Windows Virtualization: Get Started With Hyper-V

Wednesday Sep 3rd 2008 by Ryan Bass

Windows Virtualization: Microsoft may be late to the virtualization game, but Hyper-V is a compelling offering all the same. Here's how to get started.

Ryan BassAs of late June, the release to manufacturing (RTM) version of Hyper-V is finally available (it's about time Microsoft). This final edition of Hyper-V includes security, stability, performance, and user experience improvements. With such a late start, Microsoft is going to have a tough time capturing a sizable portion of the enterprise virtualization market, but small- to medium-size organizations are sure to jump on board the Hyper-V train as they slowly begin to migrate from Server 2003 to Server 2008. In this article we're going to take a look at what to do if you've already got virtual machines (VMs) created in the Hyper-V beta or release candidate environments, and how to get started with Hyper-V if you're a beginner.

If you've already been tinkering with the release candidate or beta editions of Hyper-V here's what you need to know if you want to continue using those VMs:

Version Pre-Existing
Saved State Files
Snapshot Files
Beta See Below Not Supported Not Supported
RC0 Supported Not Supported Not Supported
RC1 Supported Supported Supported

If you are running a VM containing a pre-release version Windows Server 2008 created with a beta version of Hyper-V, then you are out of luck and will need to re-create the virtual hard disk file from scratch. If you created a VM containing a final release version of Windows Server 2008, then follow the steps here to get it working in the RTM version of Hyper-V. If you created VMs with RC0, all you have to do is shut down the guest OS and merge any snapshot files. If you've got VMs created with RC1, then you don't have to do anything special.

We've all been barraged with the benefits of virtualization for several years now, but in case you forgot here are three good reasons to go virtual: server consolidation, business continuity/disaster recovery, and testing/development. Hyper-V makes it so easy there is really no reason to hold back. Even if you run Hyper-V solely for testing and development, it is well worth it. The biggest barrier to getting started with Hyper-V is hardware. Unfortunately, you won't be able to use older equipment because Hyper-V requires a 64-bit processor with hardware assisted virtualization and hardware data execution protection.

Installing Hyper-V

If you've got the right hardware then follow these steps to get Hyper-V installed:

  1. Setup a Windows Server 2008 x64 server
  2. If the server software didn't already come with the RTM version of Hyper-V then download and install it.
  3. Open Server Manager
  4. Click on Roles > Add Roles > Next > Select Hyper-V > Next > Next
  5. Select an Ethernet adapter to be available for VMs > Next > Install

To open the Hyper-V Manager click on Start > All Programs > Administrative Tools > Hyper-V Manager. To create a new VM click on New from the Actions side bar and select Virtual Machine. Follow the instructions in the wizard to create a new VM. The easiest and fastest way to install a new VM is to use an ISO file containing the operation system you want to install. This option is available on the Install Options page of the New Virtual Machine Wizard.

Once you've got your first VM setup you may want to make a copy of the virtual hard disk file. This will allow you to setup new VMs in a matter of minutes. Of course, before you make a copy of the virtual hard disk file you should run sysprep or another utility on the VM to roll the SID on the server. The SID is a unique identifier that the server assigns itself when it is first created. Duplicate SIDs will end up biting you in subtle ways and it may not be obvious that your problem is caused by the duplicate SID.

VMs In Production

If you're going to be running VMs in production, then you will definitely want to take a gander at the different settings available for your VM. Some of the more important options include: memory, processor, network adapter, and automatic start/stop actions. Be sure to give your virtual machine enough memory because you don't want it to hit the page file on your virtual disk. Processor settings are important because you don't want a test box or runaway app to hog all the processing power away from other production VMs. Depending on the applications you are running, you may want to install additional physical network adapters into the host server and distribute the networking load among more than one adapter. Finally, it's important to tell Hyper-V what to do when the host operating system shuts down or starts up.

One final note: Beware of virtual server sprawl. With Hyper-V (and other server virtualization technologies) it becomes almost too easy to create new "servers." Remember that there is overhead associated with each additional VM that is created. It may need to have an anti-virus client, a backup client, and any other clients/agents that you install on your servers. It will need to be patched each month, and don't forget about that pesky OS licensing issue.

Depending on your version of Windows Server you may need to purchase additional OS licenses. It appears that Microsoft is following the same licensing schema used for Windows Server 2003 with Virtual Server 2005 R2 (though it is not very clear about this on its website). There is, however, a Microsoft tool that will help to determine how many OS licenses need to be purchased. With Server 2008 Datacenter Edition you can have as many VMs as you want, Enterprise Edition comes with the ability to run 4 VMs, and Standard Edition requires a license for each VM.

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