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Windows 8 : Creating and using Hyper-V virtual machines (part 1) - Planning your virtual machines

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4/14/2014 9:48:47 PM

1. Planning your virtual machines

Each situation in which you might create a virtual machine is different. Therefore, the decision to create a virtual machine must be based on the needs of the particular situation and the policies of your organization. Because of the many variables, there is no best practice for how many or what types of virtual machines should be created. For example, a desktop support technician might maintain a virtual mausoleum of operating systems for large environments where multiple Windows versions are used. This repository can expand quickly when x86 and x64 variants are considered.

A Hyper-V virtual machine has a virtualized hardware inventory of all the components, like a standard Windows 8–based computer: disk, memory, network, and processing. The virtual machine creation process defines how these virtual elements will be configured for the virtual machine.

When you create the virtual machine, you are asked to provide several crucial pieces of information: the name of the machine, where the files will be stored, the amount of memory assigned to it, and the network connection options. Think each of these through before you start creating any virtual machines so that you have a consistent and useful plan in place. This will make troubleshooting easier.

Establishing names and locations

The virtual machine name and location are very important; the name of the virtual machine should match the computer name assigned to it. Consider creating a nomenclature that makes sense in your organization. For example, if computer accounts have a predictable naming pattern, follow it when deploying Hyper-V virtual machines. It might also be worth establishing a naming policy by which you designate a name that identifies it as a virtual machine name, assuming the computer name is the same. This can be something as simple as adding a “-V” to the name or some other addition that makes sense in your organization. If non-Windows systems are used extensively, consider using fully qualified domain names (FQDNs) for these hosts.



Sometimes, an issue will occur on a network with a virtual machine that will require you to track down what happened. Further, with the virtual machine running in Windows 8, it’s possible that certain ways of identifying a system are more difficult with a virtual machine. One example is serving DHCP from an unauthorized server that is a virtual machine. It can be difficult to track these down, and ensuring that the name of the virtual machine in Hyper-V Manager matches the guest virtual machine will help immensely.

For the location of the virtual machine files, the C drive is used by default in a designated path for Hyper-V in the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Hyper-V folder. If other drive letters or hard drives are added, they can be used as fixed local disk resources. This includes an iSCSI target that can be provisioned as a drive letter and formatted in Windows. Network resources can also be used with SMB 3.0, the Windows 8 and Windows Server file-based network protocol.

Understanding memory availability

Always consider the free space involved. Many Hyper-V administrators avoid placing virtual machines of any quantity or size on the C drive of the Windows 8–based computer with the Hyper-V feature enabled because of the risk of the drive filling to capacity and causing issues with both the virtual machines and the computer running Windows 8.



Storage will be discussed in the next lesson in greater detail, but you should give some thought to where the virtual machines will reside within Hyper-V. For Windows 8 systems, using high-performance removable storage components, such as solid state drives (SSDs), as a container for virtual machines, is a good idea. The virtual machines are portable on high-performance storage and can’t fill up the C drive of the Windows 8–based computer.

The memory options are important, and the shared resources should be considered. Depending on the amount of memory installed on the computer running Windows 8, there might be a maximum amount of memory that a virtual machine can use. The Hyper-V feature can be enabled only on computers running Windows 8 with 4 GB of memory or more, and there is a reserved amount for Windows 8. For the 4 GB minimum, 1,882 MB of memory is made available to Hyper-V for virtual machines. All virtual machines that are simultaneously turned on will work from that pool of memory, and virtual machines that are turned off will not consume memory.

When you configure the storage for a new virtual hard disk, the default format with Hyper-V on Windows 8 is VHDX. VHDX is a virtual disk format used in Hyper-V that expands on the popular VHD format used by earlier versions of Hyper-V. The VHDX file format supports virtual disk files up to 64 terabytes (TB) in size, a substantial improvement over the VHD maximum of 2 TB.

The size for the VHDX file is set to 127 GB by default, which is fine for most Windows operating systems. You should consider your environment to determine if that is too large or too small as a maximum. One key technology to assist in this decision is thin provisioning, which will have the virtual disk consume the space used within the virtual machine. Thin provisioning won’t provision the entire 127 GB at once, yet it could grow to that size or larger with snapshots, so keep this in mind in the provisioning process.

For new computers running Windows 8, there is usually a large amount of storage available for systems running traditional rotational storage. However, if the computer running Windows 8 is running an SSD, the total available space can be comparatively limited. Keep this in mind when provisioning virtual machines on Windows 8 systems.

Planning installation options

Use these tips for Hyper-V virtual machines to make the virtualized media management easy to use and to avoid duplicated instances of (potentially) large files such as CD/DVD ISO files:

  • Have one designated location for virtual media. This can be local (such as C:\ISO) or on a network resource. If multiple Windows 8–based computers will have the Hyper-V feature enabled, it might be worthwhile to provision a dedicated storage resource for the virtual media for a workgroup to share.

  • Use a simple name for the files, such as Windows8.iso.

  • Keep only the files you need.

  • Don’t mix distributions of operating systems, such as a TechNet license distribution and possibly the company enterprise licensing media (and licensing).

The physical CD/DVD drive and network and virtual floppy disk resources can be used. For most situations, the virtualized media on a CD/DVD ISO file will be the most popular installation type.

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