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Running WHS in a Virtual Server (Hyper-V, VMware, ESXi, etc) RRS feed

  • Question

  • With the hardware of the machine I am thinking of building in this post, I do not want to waste it on a single OS.  I have become addictive to running multiple server os ontop of a single machine.  That flexibility for development is very convenient.

    Would there be any issue in running WHS in a FM, pertaining to data storage?  The only thing I can think of is that I will not have direct access to the HDDs.  So, my idea is to setup a RAID5 or RAID6 solution on the 8 to 12 HDDs (1TB+ each) in one large single container.

    The base os is Windows 2008 Server x64.  So I am not sure on how I can share the HDD container directly with WHS.  One idea would be through a Network Share.  But, I don't think WHS would like to run a Storage Pool over NFS.

    I am aware that some of the newer features, such as the Router add-on, would not be ideal for a VM as it would not have direct control over the hardware (virtual nics, eww).  But my main concern is the storage pool and the backing up.

    Thoughts?  And thank you in advance,
    -Eric


    http://eduncan911.com
    Wednesday, September 24, 2008 10:22 PM

Answers

  • Network share would not work. I think you may be able to run as a virtual hard disk, as long as WHS can format it as NTFS. I don't know how that works in a VM though
    • Marked as answer by eduncan911.com Thursday, September 25, 2008 5:40 PM
    Thursday, September 25, 2008 4:41 AM
  • You can install WHS on virtual machines.
    It is recommended, to attach additional physical disks directly to the Virtual machine instead of using virtual disks to improve the performance.
    http://blogs.msdn.com/virtual_pc_guy/archive/2008/04/07/attaching-physical-hard-disks-to-hyper-v-vms.aspx
    But this has also some drawbacks (like not being able to make a snapshot of the VM, harder to backup).
    Best greetings from Germany
    Olaf
    • Marked as answer by eduncan911.com Thursday, September 25, 2008 5:28 PM
    Thursday, September 25, 2008 10:07 AM
    Moderator

All replies

  • Network share would not work. I think you may be able to run as a virtual hard disk, as long as WHS can format it as NTFS. I don't know how that works in a VM though
    • Marked as answer by eduncan911.com Thursday, September 25, 2008 5:40 PM
    Thursday, September 25, 2008 4:41 AM
  • You can install WHS on virtual machines.
    It is recommended, to attach additional physical disks directly to the Virtual machine instead of using virtual disks to improve the performance.
    http://blogs.msdn.com/virtual_pc_guy/archive/2008/04/07/attaching-physical-hard-disks-to-hyper-v-vms.aspx
    But this has also some drawbacks (like not being able to make a snapshot of the VM, harder to backup).
    Best greetings from Germany
    Olaf
    • Marked as answer by eduncan911.com Thursday, September 25, 2008 5:28 PM
    Thursday, September 25, 2008 10:07 AM
    Moderator
  • Perfect, and thank you for the answers.

    With the answer in my other post linked to above, the idea is to setup the large array(s) with multiple 2 TB containers (i.e. HDDs).  Without a Virtual Machine setup (i.e. just loading WHS directly on the machine), WHS would use each 2 TB container as a new HDD.  Therefore, adding them to the entire Storage Pool.

    This is because of WHS' limit of 2 TB because it uses the older MBR instead of the GPT for formatting the drives.  I cannot wait for WHS x64 to come out in the future!  :)

    As for running WHS in a VM (thanks Olaf), I think I will move to an ESXi solution instead of Hyper-V now.  Then format each container with VMFS.  It uses smartdrv-like caching for near-directly-connected throughput performance.  Then, share each of the VMFS volumes with the WHS VM.  WHS will format the volumes with the 2 TB limit of MBR, and add it the pool.  I do not like formatting with VMFS; but, this gives me the flexibility to "move" the volumes later onto a new array in the future, without disturbing the VM or the data.  A nice trick vmware allows you to do.

    I wanted to use Hyper-V (read: I wanted to "Play" with Hyper-V), but sadly my hardware (mobo/cpu) does not support Hyper-V.  It is how I am punished for not waiting longer to buy my hardware.  :)



    http://eduncan911.com
    Thursday, September 25, 2008 5:40 PM
  • There is one reason you should consider, before using virtual disks instead of physical:
    What happens if you run into issues causing the virtual disk becoming unreadable?
    While you often still can access a physical disk with issues and pull the most of the files off, this may fail for a damaged virtual disk.
    Best greetings from Germany
    Olaf
    Thursday, September 25, 2008 6:57 PM
    Moderator
  • eduncan

    How is this going?  I am considering a similar setup, and I would like to know how yours is coming before I commit time and resources.

    Danno
    Friday, December 19, 2008 9:59 PM
  • This seems like it's been abandoned, but I have some experiences to share regarding virtualizing WHS using Hyper-V:

    Background:
    Originally, I built a power efficient server and installed WHS directly on it. I'm a big fan of virtualizing and not a big fan of wasting energy (this is why I built a power-miser of a server, though it's a pretty powerful machine for >40w idle), so I wanted to have a client OS virtual machine running at all times with my standard set of desktop programs installed in order to use WHS' remote desktop functionality without leaving a home computer on. It worked out great with Virtual Server 2005 R2 on it and I ran with that for about a year. As my number of running VMs increase, however, WHS + VS2005R2 was not working as well as when there was just a single guest OS running. After looking at how the server performed, it appeared that WHS was a very disk-intense system, while the processor and memory pretty much were left idling. This is when I decided to purchase another hard drive, but not to add to my WHS pool: to install Hyper-V Server 2008...

        Side note: If your curious about my power-miser server it's actually a mobile-on-desktop platform: MSI Fuzzy965, Mobile C2D T7500, 4GB DDR2, 2 WD Greenpower 1TB drives (for WHS) and a 2.5" Caviar Black 320GB (for Hyper-V + other VHDs).

    The install:
    So since WHS was already installed on the physical hardware, I figured I'd be reinstalling it anyway but for the sake of experimenting, I'd just try booting it up in a virtual machine. First I unplugged the two existing 1TB drives that WHS was installed on and popped the 320GB laptop drive in, installed Hyper-V and got that bad boy up and running (which sucks big time when you try to manage a Hyper-V box in a workgroup configuration, a few obscure settings need to be made in order for it to work. Some official guidance would be nice MS!). Didn't need any drivers except for the add-on SATA controller as the motherboard only has 2 ports. Next, I reconnected the two big drives and created a new virtual machine for them. My line of thinking is similar to Olaf, I don't want to use .VHD's because there is overhead and for portability sake. I set the drives up as pass-through disks and crossed my fingers when I clicked "Start". To my surprise, it booted up without any BSOD (which was my expectation), and after a few reboots where the OS added all the new hardware, it actually worked no problems whatsoever! Avast AV (which I won't be renewing BTW), WebGuide and a few other basic add-ins all still worked after my ghetto P2V operation.. very pleased!

    Today:
    Now, my WHS software is still running on it's original RTM install from Dec 2007. It was upgraded to PP1 when it was still on the physical machine and most addins were installed. It was P2V'd about 2 months ago and I can say the experience has not changed one big with regard to WHS, it still runs just as fast, no pauses or glitches, no hangs at all.. it's a trooper for sure. I even just installed PP2 and it went like clockwork. The big advantage now is the 4 other VMs (2 WS08R2 DCs, 1 WS08R2 Member server, and a Win7 VM) all run much quicker now and don't appear to affect WHS at all and vice versa. I really do think the pass through disks were the way to go performance-wise.

    Gotchas:
    OK so it's been all good and I'm certainly willing to deal with these issues because of the functionality this setup provides me. So here's the two sand-in-the-shorts situations and sadly, they both revolve around Microsoft's unwillingness to implement USB pass-through on Hyper-V:

        Quick note to Microsoft's Hyper-V devs: Dudes and dudettes, you seriously have an awesome product. I use it at home and at work; it's robust, fast and the price sure as ____ can't be beat. Let me tell you how to get even more market share cause people want this feature in the server virtualization space. You ready? Sure? IMPLEMENT USB PASSTHROUGH!! This is totally one place you could whoop VMware..

    Ok, my physical incarnation of WHS was also my print server which was soooooo nice since the printer is a cheapo host-based HP junker. Yeah, that doesn't work now... cmon, like I can install it on the Hyper-V host partition that has all of... um, no GUI? So now I'm faced with the prospect of 1) buy one of those network USB devices (not a print server, but actually converts USB into IP and you install a virtual USB controller that hooks up with it or at least that's how I understand it, could be wrong) or 2) buy a printer that has network capability. Still haven't pulled the trigger on this cause I don't print but maybe once or twice a quarter. I think I've replaced the ink cartridges in this printer twice in the 8 years I've owned it..... cause they dried out!! :-D

    And the second, gotcha. Backup of my WHS data to an external drive... ugh.. again no USB pass-through makes this more painful that it should be. This is what I have to do:
    1. Shutdown the WHS guest VM
    2. Plug in and power on my portable hard drive
    3. Remote Desktop into the Hyper-V OS and mark the disk offline with diskpart
    4. From the Hyper-V manager, add a new hard drive to one of the IDE controllers and assign the external drive as a pass-though disk
    5. Boot up WHS and perform the backup

    When finished, I have to shut down WHS before disconnecting the external drive. I've found WHS continues to run, but if you try to do anything that enumerates all installed drives, it flakes out cause it tries to find the now-disconnected-but-still-thinks-its-connected external drive.

    Those are my two pennies. I will continue to run WHS in a VM now and for the foreseeable future. It just works for me and the benefits surely outweigh the problems. Hopefully future releases (of both WHS and Hyper-V) will be more compatible and work even better than they do now (which is pretty damn good, IMO).

        Quick note for the WHS team: One feature of your next OS I'd like to see is separation of the OS and Data partitions on to separate drives. Even though I'm using pass-through disks, they are both still connected to the virtual IDE interface in Hyper-V which, as you know, has more performance overhead than if I were to use virtual SCSI disks. If I could separate the OS on to a .VHD attached to the IDE interface and hook all my data drives to a virtual SCSI controller, I'm sure more performance could be realized. Not necessary, but would be nice.

    Thanks, and if you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to answer. Also I'd like to hear about anyone else's experiences running WHS in a virtual environment, possibly in ESX, Virtual Server, VirtualBox, Xen environments?

    P.S. Sorry for spelling/grammer mistakes, it's late and I don't care to proofread it..

    Friday, March 27, 2009 4:59 AM
  • Thank you very much Seth! I've been researching all the different VM servers and was starting to settle on Hyper-V until your excellent post. I totally forgot about USB passthrough. Looks like I'll stick with running WHS on the hardware with Virtual Server running a couple of VMs.

    I just can't seem to find a bare metal that does everything I want. Grrr...

    Again thanks for the great write up!
    Friday, March 27, 2009 6:15 AM
  • Fam Money,

    I'm glad my experiences helped you in your decision making. Unfortunately, you're right: nothing seems to hit all the right spots. It seems most things in life are a compromise.

    Have a good one!
    SLD

    -------

    To everyone else,

    Surely I can't be the only person who's tried this? Right?
    Wednesday, April 1, 2009 10:08 PM
  • Seth,

    I setup a xenserver 5.0 a week or so ago and and created a whs vm on it under the server 2003 template - works a charm apart from (and these are the same problems as you) printing and backup are a dreaded pain to usb devices unless you can get the generic linux drivers to work. Basically it doesn't work so well.

    I used vhd's and I see little or no major overhead on the xen box whilst running live, however the backup of the vhd to an external drive is a killer when data levels get even marginally high - I am running 2 x 250Gb vhd's and eventually created a 2k3 64bit server vm to back up the data from the shares - then when that is done I backup the 2k3 server by exporting the vhd on that - still time consuming but at least the whs is not down for an extortionate amount of time while that process takes place.

    printing was not too hard as the HP all in one I have has a network port <phew> but scanning is impossible so a second machine is required to do the scanning, luckily (or not) you need a second machine anyway to run xencentre to manage the xenserver - so the pc is not idly sitting there doing nothing when xencentre is not being used. I guess I would have preferred xencentre to be web based access, so it can be done from any pc on the network, but it has to be installed on whatever pc you want to control the xenserver from.

    As I said, only been a week or so in the running, so could not say it will run as fast or as good as the physical machine over time but seems ok at present and is not overloading the xenserver (dual core amd 64 5200+, 4Gb ram, 1.3Tb hdd's) - but I don't think it will be permanent live whs as I cannot get other hardware to work that is in my physical whs, but for testing purposes it is pretty good testbed.

    rgds

    Paul C

    All of us are born right handed - the gifted of us manage to overcome that tho - :)
    Monday, April 20, 2009 10:30 AM