Hyper-V for the vSphere Admin

Welcome to my inaugural post on rnelson.com, I’m happy to be here and hope that I can provide some useful insight. Recently, I received a voucher for the Microsoft Hyper-V certification exam and decided to take that opportunity to really give it a proper test. With that in mind, Rob convinced me to write some articles on interesting or difficult concepts I come across in the hope that I can help people down the road avoid the same technical landmines. I’m a vSphere admin by experience, so I’ll be comparing Hyper-V components to their vSphere equivalents to help root this in familiar terms. Today, I’ll describe what Hyper-V is, the lab I’m running it in, and some pre-reqs to installing it. Follow up articles with provide greater detail (and pictures!) and cover installation and use.

Hyper-V is Microsoft’s virtualization product in their server line. In my opinion, starting with Hyper-V in Server 2012, it’s becoming competitive with vSphere for the small to medium scale environments in which I’ve worked. Veeam has a great article explaining the concept of Hyper-V. Veeam is a terrific backup product for virtual environments and it supports both Hyper-V and vSphere. If you are an MCSA/MCSE or VCP, you should look into their NFR (Not for resale) licenses to run in your home lab.

My lab consists of a single server, a Dell T320, with 48GB RAM, a dual port Intel Gigabit NIC, and 6x1TB WD Black drives in RAID 10. As I grow my lab and add enough hardware to set up clustering, I will revisit some topics. For now, the setup will not cover high availability or redundancy configuration.

MS server licenses are provided by my soon to expire Technet subscription (RIP Technet). If this option isn’t available to you, Microsoft conveniently allows for a 180 day trial of their products now, I recommend you visit TechNet’s EvalCenter and download the Server 2012 R2 trial and Windows 7 or 8 trial so you have some operating systems to play with.

In my environment, I used my Windows 8.1 workstation with its version of Hyper-V installed to deploy an OS for using the Microsoft MDT package. This is the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit and if you have experience with SCCM, it should be familiar to you. Download it here and install it on a supported server OS. In the event something goes wrong, you want to be able to start over cleanly. MDT provides this capability by allowing you to deploy an OS from a bare metal install via PXE. Until you get SCVMM running and templates built, this is very handy. Note: SCVMM is the Microsoft equivalent of vCenter, it stands for System Center Virtual Machine Manager and is part of System Center 2012 which you can also download from the Technet downloads link I posted above. It requires some setup and I did it purely for my own interest. I will write up how I used and configured it in another article, but for now we just need to get 2012 R2 installed on whatever hardware you want to use.

There are a couple of minor caveats. Hyper-V will not install inside an existing Hyper-V environment, but it will install inside a VMware VM (ESXi, Workstation, etc.). This allows you to use your existing vSphere environment so as to not lose anything that may be currently crucial. If you do not have a dedicated host available for Hyper-V, you can follow this article on nesting Hyper-V in ESXi. Additionally, you need to make sure you have virtualization support enabled in your BIOS. If this host was previously a vSphere server, it should already be set, otherwise check the BIOS settings before continuing. Lastly, you want to have two drives available (one for the hypervisor OS, the other for VM data), either through your RAID array or partitioning, as I have not been able to install Hyper-V to a thumbdrive like I have with vSphere. This functionality may also vary by your server and firmware capabilities.

There are two methods of installing Hyper-V. You can download the entirely free Microsoft Hyper-V package which is literally just Hyper-V with a command prompt. Secondly, you can install the full version of Server 2012 R2 and add the Hyper-V Role which, although it has a larger attack surface which increases our security concerns, I recommend using until we are more familiar with the installation and use of Hyper-V. This allows for remote desktop into the host and you can create and modify the environment directly from there. This is useful when we don’t have a management VM up and running yet.

Thank you for checking out this article and I hope that I can provide some useful information for all the vSphere admins curious about Hyper-V or anyone who is interested in learning more about this interesting technology. If you have any ideas for topics to cover or comments on the series, please use the comments or tweet them to @hawkbox.

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