Managing Hyper-V with SystemCenter Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (Part 1)

If you would like to read the next part in this article series please go to Managing Hyper-V with SystemCenter Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (Part 2).

An important aspect of virtualization is the actual management: as an administrator, you want to have a single console for managing all your virtual machines and hosts. With software such as VMware’s VirtualCenter, you can manage a complete ESX environment and add a ton of extra features (such as DRS, HA, intelligent placement, templates, etc). Microsoft’s answer to the management question is System Center Virtual Machine Manager (also known as VMM).

This piece of software is your one-stop shop to all your Virtual Server 2005 R2 (and in the 2008 release) Hyper-V hosts and even your VI3 infrastructure. VMware’s VirtualCenter can be added and so ESX hosts can be managed from within VMM. Virtual Machine Manager 2008 provides most VirtualCenter Server functionality including VMotion. More complex tasks such as adding hosts to an ESX cluster must be done using VirtualCenter itself.

It is also tightly integrated with other System Center products (such as integration with System Center Operations Manager 2007) and PowerShell. A very interesting feature is Performance and Resource Optimization (or PRO). PRO is a feature of VMM which can dynamically respond to failure scenarios or poorly configured components that are identified in hardware, operating systems or applications. VMM 2008 also integrates with the new clustering support in Windows Server 2008 to allow for fault-tolerant and cluster aware virtual machines to be created. It leverages the much talked about Quick Migration technique.

In this article, we will install and explore the basics of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008.

Installing System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008

System Center Virtual Machine Manager must be installed on a Windows Server 2008 x64 edition. Yes, that is right: no support for Windows 2000 or 2003 Editions!  

The prerequisites for our setup:

  • One Windows Server 2008 x64 Edition host with Hyper-V installed (hint: it runs without problems on a recent desktop) and enough free RAM. We called it HYPERV1
  • An Active Directory environment (in our case using a domain controller called DC1 on our Hyper-V machine. A default installation will do fine).
  • A VMM virtual machine called VMM1 running on our host. Make sure it has enough RAM assigned.

What do you need?

First step: installing the Windows Automated Installation Toolkit

We need to install the WAIK toolkit ourselves. Why? Because we noticed that the WAIK kit installation provided on the VMM DVD does not install correctly and throws an error during installation. Anyway, launch the startCD executable on the WAIK DVD. Click the Windows AIK setup link and install the product.

Figure 1: Launching the WAIK setup

Installing the VMM server components

After WAIK is installed, download and install System Center Virtual Machine Manager Beta version. As we expect from a Microsoft installation, this is a Next => Next => Finish installation. Click the SETUP => Server link on the right to start the server components installation.

Figure 2: Launching the VMM server setup

Once the setup wizard has launched, you can choose to use an existing (SQL Server 2005 or better) or install SQL Express. For demo purposes, we will use the express edition. We would suggest using a dedicated SQL Server 2005 in production environments.

Figure 3: Using an SQL Server Express Edition for demo purposes

Another step in the wizard lets you create a VMM library. A VMM library is a shared folder that stores all items related to a VM: ISOs, VHD files, Virtual Machine templates and answer files for sysprep. You can create a new one or use an existing library or even combine different libraries (shares). We changed the share location to c:\VMMLib. Typically, this would be an E:\ drive on a SAN volume!

Figure 4: Creating your first VMM library

You will get a final summary of your settings and the installation will begin. Note that the WAIK kit is already installed on the server.

Installing the administrator console

The administrator console is an MMC 3.0 console used as the GUI to manage your virtual infrastructure (remember, both VirtualCenter/ESX and Hyper-V!). The console enables you to work with hosts, virtual machines, library resources and reports; monitor jobs; and perform administrative tasks for Virtual Machine Manager. It can be installed on almost any recent server or workstation OS version (XP, Vista, 2003 & 2008). Back in the initial window; click the Setup => Administrator Console link in the right pane.

This is (again) a “Next->Next->Finish” installation. Note that the Administrator console needs PowerShell to execute its commands.

Figure 5: PowerShell is used

As we are using Hyper-V RC1, we must update our current version with an update for RC1 downloadable from the connect website. Double-click the file called VMM2008_Beta_ServerUpdate.exe and install it.

Using the VMM Administrator Console

So far so good. We have installed our software. Now is the time to launch our management console and see what we can do with it. Go to Microsoft System Center => Virtual Machine Manager 2008 and launch the virtual machine administrator console. You will need to input your FQDN:8100 in the input box and make it your default server (or use localhost:8100 when you installed the admin console on the VMM server itself). Make sure your console is installed on a workstation or server that is joined to the domain as credentials are passed by default!

Figure 6: Connecting to the VMM Server

Adding a host in VMM

The very first step when using VMM is adding a host. This can be a Hyper-V, Virtual Server 2005 R2 or ESX host. Before we start adding the actual host, we will create a host group. By creating host groups, you can customize your views of virtual machine hosts and the virtual machines deployed on them. They can be used to adjust the amount of resources reserved for the host operating system on hosts within the host group. You can compare it more or less with resource pools in VMware’s VirtualCenter.

Figure 7: Resource pools anyone?

Create a new group called HyperV by right-clicking All Hosts and selecting New host group.

Figure 8: Creating a host group

Click on the Hosts button in the left pane and click the Add Hosts link on the right. Notice the Add VMware VirtualCenter Server link. This feature is used to add your VitrtualCenter server to VMM and will be explored in an upcoming article!

Figure 9: Adding a host

A new wizard will start to guide you through the process. You will need to specify a hostname (in our case HYPERV1). The same process is used as in VirtualCenter: VMM will actually push an agent on the target and will request all necessary information (like Virtual Machines, network and storage configuration, etc). Note that Hyper-V does not have to be installed on a Windows x64 2998 host. If the Hyper-V role is not enabled it can be activated by VMM.

Figure 10: The add host wizard

Make sure you add the host to our freshly created HyperV hosts folder. Another thing to note here is the View Script button with the PowerShell icon. You guessed it! Clicking the button reveals all underlying PowerShell code executed. Interesting! Every task performed in VMM can be scripted in PowerShell. Looking at the code generated by the GUI is without doubt a good place to start. We will explore its real power in an upcoming article using PowerShell to manage your VI3.5 and Hyper-V environment.

Figure 11: PowerShell all the way

The host will be added to the VMM and all virtual machines currently running on it will be added to the VMM inventory. Important note: we experienced a problem during host refresh. If you get a refresh error during host connection, make sure there are no USB devices connected! To view all virtual machines running on the host, click on the Virtual Machines link in the left pane.

Figure 12: Your new Hyper-V host is up and running


System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 is still in beta now but looks promising. However, it still lacks some (advanced) features like DRS and HA when compared to VMware’s VirtualCenter. In fact, if you want to manage your VI 3.x environment with VMM you will need to have a VirtualCenter up and running. This means 2 management servers… 

In Part 2 we will discuss how to create new virtual machines, using the VMM library (templates and guest OS profiles), end-user VM provisioning and physical-to-virtual (P2V).

If you would like to read the next part in this article series please go to Managing Hyper-V with SystemCenter Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (Part 2).

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