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Windows Server 2012 : Deploying and configuring virtual machines (part 1) - Planning virtual machine deployment

4/18/2014 1:06:56 AM
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1. Planning virtual machine deployment

Depending on the scenario being envisioned, deploying a virtual machine can mean different things, for example:

  • Creating a new virtual machine, and installing a guest operating system and applications on it.

  • Importing an existing virtual machine that already has a guest operating system and applications installed on it.

  • Performing a physical-to-virtual (P2V) conversion of a physical server to migrate the server’s operating system and applications into a virtual machine.

  • Performing a virtual-to-virtual (V2V) conversion by converting a VMware virtual machine to a Hyper-V virtual machine.

The first two types of virtual-machine deployments can be performed using the in-box management tools of the Hyper-V role of Windows Server 2012—specifically, the Hyper-V Manager and the Hyper-V module for Windows PowerShell. Deploying new virtual machines by performing P2V or V2V conversions requires additional tools, such as System Center Virtual Machine Manager or third-party utilities.

The following issues should be considered when creating new virtual machines on a Hyper-V host:

  • Location of configuration files

  • Startup memory

  • Dynamic Memory

  • Virtual processors

  • Virtual networking

  • Virtual hard disks

  • Guest operating system deployment

  • Performing snapshots

Note that these issues apply mainly to the creation of new virtual machines. Importing existing virtual machines entails a different set of conditions that are described separately later in this section.

Location of configuration files

Although the default location where virtual machine configuration files is configured at the host level, you also have the option of overriding this default when you create a new virtual machine. You might do this, for example, if you are creating a virtual machine for high availability—that is, a clustered virtual machine on a failover cluster of Hyper-V hosts that uses CSV shared storage. In such a scenario, you need to specify the CSV under the ClusterStorage folder in Failover Cluster Manager as the location where the virtual machine will be stored. Another scenario where you might override the default configuration file storage location is when you are creating a virtual machine that will be stored on a SMB 3.0 file share on a Scale-Out File Server. In this case, you would specify the client access point that is configured in the failover cluster for the Scale-Out File Server as the location where the virtual machine will be stored.

Startup memory

The memory that each new virtual machine will need is an important consideration when planning the creation of new virtual machines. Physical host systems have a fixed amount of physical memory, and this memory must be shared in an appropriate way between the different virtual machines that run on the host. (The host itself also requires some physical memory in order to function with optimum performance.) Planning the amount of physical memory to be allocated to a new virtual machine you will create involves two considerations:

  • Deciding upon the amount of startup memory to be assigned to the virtual machine. The guest operating installed in a virtual machine must have access to sufficient memory; otherwise, the virtual machine might not be able to start. The recommended startup memory varies with the guest operating system involved and also on whether Dynamic Memory is enabled on the host. Some recommended values for startup memory include

    • 512 MBs for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7

    • 128 MBs for Windows Server 2003

  • Deciding whether to enable Dynamic Memory on the virtual machine. Dynamic Memory manages physical memory on the host as a shared resource that can be automatically reallocated among running virtual machines based on changes in memory demand and values you can specify.

Virtual processors

Some workloads can require additional processor resources in order to perform optimally. Hyper-V allows you to assign one or more virtual processors to each virtual machine running on the host, up to the maximum number of logical processors supported by the guest operating system installed in the virtual machine. You can also use Hyper-V to keep a reserve of the processor resources available to a virtual machine, specify a limit to the amount of processor resources the virtual machine can use, and configure how Hyper-V allocates processor resources when multiple running virtual machines on a host compete for the host’s processor resources.

Virtual networking

Virtual networking involves creating virtual network adapters in virtual machines and assigning these adapters to virtual switches on the host. The following considerations apply when planning virtual networking for virtual machines:

  • Each virtual machine can have up to 12 virtual network adapters installed in it. Of these 12 virtual network adapters, up to 8 can be the network adapter type and up to the 4 can be the legacy network adapter type. These two types of virtual network adapters are discussed in more detail later in this lesson.

  • Each virtual network adapter can be configured with either a static MAC address or a dynamic MAC address that is automatically assigned from the configured MAC address range on the host.

  • Each virtual network can be assigned a unique VLAN channel to segment or isolate network traffic.

  • Up to 512 virtual machines can be assigned to each virtual switch on the host.


Hyper-V and wireless networking

Virtual switches on a Hyper-V host cannot be connected to a wireless network adapter on the host system.

Virtual hard disks

When you create a new virtual machine, you have three options concerning the virtual hard disks associated with the new virtual machines:

  • You can create a new virtual hard disk when you create the new virtual machine.

  • You can assign an existing virtual hard disk to the new virtual machine you are creating.

  • You can create a new virtual machine with no virtual hard disk and then assign a virtual hard disk to it afterwards.

Another planning consideration concerning virtual hard disks is the type of storage controller used for the disk. Virtual machines include both IDE and SCSI controllers, and you can add virtual hard disks to either type of controller.

Another planning consideration is the type of virtual disk to use—namely, one of the following types:

  • Fixed-size This type of virtual hard disk has its image file pre-allocated on the physical storage device for the maximum size requested when the disk is created. For example, a 250-GB, fixed-size virtual hard disk will occupy 250 GBs of space on the host’s storage device.

  • Dynamically expanding This type of virtual hard disk uses only as much physical storage space as it needs to store the actual data that the disk currently contains. The size of the virtual disk’s image file then grows as additional data is written to it. For example, the image file for a dynamic virtual hard disk of a newly created virtual machine that has no operating system installed on it has a size of only 4 MBs even though its maximum size is configured with the default value of 127 GBs. Once Windows Server 2012 has been installed as the guest operating system, however, the size of the virtual disk’s image file will grow to more than 8 GBs.

  • Differencing This type of virtual hard disk allows you to make changes to a parent virtual hard disk without modifying the parent disk. For example, the parent disk could have a clean install of Windows Server 2012 as its guest operating system while the differencing disk contains changes to the parent. The changes can then be reverted if needed by merging the differencing disk with the parent. Hyper-V snapshots use such differencing disk technology.


Pass-through disks

Another type of disk that a Hyper-V virtual machine can use is the pass-through disk, which is not really a virtual disk at all. Instead, with pass-through disks the virtual machine is directly attached to a physical disk on the host’s storage system, and the physical disk on the host is dedicated to for use by the virtual machine alone. With the performance improvements that have been made to both fixed-size and dynamically expanding virtual hard disks in recent versions of Hyper-V, and given the added flexibility that virtual hard disks can provide, pass-through disks no longer offer any performance benefits beyond those provided by virtual hard disks and should not be used anymore.

Some additional planning considerations relating to virtual hard disks include

  • Whether to use virtual hard disks that use the VHD disk format used by previous versions of Hyper-V or the newer VHDX format introduced in Windows Server 2012. Although the older VHD format supported virtual hard disks up to 2040 GBs in size, the newer VHDX format now supports virtual hard disks up to 64 TBs in size. VHDX also includes other enhancements, such as improved alignment to make the format work well on large-format disks, larger block sizes for dynamic and differencing disks, support for trim, support for 4-KB logical sector virtual disks, improved safeguards against data corruption when power interruptions occur, and other features.

  • If the storage capacity provided by a single virtual hard disk is not sufficient for the needs of the virtual machine’s workload, additional virtual disks can be created and attached to the virtual machine using the IDE controller, SCSI controller, or both controllers.

  • The maximum supported storage for a single virtual machine is 512 TBs for all types.

  • If your Hyper-V hosts are using a SAN for their storage, you can improve storage performance by taking advantage of the new Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX) functionality included in Windows Server 2012. ODX can help minimize latency, maximize array throughput, and reduce processing and network resource usage on Hyper-V hosts by transparently offloading file-transfer operations from the host to the SAN.

  • If your virtual machines need to be able to access storage on a Fibre Channel SAN, they can take advantage of the new virtual Fibre Channel feature of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V. This feature provides Fibre Channel ports within the guest operating system so that you can directly connect virtual machines to SAN storage. The benefits of virtual Fibre Channel include being able to virtualize workloads that require direct SAN connectivity and being able to cluster guest operating systems over Fibre Channel. Implementing virtual Fibre Channel requires that the host bus adapter (HBA) on the host have an updated driver that supports virtual Fibre Channel and that the HBA ports be configured with a Fibre Channel topology that supports N_Port ID Virtualization (NPIV).

Guest operating system deployment

Guest operating systems can be installed in virtual machines the same way they are installed on physical systems. For example, you could do the following:

  • Manually install the guest operating system by attaching an ISO image of the product media to the virtual machine’s virtual DVD drive, and then walk through the steps of the installation process.

  • Perform a Lite Touch Installation (LTI) deployment of the guest operating system by booting the virtual machine from a server that has the Windows Deployment Services role installed and then stepping through (or automating) the Windows Deployment Wizard of Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2012 Update 1.

  • Perform a Zero Touch Installation (ZTI) deployment of the guest operating system by using System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 to deploy a reference image created using MDT 2012 Update 1.

Performing snapshots

Although snapshots are not recommended for use in production environments, they might have value in certain limited scenarios. For example, you might consider performing a snapshot of a production virtual machine just before you apply a critical software update to the guest operating system of the virtual machine. That way, if something goes wrong after applying the update, you can quickly revert to the virtual machine to its previous state (that is, before the update was applied). However, there are certain scenarios where you should never perform snapshots, specifically:

  • Don’t perform snapshots on virtualized domain controllers.

  • Don’t perform snapshots on virtualized workloads that run time-sensitive services.

  • Don’t perform snapshots on virtualized workloads that use data distributed across multiple databases.

Also, don’t try to restore snapshots older than 30 days because the computer password for the guest operating system might have expired, which will cause the guest to dis-join itself from the domain.

Finally, if you do plan on performing snapshots, make sure the host has sufficient storage for all the snapshot files you might create. Snapshots can consume a lot of disk space, and you could end up running out of storage space if you perform too many of them.

Considerations for importing virtual machines

Although the process of importing an existing virtual machine onto a Hyper-V host has been simplified in Windows Server 2012, there are still a number of issues that should be considered before you perform the import. The following improvements have been made to the virtual machine import process in Windows Server 2012:

  • The import process has been updated so that configuration problems that might prevent the import from being successful are detected and resolved. For example, if you are importing the virtual machine onto a target host that has a different set of virtual switches than those on the source host, the Import Virtual Machine Wizard, which can be launched from Hyper-V Manager, now prompts you to choose a virtual switch to connect to the virtual network adapter on the virtual machine.

  • Virtual machines can now be directly imported from the virtual machine’s configuration file without first exporting the virtual machine. This can be done by manually copying the virtual machine files instead of exporting them. In fact, when you export a virtual machine in Windows Server 2012, now all that happens is that a copy of the virtual machine’s files is created.

  • Hyper-V now includes Windows PowerShell cmdlets that can be used to export and import virtual machines.

The following issues might be important to consider when planning the import of virtual machines onto your hosts:

  • When you import a virtual machine, you have the choice of either of the following approaches:

    • Registering the virtual machine in-place, and assigning the GUID of the existing virtual machine to the new virtual machine (the default). You can choose this option if the virtual machine’s files are already in the location where they need to be in order to run on the target host, and you just want to begin running the virtual machine from where it is located.

    • Restoring the virtual machine, and assigning the GUID of the existing virtual machine to the new virtual machine. You can use this option if the virtual machine’s files are stored on a file share or removable storage device and you want to move them to the default storage location on the target host.

    • Copying the virtual machine, and generating a new GUID for the new virtual machine. You can use this option if you want to use the existing virtual machine as a template that you will be importing multiple times to create new virtual machines—for example, for test or development work.

  • If you are migrating the virtual machines from a host running an earlier version of Windows Server 2012, you can use the Compare-VM cmdlet to generate a compatibility report that lists any incompatibilities that the virtual machine might have with the target host. You can then use this report to take steps to resolve such issues so that when you use the Import-VM cmdlet later, the import process will go smoothly.

  • If you are importing virtual machines from a nonclustered host to a clustered host, there might be additional considerations, such as whether you need to import the virtual machines to the shared storage used by the failover cluster.

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