Virtualization in Dynamics environments comes in handy, sometimes in unexpected places.
As noted in a previous article on Hyper-V and Dynamics AX, Microsoft’s virtualization engine, Hyper-V, enables a diverse array of Dynamics-based solutions to be spun up in virtual machines whenever additional dedicated “machines” are needed, and spin them back down again as the load lightens again.
Of course, a company’s hardware can only perform as well as its sum total of CPU cores, bandwidth, RAM and disk space will allow. But increasingly these days, the choke point isn’t always hardware, it’s having an efficient and optimized software architecture that enables a company to get the most out of their existing hardware.
And in that sense, Hyper-V really comes in handy for Dynamics CRM, especially for solutions that need to scale. Virtualization can also prove particularly valuable when Dynamics CRM is leverages its XRM framework, which can allow for a nearly limitless range of new business management solutions.
Henry McCallum, a Dynamics CRM specialist based in New Jersey says Hyper-V has been a tremendous asset for some of his CRM clients. For instance, he says, he’s working with a company that contracts with 65 different restaurant chains, representing some 600 restaurants, for a restaurant management and accounting system that was written on top of Dynamics CRM.
“Each night at 3 a.m., across the three different time zones in the [contiguous] U.S., they run their end of night reports – that’s 600 restaurants hitting a box,” McCallum says. “A single SQL server is not going to handle all that. So how do we easily deploy an additional resource for this? Where it comes in handy for CRM is creating a Hyper-V SQL cluster.”
So the server interfacing with the many CRM clients at restaurants across the US spins up additional Hyper-V virtual machine instances as needed to handle the nightly influx.
“They cannot have the system down at all, zero down time,” he says. “Because these restaurants live and breathe this. It books reservations, it does cash register transactions. If I kill the CRM server, it shuts down every one of these restaurants. Bang. Not a good thing.”
XRM marks the spot
Virtualization can prove particularly valuable when Dynamics CRM is leverages its XRM framework to build out a limitless range of new business management solutions, often in the same organization and using the same server resources.
For instance, McCallum is now consulting with an international aid organization that is developing an XRM solution – one that isn’t just customer relations management – to replace software based around Lotus Notes and other, older business software products.
For the aid organization and restaurant clients, as well as a number of other clients he’s worked with, McCallum says Hyper-V has added flexibility and robustness to CRM solutions.
“Hyper-V allows me to augment my server allocations, memory, RAM, network cards, so I don’t need to go out and put new boxes in,” he says.
Of snapshots and sandboxes
As with Hyper-V instances running AX, Hyper-V CRM instances can also add a layer of redundancy. A crash of one process on one “machine” will not threaten or affect the functioning of other instances.
And McCallum says Hyper-V enables CRM developers to establish efficient processes to cordon off components of a solution still in development or to study bugs in order to understand how best to squash them. Hyper-V plus CRM, in other words, enables so-called sandboxing, separating out various components of a company’s CRM environment into their own separate virtual machines, regardless of how many physical machines they have in their server room.
“If something does critically fail, you can roll it to a new instance and take the old one off,” he says. “Say I have a production instance that’s doing something weird. I can snapshot that system, take it offline and use it as a testbed. Put it into a different environment – and test out what was failing.”
But he also cautions that robust Hyper-V environments do have an initial price: Devoting the time and resources needed to install the first Hyper-V instance and optimize it for a company’s particular configuration of hardware, software, network resources, etc.
Spinning off a Hyper-V instance the right way a second, third and subsequent times is easy, he says, so long as you get that first time right first.
Published by Mark Anderson, 21 July 2014
Shared via MS Dynamics World