Multi Server Management for Hyper-V (Part 1)

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

Intorduction

One of the challenges of working with Hyper-V is the fact that most Hyper-V deployments consist of multiple host servers. Unfortunately, the Hyper-V Manager is really only designed to manage a single host server. That being the case, I decided to take the opportunity to talk about some techniques that you can use to manage multiple Hyper-V host servers.

Before I Begin

Before I get started, I need to point out that the techniques that I am writing about are based on Hyper-V 3.0 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1. In some cases these techniques will work with older versions of Hyper-V or Virtual Machine Manager, and in other cases they will not.

The Hyper-V Manager

Even though the Hyper-V Manager is more than a little bit lacking in terms of its multi-server management capabilities, that isn’t to say that you can’t use the Hyper-V Manager for multi-server management.

When you open the Hyper-V Manager, the console tree’s left pane lists the name of your Hyper-V server. When you select this server, the top center pane displays a list of the virtual machines residing on that host server, as shown in Figure A.

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Figure A: 
The left pane lists the name of the Hyper-V server.

As you look at the figure above, it might seem as though the console’s left pane contains an awful lot of empty space. The reason for this is that you can add additional Hyper-V host servers to the console. All you have to do is to right click on the Hyper-V Manager container, and then choose the Connect to Server command from the shortcut menu, as shown in Figure B. When prompted, just enter the name of the server that you want to add to the console.

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Figure B: To manage another server, right click on the Hyper-V Manager container and choose the Connect to Server command from the shortcut menu.

You can easily populate the Hyper-V Manager console with all of your Hyper-V servers, as shown in Figure C.

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Figure C: The Hyper-V Manager can display and manage multiple Hyper-V servers.

Unfortunately, this is where the Hyper-V Manager’s multi server management capabilities end. You cannot for example, select multiple Hyper-V hosts to receive an aggregate view of your virtual datacenter. For that, you will need System Center Virtual Machine Manager.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012

Microsoft considers the Hyper-V Manager to be a lightweight management console that is intended for use primarily in smaller organizations. For larger organizations with several or more Hyper-V servers, Microsoft recommends using System Center Virtual Machine Manager. System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 has capabilities that go way beyond simple, multi-server management. In fact, entire books have been written about System Center Virtual Machine Manager. In spite of System Center Virtual Machine Manager’s complexity, Hyper-V administrators should find it relatively easy to begin using the tool for basic host server and virtual machine management.

Unlike the Hyper-V Manager, System Center Virtual Machine Manager is able to display an aggregate view of virtual machines spanning multiple hosts. As you can see in Figure D, selecting the All Hosts container causes the console to display all of the virtual machines regardless of which host server they reside on.

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Figure D: 
System Center Virtual Machine Manager can display an aggregate view of your virtual machines.

As you look at the figure above, you can see that not only does System Center Virtual Machine Manner display virtual machines from multiple host servers, it offers all of the same management functionality that you would get through the Hyper-V Manager. For example, you can use the ribbon at the top of the screen to create new virtual machines.

Another thing that you probably noticed about the previous figure is that the list of virtual machines can grow to be quite long. I’ve only got a couple dozen virtual machines, but a large organization could easily have hundreds or even thousands of virtual machines. Once you start dealing with large scale Hyper-V deployments with hundreds or thousands of virtual machines, the idea of being able to display all of those virtual machines on the screen at the same time suddenly seems a lot less appealing. The virtual machine list can quickly become overwhelming.

Thankfully, Microsoft gives you a few different ways to filter the list of virtual machines so that you can view the specific virtual machines that you are interested in. One option is to simply click on a column heading to sort the list by the selected column. For example, you might sort the list by host server name or by average CPU usage. Another option is to create a custom view of the virtualization hosts. You might have noticed in my previous screen captures that the names of my virtualization hosts reflect the host’s purposes. I have three lab hosts and two production hosts. With that in mind, you can see how it might be useful to create a view that shows only lab hosts (and the virtual machines on them) or only production hosts.

If you want to create this type of view, you can do so by creating a host group. A host group is really nothing more than a logical collection of host servers. To create a host group, right click on the All Hosts container and select the Create Host Group command from the shortcut menu. When you do, System Center Virtual Machine Manager will create a host group called New Host Group. You can easily rename this host group to a name that reflects its purpose.

Once the new host group is in place, you can begin dragging host computers into the host group. When you click on a host group you will see the virtual machines residing on the hosts within the host group. For example, if you look at Figure E, you can see that I have created a host group called Lab Machines and then placed my lab hosts within that host group. When I select the Lab Machines host group, the console displays only the virtual machines that reside on lab servers.

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Figure E: 
Host groups allow you to organize Hyper-V hosts by purpose.

Host groups are a handy way of organizing host servers, but they may not offer the granularity that you need. If you want to temporarily display a list of virtual machines that conform to a specific criteria, click on the search box. When you do, the console will display a number of different search criteria. Click on the criteria that you want to filter by and then click on the search box again. This time the console will display a range of values for the search criteria, as shown in Figure F. Click on the most appropriate value, and the console will display a filtered list of virtual machines.

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Figure F: 
You can use the search box to filter the list of virtual machines.

Conclusion

In this article, I have shown you a few different tricks for managing multiple Hyper-V hosts. In Part 2, I will show you how you can manage multiple host servers using PowerShell. 

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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