BYOL and Oversubscription
This post is courtesy of Mike Eizensmits, Senior Solutions Architect – AWS
Most AWS customers have a significant Windows Server deployment and are also tied to a Microsoft licensing program. When it comes to Microsoft products, such as Windows Server and SQL Server, licensing models can easily dictate Cloud infrastructure solutions. AWS provides several options to support Bring Your Own Licensing (BYOL) as well as EC2 License Included models for non-BYOL workloads. Most Enterprise customers have EA’s with Microsoft which can skew their licensing strategy when considering Azure, On-premises and other Cloud Service Providers such as AWS. BYOL models may be the only reasonable implementation path when entering a new environment or spinning up new applications. Licensing can constitute a significant investment when running workloads on public cloud. To help facilitate the maximum benefit of a customer’s existing Microsoft licensing, AWS provides multiple options to utilize BYOL EC2 Dedicated Hosts and Dedicated Instances expose the physical cores of the server to Windows and applications such as SQL Server while allowing licenses with or without Software Assurance to be utilized. Bare Metal as well as VMware on AWS can minimize additional licensing costs.
Dedicated Hosts and Instances
An EC2 Dedicated Host is a dedicated server of a specific Instance Class that is allotted to a single customer, referred to as dedicated tenancy. The density of a host is based on the Instance Size as well as the Instance Type defined at creation. If you chose the M5 Instance Type and chose the m5.large Instance Size, you would have 48 “slots” available on the host to deploy m5.large Instances. If you chose the m5.xlarge, you would have enough capacity to house 24 Instances. Dedicated hosts have a fixed number of vCPU and RAM per Instance Type. To deploy Windows on a Dedicated Host, the customer imports an image (vmdk, ova, vhd) using the import-image utility and tags the image as a “BYOL” in the command. The BYOL flag dictates whether the image will acquire a license from AWS or the customer’s existing licensing framework. When dealing with an oversubscribed customer environment, such as an on-premise VMware deployment, the customer has likely oversubscribed the environment with minimum of 4 vCPU to 1 physical core (4:1). In these environments, Microsoft licensing typically takes place at the host level using physical cores rather than the resources in a provisioned instance (vCPU). An AWS Dedicated Host is oversubscribed 2 vCPU to 1 CPU, meaning each core is Hyper-Threaded. While the math can be performed to show the actual value of a vCPU, customers can be reluctant to modify vCPU configurations to reflect the greater value of the AWS vCPU. Simply matching the quantity of vCPU’s to their current environment may be much more costly and expansive than rightsizing the instances for cost optimization.
Below is a sample configuration of a customer interested in migrating to AWS and utilizing BYOL for Microsoft Windows and SQL Server Enterprise Edition. By licensing the 400 physical cores in their cluster, the customer is able to assign any number of vCPU’s to the VM’s deployed on the hosts. Enterprise Architects have spent a considerable amount of time sizing VM’s with the proper resource attributes, so it can be difficult to initiate that process all over again to bring them to the public cloud.
Customer Environment (SQL Server Enterprise Cluster on VMware):
|ESXi Nodes in Cluster||10|
|Total Cores in Cluster||400|
|vCPU assigned (240/host)||2400|
|Value of vCPU||520 MHz|
In this case, the customer has decided not to right-size their VM’s and instead maintain their current vCPU/RAM specifications. This is a Dedicated Host solution to match their vCPU configurations.
AWS Dedicated Host Environment (Dedicated Hosts required to match vCPU of VMware above)
|Dedicated Hosts (r4)||38|
|Total vCPU assigned||2432|
|Value of vCPU||1300 MHz|
If the customer is not willing to consider right-sizing their VM’s by assigning fewer, yet higher powered vCPU’s, they face a considerably larger server deployment. After doing the math, we can determine that the Dedicated Host solution has 2.5 times the power of the VMware solution. Following that logic, and math, right-sizing the VM’s would drop the required vCPU count down to 960 vCPU to match their current solution. This would change the number of required r4 Dedicated Hosts from 38 to 15 hosts and slash the SQL licensing requirements for the solution.
EC2 Bare Metal instances and VMware Cloud on AWS
AWS does have other products that lend to the BYOL/oversubscription story. EC2 Bare Metal instances and VMware Cloud on AWS gives the customer full control of the configuration of instances just as they have on-premise. The EC2 Bare Metal instances are built on the Nitro System which is a collection of AWS-built hardware offload and security components that offers high performance networking and storage to EC2 instances. EC2 Bare Metal instances can utilize AWS services such as Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Elastic Block Store (EBS), Elastic Load Balancing (ELB), AutoScaling and more. The Nitro configuration gives the customer the ability to install a server Operating System or hypervisor directly on the hardware. By utilizing their own hypervisor, the customer can define and configure their own instance configurations of RAM, disk and vCPU. By surpassing the fixed configurations in the EC2 Dedicated Host environment, Nitro configurations enable migrating highly oversubscribed on-premise workloads.
The VMware Cloud on AWS offering provides organizations the ability to extend and migrate their on-premise vSphere environment to AWS’s scalable and secure Cloud infrastructure. Customers can leverage vSphere, vSAN, NSX and vCenter technologies to extend their data centers and consume AWS services. vMotion provides the ability to live migrate VM’s to AWS with limited or no downtime. While licensing for migrated VM’s does not change at the VM level, it is imperative that the licensing on the new vSphere node be adequate. Since the customer has complete control of the environment, they have the ability to oversubscribe CPU’s to any ratio. By licensing applications such as SQL Server at the host level, oversubscription rates are irrelevant to licensing. If a vSphere node has 40 cores, as long as the 40 cores are licensed, the number of vCPU’s assigned is immaterial. In the VMware environment, all OS’s and applications are BYOL and no licensing will be provided by AWS. Ultimately, this solution is free of the oversubscription burden that affects certain AWS dedicated tenancy options.
EC2 Instance Types offer multiple fixed vCPU to memory configurations to match the customer’s workloads and use cases. With Optimize CPU, customers now have the ability to specify the number of cores that an instance has access to as well as determining if Hyper-Threading is enabled. Hyper-Threading Technology enables multiple threads to run concurrently on a single Intel Xeon CPU core. Each thread is represented as a virtual CPU (vCPU) on the instance. Controlling the threads and core count is significant for Microsoft SQL Server as it is typically more RAM constrained than compute bound. With Optimize CPUs, you can potentially reduce the number of SQL Server licenses required by specifying a custom number of vCPUs. SQL Server on Amazon EC2 is often licensed per virtual core. EC2 vCPU’s are the equivalent of virtual cores. When licensing with virtual cores on EC2, the number of active vCPUs provisioned through Optimize CPUs may indicate the number of SQL Server licenses required. For example, if you have a SQL Standard build that needs the RAM and network capabilities of an r4.4xlarge but not the 16 vCPUs that comes configured on it, you can define the Optimize CPU options in the CLI or API at launch to disable Hyper-Threading and limit the instance to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 cores. This example would cut the licensing costs exponentially. The Optimize CPU feature is available for new instance launches in all AWS public regions. To benefit from Optimize CPUs, you can bring SQL Server licenses to Amazon EC2 and use it on EC2 default tenancy or on allocated instances on a EC2 Dedicated Host or a EC2 Dedicated Instance. For a list of supported instance types, and valid CPU counts, see instance type documentation.
In this post, we’ve covered three AWS scenarios and how they fulfill specific areas of BYOL with CPU oversubscription scenario as well as how Optimize CPU can help cut licensing costs. EC2 Dedicated hosts are generally the first choice in the Microsoft BYOL realm unless the customer is absolutely unwilling to right-size their highly oversubscribed instances. EC2 Bare Metal instances provide the customer the ability to configure all aspects of their hypervisor of choice and maintain any oversubscription that exists in their environment. This is a very popular choice that requires little change and ultimately gets their workloads to the AWS Cloud. The VMware Cloud on AWS option is sold by and provisioned by VMware. For users that are current VMware customers, this service allows them to bridge the gap between their on-premise data center and AWS while providing a seamless migration path to the Cloud using their current toolsets.