQL on VM is about to be thrown away.

2.) DBAs should look at memory reservations, alerts and performance conditions, how overcrowded a physical host is ( or isn't) and understand how it works.

3.) DBAs are learning more and more about virtualization. Through excellent blog posts and SQL events, the VMware knowledge in the SQL dba community is rising. An extra set of eyes may help ensure things are well tuned and future proofed.

4.) Prove yourself... If you've done everything right and built a great environment, show it off. Read access to center isn't going to destroy your system and you can show those pesky DBAa everything is up to snuff. And if it isn't? Don't you want to know? ;-)

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Yes as the DBA you should have access to view the vSphere info. The biggest reason being to troubleshoot the noisy neighbor problem where another VM is taking all the cpu power not leaving any resources for you. It isn't possible to see this from within a VM. This isn't limited to CPU but can also be disk IO as well.

You also want to be able to see exactly what the hardware is seeing to verify what Windows is reporting.

Also, what are the system admins trying to hide from you? As soon as a sysadmin team starts getting defensive about not giving access I want to know what they are hiding that they don't want me to see.

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I cannot use the argument:"what are the system admins trying to hide from you?". It will not faciltate, resolve, prove anything or convince anybody –  Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин Dec 27 '13 at 1:29

I've requested a read-only access to VMWare infrastructure without much success. I feel that I should provide irrefutable and clear for non-technical people (company's management) proofs and illustrations why I need such access. What are they?

There are none. You are not going to find anything that can show on paper proof that you need access. There may be scenarios that you can show where it can prove beneficial in turnaround time (or ROI) for solving an issue, especially in a mission critical server. However that is all based on opinion.

I have supported SQL Server VOEs for a handful of years now and have not been provided the read access through VMWare tools. I have one particular environment where I have direct access through VSphere but that is only because that is the only direct access to the server that is available because of the network location I work from. I can say that being able to see that data from VMware is handy, but it is only for two or three servers. If I really want to get the configuration and performance information on a VMWare infrastructure I can just go to the database that stores it, as this is usually a SQL Server database.

To the answer that mentioned Perfmon metrics are not accurate, that is not true at all. There are a few counters that may be off and not show the true activity, like some disk counters, but overall Perfmon is going to show you how the guest OS is operating. There are tail signs that if the underlying host is pulling resources away you will see this through performance counters. This is data I use as ammunition to the VMware admins to explain why I see such and such behavior. The particular counters pointed out in the question are actually only available if enabled through VMWare Tools. Those are special ones that can be very helpful, but I general don't see them.

As well not having that access shows you can work with other members of the team in order to solve a problem. If you require access simply because you do not have a desire to work with them, then it is a personal problem that you have to work out yourself.

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Sounds like the typical management (non-technical) vs DBA/Programmer (technical) standoffs like every company will have

Tell them they wasted money because you cant help them with 100% efficiency without that read access to VMWare infrastructure because you need to explain this with illustrations (and you are very bad with drawing so this will take 2 full months time to draw)

Let them think logical (will be an challenge) The database what you monitor an optimize is running on that VMWare infrastructure so you need that read access to VMWare infrastructure... this is the same if the technical staff would block the managements Windows (ActiveDirectory) accounts out.

Or if these fail..

If management doesnt care you should not care, do your job and get paid..

Edit

But still wondering if OS / Database tweaks will help server performance on middle and long term production conditions.. if some programmers, DBA or Applications execute an JOIN query without indexing your tweaks will still be useless because the queries will be most likely be disk I/O bound. Lots off these qeuries running at the same time will still bring the server on this knees.. Your better off with short, middle and long term production condition to learn them how to write queries that will scale even on large datasets.

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Thanks, but I cannot tell anybody "they wasted money" on something I've never seen and a priori having less knowledge and exp on than those who mounted it (virtualization infrastructure) –  Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин Dec 27 '13 at 1:23
    
@Gennady Vanin Novosibirsk you are right that takes lots off courage to tell.. But management always wantes fast results without extra costs or large investments.. i've placed an new part in mine anwser.. maybe you can use this to get fast results and win management over so that they grant you read access to virtualization infrastructure because they see fast results.. –  Raymond Nijland Dec 27 '13 at 13:13

Perfmon is not accurate when running on a VM, it just shows guest metrics without any visibility on the physical host, or vMotion events.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Start using Ignite without the VMware connection, you will still get SQL response time and wait type analysis.
  2. Sit down and talk with the VMware admin (or manager) understand their concerns first (ask non threatening questions). Then explain that the VMware connection from Ignite is read only with a negligible load on servers. Also, offer the VMware admin a login to Ignite so they can see a historical trends and when problem really really the database, and not there VM servers or storage. They will see first hand what it is missing without the VMware connection, and how much value they could get if they gave Ignite read only access to vCenter.
  3. If #2 fails, whenever a question regarding server / VMware resources ask your VMware admin (or manager)! This will give them clarity on why these metrics are important to a DBA, and eventually they may just get tired of your questions and give you access.

Most importantly is to earn their trust. Technology is the easy part, mastering human relationships is the biggest challenge in IT. Good Luck!

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