“Off with his head,” cackled the Red Queen. Had the Red Queen of Alice in Wonderland been an IT admin, perhaps she would say this of every server which offended her as she played croquet in the data center. But then that would be “sever the server,” right?
What do servers need a graphical user interface for? Why would they need a keyboard or mouse? Why does a server even need to be a server?
Around the time Windows Server 2008 came out, Microsoft released a major replacement for their Virtual Server 2005 R2, namely a hypervisor based virtualization platform called Hyper-V. Many VMware customers, particularly those of ESX or ESXi, may be unlikely to switch to Hyper-V. But now this is starting to pick up some steam, and like a caterpillar evolving into a butterfly, a new incarnation of Hyper-V holds even more promise.
Now available as a standalone product with a free license, Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 provides just the Hyper-V role without the extra baggage of other roles or the license costs of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 in the Standard, Enterprise, or Datacenter editions. Note the lack of the name Windows in the title of this standalone Hyper-V product.
Hyper-V Server, in this standalone 2008 release two incarnation, is essentially a limited Windows Server 2008 R2 “Server Core” installation which is x64 based. No other roles and very few features can be installed directly on it. There are several implications and ramifications of this.
Firstly, if you are going to manage the Hyper-V Server(s) locally, you need to be aware that in Server Core installations like this, local graphical management tools are almost entirely out of the question. Certainly, the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) will not run locally on the Hyper-V Server. Luckily you have a command line and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). If you’re not into that kind of administrative joy, then just run the server headless and manage it from across the network. You’ll still want to configure basic networking and such using netsh, netdom, and related commands. Then go remote.
You could manage Hyper-V Server remotely using WMI with a number of tools, including wmic or PowerShell. Two other alternatives are a lightweight management tool which is useful for small deployments of one or a few Hyper-V based servers, and a heavyweight management product targeted at larger virtualization deployments, perhaps with both Hyper-V and VMware servers.
Let’s start light and go heavy. Hyper-V Manager (virtmgmt.msc) is a MMC snap-in which can be installed on Windows Vista or Windows 7. If you don’t already have this, download the appropriate version from Microsoft. Before you connect to your Hyper-V servers across the network from this graphical management interface, you will want to do a bit of preparation work of the server(s). Specifically, you can use Authorization Manager (AzMan) to adjust the management permissions for Hyper-V. Perhaps I’ll get into more details later. But remember one thing: Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 and this Hyper-V Manager are both free, zero cost license downloads.
System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008 R2 is the more heavyweight approach. Yes, like other components of the System Center suite, VMM 2008 R2 must be licensed with money. For example, estimated enterprise pricing is $869 U.S. and $40 per hosted operating system, while workgroup edition pricing is estimated at $505 U.S. for five host servers. A trial edition is available. SQL Server is used on the backend, failover cluster, consolidation, migration, and management of mixed environments with both Hyper-V and VMware are just some of the aspects of this bigger scale management product.
If you’re we doing virtualization now or looking into it, take a look at this version of Hyper-V that is decoupled from the full Windows Server 2008 R2.