Deploy a Virtualized Session-Based Remote Desktop Services Solution

Microsoft has released guidance on how to deploy a virtualised Remote Desktop Services (aka Terminal Services) Session Host (aka Terminal Server) on a machine/hardware virtualisation platform.

“This document provides guidance on deploying Remote Desktop Session Host (RD Session Host) and other Remote Desktop Services role services in a virtualized environment with minimal hardware resources. The document also provides scalability information for a virtualized Remote Desktop Services role configuration by using the Knowledge Worker scenario to help size hardware for similar workloads”.

If this subject interests you then you should check out an independent white paper by The Virtual Reality Check that compares the performance of Terminal Services on VMware vSphere 4.0, Citrix XenServer 5.5 and Microsoft’s Hyper-V 2.0 (Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V).

I’ve deployed fairly small solutions on Hyper-V and they worked fine.  One of the nice things about virtualising them is that you can control your resources nicely: start out small and grow as required in a very rapid manner.

News of Third Party VHD/VMDK Optimisation Solution

I just read an article that reports on the launch of a new third party solution (beta) by Virsto Software to optimise the performance of VHD’s on Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V.  It will later be available for VMware’s VMDK’s.  It installs on the parent partition (host OS) and treats VHD’s like database files.  Instead of the VM writing directly to the VHD, it instead writes to a log file which is replayed back to the VHD.  This improves performance but also allows more VHD’s to be placed in a single LUN when I/O has become an issue (probably not channel related – more disk speed related).

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VMware Takes A Shot At Azure

I just read this (part of a larger article) on VMware in the cloud:

Jackson also took the opportunity to get in a dig about Microsoft‘s Azure cloud computing initiative.

Microsoft is painting a beautiful picture about cloud computing, but according to its own internal documents is not using its own Hyper-V virtualization platform because it cannot easily pool CPU, memory, and networking resources, Jackson said.

“Azure represents a one-way ticket to a desert island,” he said.

Run ESX In VMware Workstation

I’m looking at maybe doing some VMware labs with VMM at home in the future.  My worry was hardware.  We know we can run Hyper-V on just about any machine (the h/w requirements are pretty basic).  It runs nicely on my Dell Latitude E6500.  But ESXi and ESX have a pretty limited HCL and my old white boxes probably don’t fall into it.  I don’t want to waste money on PC’s.

So I did a little searching and it seems like there is a solution.  You can run ESX and ESXi in VMware Workstation.  You can get a trial of Workstation for any temporary lab work and run VMware in there.  Add another VM and you can run the VMware management.

All you need do now is point your lab VMM server at them and take control.

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First 5000 Downloads Free: Partition Manager 10 for Virtual Machines

I’d normally post this one in the evening after work but it is a limited time offer.  I just got an email and the contents were:

“Partition Manager 10 for Virtual Machines is out.

Now all IT administrators have a great chance to have Partition Manager 10 for Virtual Machines for FREE – currently we’re announcing this giveaway for up to 5000 copies.

It is a special version of our Linux/DOS bootable environment that contains fully functional Paragon Partition Manager 10 Professional. It is optimized to work with virtual disks of any virtualization software vendor √ backup/restore virtualized systems, re-partition and clone virtual disks, fix boot problems, optimize performance of NTFS and FAT file systems, etc.

The software and user manual can be downloaded from here.

Please, note that it requires registration”.

It is for non-commercial use only.

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Using VMM 2008 R2 For V2V

It is possible using Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 to migrate virtual machines from one hardware virtualisation platform to another.  This is known as Virtual to Virtual or V2V.  The possible migrations you can do are:

  • Migrate from Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 to Hyper-V
  • Migrate a VMware Virtual Machine from the VMM Library to Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 or to Hyper-V
  • Migrate a VMware Virtual Machine from a VMware host to Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 or to Hyper-V

This is a one-way process.  You cannot go from Hyper-V back to the original host platform.

Supported V2V VM Operating Systems

Just like with P2V, there is a matrix of supported operating systems:

Operating System

VMM 2008

VMM 2008 R2

Microsoft Windows 2000 Server with Service Pack 4 (SP4) or later

Yes

Yes

Microsoft Windows 2000 Advanced Server SP4 or later

Yes

Yes

Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 (SP2) or later

Yes

Yes

Windows XP 64-Bit Edition SP2 or later

Yes

Yes

Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition (32-bit x86)

Yes (Requires SP1 or later.)

Yes (Requires SP2 or later.)

Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition (32-bit x86)

Yes (Requires SP1 or later.)

Yes (Requires SP2 or later.)

Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition (32-bit x86)

Yes (Requires SP1 or later.)

Yes (Requires SP2 or later.)

Windows Server 2003 x64 Standard Edition

Yes (Requires SP1 or later.)

Yes (Requires SP2 or later.)

Windows Server 2003 Enterprise x64 Edition

Yes (Requires SP1 or later.)

Yes (Requires SP2 or later.)

Windows Server 2003 Datacenter x64 Edition

Yes (Requires SP1 or later.)

Yes (Requires SP2 or later.)

Windows Server 2003 Web Edition

Yes

Yes

Windows Small Business Server 2003

Yes

Yes

Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 (SP1)

Yes

Yes

64-bit edition of Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 (SP1)

Yes

Yes

Windows Server 2008 Standard 32-Bit

Yes

Yes

Windows Server 2008 Enterprise 32-Bit

Yes

Yes

Windows Server 2008 Datacenter 32-Bit

Yes

Yes

64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 Standard

Yes

Yes

64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 Enterprise

Yes

Yes

64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 Datacenter

Yes

Yes

Windows Web Server 2008

Yes

Yes

Windows 7

No

Yes

64-bit edition of Windows 7

No

Yes

64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard

No

Yes

64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

No

Yes

64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter

No

Yes

Windows Web Server 2008 R2

No

Yes

Not Got VMM?

There is a manual process to convert Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 VM’s to Hyper-V if you do not have VMM.  There are 3rd party and free tools for this.  There are also 3rd party and free tools you can use to V2V from VMware to Hyper-V without VMM.  However, these would be very manual processes and VMM makes that all the much easier through it’s job process.

Destination Host Requirements

The destination machine should have the disk and the RAM to cater for the VM.  MS actually recommends RAM of the VM + 256MB for the conversion process.  The host should also be in a network that allows all necessary communications with the VMM server.

Original VM Requirements

Before you migrate any VMware machine to a Microsoft platform you must uninstall the VMware additions/tools.  That’s the VMware equivalent of the Microsoft integration components/services.  You also need to remove any checkpoints.

Library V2V

There are then two possible ways to do the conversion.  As I stated earlier, you can copy a VMware VM into the library and V2V the VM from there.  To do this in VMM, choose to use the Convert Virtual Machine Wizard.  You cannot V2V a VMware VM that uses raw disks (same idea as pass through disks).  You need access to the .VMX file (describes the VM) and the VMDK file(s) (the virtual hard disks).  Each VMDK will be converted into a VHD.

Host V2V

If your VM is on another host, e.g. Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 or VMware, then make sure the source host is being managed by VMM.  You can then use an offline migration, i.e. power off the VM, right-click the VM and Migrate it.  Make sure the hosts filter is adjusted to show your destination Microsoft virtualisation host.

Integration Components

When the job is completing, you’ll see that VMM will install the integration components/services for Hyper-V.  That will optimise the performance of the VM and cuts down on the manual labour.

Linux VM’s

Interestingly, Microsoft says you can V2V a Linux VM.  However, any OS not in the above table will not get the integration components.  And remember, only certain enterprise versions of SUSE (no IC’s) and RedHat (no IC’s) are supported.  If you V2V a supported SLES VM you will have to manually install the Linux integration components.

0x0000007C BUGCODE_NDIS_DRIVER Blue Screen on Windows Server 2008 R2 with NLB

There is a blog post by a Microsoft employee that describes an issue where a virtual machine (Hyper-V or VMware) running Windows Server 2008 R2 will crash.  The VM is configured with Windows Network Load Balancing.  Their research found that the problem occurred with “certain” antivirus packages installed.  They didn’t (and probably won’t) specify which ones.  The two proposed solutions are:

  1. Configure NLB before installing the antivirus package
  2. Uninstall the antivirus package

Hyper-V, VMware, Xen All Compared

Techtarget has a short article that lists the pros and cons of the hardware virtualisation solutions from Microsoft, Citrix and VMware.  It’s a quick read and gives decision makers a high level comparison of the big 3 solutions.  The author does a good job of staying neutral and gives good advice.  Each solution has benefits and advantages that are unique.  Find what your real requirements are and then map those to the features.  My add-on to that: do lots of research.  Don’t take the word of a marketing or sales person.

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Scott Lowe/TechRepublic: Feature Comparison Between Hyper-V and vSphere

Scott Lowe did a very nice job in this short and objective article on TechRepublic where he compares the features of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and VMware vSphere.  Importantly, he distinguishes between the paid-for editions of the products.  As they say, a picture paints a thousand words:

Thanks Scott and TechRepublic.

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VMware ESX 4.0 Update 1 Issues

I’ve just read a forum post where a VMware expert (a real one) has been reporting issues with the recent vCenter 4 and ESX 4 updates.  The latter one is scary; it can kill a host and lose some of your VM’s.  The problem happens on ESX if you manage the host using 3rd party agents.  VMware is advising that you remove the agents before an upgrade.  Another article is posted about the vCenter issue.

This is a bad play by VMware.  They’ve built up a loyal customer base but dodgy releases like this will get people interested in the possibilities of using VMM 2008 R2 to V2V migrate their VM’s onto a Hyper-V platform.

The expert in question has been advising people to stay clear of new VMware releases; let someone else test them on their own production environment.

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