Making the leap from desktop-level virtualization to hypervisor-based server virtualization is a gamble but the odds are in your favor with minimal risks and substantial payoffs making the transition an easy win. You also won’t have to have a pile of front money when you head for the table since both products are free. Is free enough of an enticement to gamble on or are you happy with Virtual PC?
There are several free and open source virtualization solutions available to you but Microsoft is betting against conversion to them by you, their loyal customer. Roll the dice with me and take a quick look at upping the ante from Virtual PC to Hyper-V.
The Opening Gambit
The first step is to install Windows Server 2008 on a bare metal server class system. The system must have 64-bit CPUs with virtualization extensions (Also known as hardware-assisted virtualization) and enough RAM to support Windows Server 2008 and several virtual machines. I suggest that you use at least 8GB of RAM as a minimum.
You’ll also need to setup the following before creating an effective Hyper-V server system: Static IP Address for each network interface (NIC), firewall rules to allow remote administration and terminal services or remote desktop protocol.
Once you have a functional Windows Server 2008, install Hyper-V via the Server Manager by adding the Hyper-V Role to your new system. Select the Hyper-V role, click Next, select a network connection so that your virtual machines will be able to connect to a physical network, Confirm. The system now reboots (In typical Windows fashion).
When your Windows server returns to you, Hyper-V is fully installed and ready for Virtual PC to Hyper-V migration.
Now it’s time to take your virtual machines to a new level of performance and persistence with Hyper-V. First, you’ll need to select a location for your virtual machines. I suggest that you use local disk or SAN storage for performance reasons. I strongly advise against using NAS or other UNC shares for virtual machine storage. You won’t like the performance of UNC stored virtual machines. It is also recommended that, if you use local storage, use non-system disks.
Copy all of your Virtual PC images (.vhd files) from your local machine(s) to the new virtual machine store on the Hyper-V server system. You won’t need the virtual machine configuration files (.vmc) from your Virtual PC virtual machines since Hyper-V neither uses nor recognizes them.
Create new virtual machines for each VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) file you copied over to the storage point by firing-up the New Virtual Machine Wizard in Hyper-V. To do this, click New, Virtual Machine from the Hyper-V Manager window. Enter a virtual machine name and location, allocate RAM to the new virtual machine, choose a network connection for the new virtual machine to use, name the new virtual machine, use an existing virtual hard disk (Browse to the virtual machine store and select your virtual hard disk) and finish the virtual machine creation wizard.
Power on your new virtual machine. Connect to its console with the Connect link in Hyper-V Manager. Refer to Figure 1 for the Hyper-V Manager layout and to see some actual virtual machines running in it. The listed virtual machines (Except Windows 7) were migrated from Virtual PC to Hyper-V. Please note that my Hyper-V system is running a DOS virtual machine, a Windows Server 2003 virtual machine, a Windows 7 virtual machine, a Debian 4 virtual machine and a DSL (Damn Small Linux) Frugal virtual machine.
Hyper-V Running Linux and Windows Virtual Machines.
As you can see, Hyper-V is easy to use and versatile enough to run a wide range of operating systems and virtual machine types. Hyper-V is so easy to use that you’ll need no special training nor will you experience a long learning curve when implementing it in your network. It has the same look and feel of other Windows applications.
If you’d like a true hypervisor system when using Hyper-V, install Windows Server 2008 as a core installation and add Hyper-V to that minimal Windows server install. Once installed, your Hyper-V will be managed remotely from a workstation using the Hyper-V management tools available by download from Microsoft.
Transitioning from one platform to another is rarely as easy as moving from Microsoft’s Virtual PC or Virtual Server to Hyper-V. Does this mean that you should scrap Virtual PC in favor of Hyper-V? No. In my opinion, Virtual PC is an excellent development and testing platform for new virtual machines and applications. Use Hyper-V for production but leave the development and testing to Virtual PC. Migrate your virtual machines to Hyper-V when they’re found to be stable enough for production.
Have you gambled on or experienced any problems with Hyper-V? Write back and let me know.