What You Need to Know About Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008

Executive Summary:Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 is a standalone version of Hyper-V. It's available for free download from the Microsoft website. Hyper-V Server is an alternative hypervisor technology solution for midsized businesses that want to stick with Windows Server 2003 for a while and for those who need to test environments locally. Hyper-V Server doesn’t include Windows Server 2008 or Server Core, so there is no traditional OS installed in the parent partition. This environment provides basic functionality only, such as the ability to join a domain or change the computer name.

When Microsoft revealed the pricing for Windows Server 2008, an unexpected entry appeared in the list: a new Windows Server version called Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008. Actually, two Microsoft products share the name Hyper-V. One product is a role in Windows Server 2008: Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. The other is a standalone server-virtualization product: Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008, a free download from the Microsoft website. Microsoft is aiming Hyper-V Server at small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) that haven’t upgraded to Server 2008 but would like to implement hypervisor-based virtualization technology in their environments. Here’s what you need to know about Microsoft Hyper- V Server 2008.

What Is Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008?
At a technical level, Hyper-V Server doesn’t include Server 2008 or Server Core, so there’s no traditional OS installed in the parent partition. Instead, a bare-bones command-line environment provides basic functionality, such as the ability to join a domain or change a computer name. And unlike Server 2008 Hyper-V, you need to license all the OSs that run on Hyper-V Server.

Conspicuously missing is the ability to install virtualized OS environments in the system’s child partitions. To perform such an action, you need to access the server remotely using the Hyper-V Manager console, which comes with Server 2008 and is available as a free download for the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista SP1.

Installing Hyper-V Server
Hyper-V Server has the same hardware requirements as Server 2008 with Hyper-V. It requires a server with an x64-compatible Intel or AMD microprocessor with hardware-assisted virtualization (Intel VT or AMD-V) and hardware Data Execution Prevention (DEP) support via the Intel XD or AMD NX bit.

Hyper-V Server installs much like any other Server 2008 version and uses the same interactive setup routine. When setup is complete, it prompts you to provide a lengthy password for the administrator account, then presents you with a Server Core–type screen, with two command-line windows floating over an empty desktop.

You can’t install additional OSs from this interface. You can, however, perform a few basic housekeeping tasks, such as join a workgroup or domain, assign the computer name, configure basic network settings, add a local administrator account, configure Windows Update, configure remote desktop, configure regional and language settings, and set the date and time. To actually install and manage VMs, however, you need to use Hyper-V Manager (or a related tool such as System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008) from another PC or server.

Using Hyper-V Manager
Getting Hyper-V Manager up and running on Server 2008 is straightforward, but many people have experienced difficulties connecting to a Hyper-V environment (whether in Server 2008 or Hyper-V Server) from Vista. These problems are exacerbated by Microsoft’s documentation, which, to date, doesn’t address these difficulties. You will likely receive an error message the first time you try to remote-connect to a Hyper-V environment from Vista using the Hyper-V Manager console. How you fix this connection problem will depend on your environment. The best explanations I’ve seen so far can be found in Microsoft senior program manager John Howard’s blog at tinyurl.com/jhoward. Howard works on the Hyper-V product.

After Hyper-V Manager connects to the virtualization server, management is straightforward. From its standard three-pane Microsoft Management Console (MMC), you can create new VMs, import VMs (but only from other Hyper-V environments), and inspect and edit virtual hard disk (VHD) files. You can also manage virtual networks with the Virtual Network Manager tool, which is particularly useful for testing. With it, you can create virtual networks isolated from each other and the host environment, as well as create virtual networks that can interact with other virtual networks and with the host.

Hyper-V Server is a great way to get started with Microsoft’s new virtualization platform, especially if you’re not ready to migrate to the latest Windows Server version. Hyper-V is a great solution for midsized businesses that want to stick with Windows Server 2003 for a while and for those who need to test environments locally. And as a free web download, you can’t beat the price.

Paul Thurrott ([email protected]) is the news editor for Windows IT Pro. He writes a weekly editorial for Windows IT Pro UPDATE (www.windowsitpro.com/email) and a daily Windows news and information newsletter called WinInfo Daily UPDATE (www.wininformant.com).

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