System Center Virtual Machine Manager – Part 1: Introduction and Prerequisites

If you would like to read the next part in this article series please go to System Center Virtual Machine Manager – Part 2: Installation.


Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 is Microsoft’s newest entry in the virtual machine management game and helps bring Microsoft a bit further along in the virtual infrastructure race by adding such features as Live Migration

When it comes to virtual infrastructure, a lot of organizations have chosen one or the other – VMware or Microsoft – as their hypervisor of choice. In either decision, there is management software designed for one or the other… or both. VMware has vCenter; Microsoft has Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2. But what if you’re running both ESX and Hyper-V? Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 has you covered with its ability to manage both hypervisors. In this article, I’ll go over SCVMM 2008 R2 features, new features, prerequisites and installation.

VMM 2008 R2 Features

I’m not going to attempt to provide a comprehensive list of every single feature in SCVMM 2008 R2, but will provide some information about R2’s new features as well as some of the more significant features in the product.

Support for multiple products: VMM 2008 R2 can provide management support for Hyper-V, VMware ESX and Microsoft Virtual Server.

  • Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V & Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V
  • Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 & Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2
  • VMware Virtual Center 2.5 (VMware Infrastructure 3)
    – VMware ESX Server 3.5
    – VMware ESX Server 3.0 or above
  • VMware vCenter 4 (VI3 features only), with the following versions of ESX Server
    – VMware ESX Server 4.0
    – ESX Server 3.5
    – ESX Server 3.0 or above

Live Migration (new in R2): VMware has enjoyed a massive lead over the competition when it comes to the ability to migrate workloads between virtual hosts without the workload being made unavailable during the process. With the release of SCVMM 2008 R2, this capability has come to the Hyper-V world which addresses a major Hyper-V shortcoming.

Storage migration (new in R2): SCVMM 2008 R2 allows administrators to migrate virtual machines between clusters.

Multiple virtual machines in a single LUN (new in R2): Allows multiple virtual machines to reside on the same LUN which allows a virtual machine to be migrated independently from the others residing on the same LUN.

Hot addition and removal of virtual hard disks (VHDs): Hyper-V 2008 R2 supports on-the-fly addition and removal of VHDs from a virtual machine while it’s running.

P2V and V2V migration support: SCVMM 2008 R2 provides reliable support for both physical-to-virtual and virtual-to-virtual machine conversions making it possible to more easily migrate from a physical to a virtual infrastructure and move virtual machines between virtualization platforms. Specifically, the V2V component allows a migration from a virtual machine in VMware VMDK format to one in a Microsoft VHD format.

Full scripting support: With a Power Shell-based foundation, SCVMM is eminently scriptable. SCVMM adds support for 170 cmdlet that allow administrators to fully script just about any process that can be completed via the GUI, allowing a high level of automation to be added to existing processes.

Rapid provisioning of new virtual machines: Via a wizard in the SCVMM administration tool, administrators can quickly provision new virtual machines using templates that are set up ahead of time.

SCVMM library: There are a number of components that make up a fully virtualized data center including virtual hard drives, machines templates, operating system ISO images and more. In the SCVMM world, it’s the job of the library component to bring all of these items together and make available for use.

VMM components and requirements

For all of the components, I’m making the assumption that you’re running Windows Server 2008 R2. If you’re running some other operating system, look at Microsoft’s Supported Operating Systems for VMM Components which provides you with a detailed outline of what operating systems are and are not supported. I’m not going to discuss software prerequisites that aren’t necessary for Windows Server 2008 R2. So, if you’re running Windows 2003 or Windows 2008 (non-R2), look to Microsoft documentation for further help.

VMM components and software requirements

In the list below, I’ve listed each of the SCVMM roles along with the software prerequisites for each of the roles:

VMM Server: The VMM server is the brains of your VMM system. All of the VMM components communicate via the VMM server role.

  • Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) 1.1. This component will be installed automatically if it’s not already present.
  • If you’re using SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008 R2, you need to make sure to install the SQL Server Management Tools on the VMM server.

VMM Administrator Console: Every system needs a way to be administered. In SCVMM 2008 R2, the Administrator Console allows you to create and manage virtual machines and monitor the virtual infrastructure.

  • If you’re running Windows Server 2008 R2, all of the software prerequisites are already installed.

VMM Database: The VMM database component stores the information used for your installation, including managed virtual machines, hosts and jobs.

  • You can opt to use SQL Server 2005 or 2008 Express, which is free, but VMM reporting is not supported in these editions.
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 (32-bit or 64-bit, Standard or Enterprise).
  • SQL Server 2008 (32-bit or 64-bit, Standard or Enterprise).
  • SQL Server 2005 (SP2 or SP3, 32-bit or 64-bit, Standard or Enterprise).

VMM Library Server: The library server component is a resource catalog for your VMM infrastructure. This component facilitates the creation and configuration of virtual machines and contains templates – including hardware and OS configurations – to facilitate this task. You can also store VMware virtual machines, hard disk images, floppy disk images and ISO images in the VMM library.

  • If you’re running Windows Server 2008 R2, all of the software prerequisites are already installed. For Windows Server 2003 check this caveat from Microsoft’s documentation:
    “For Windows Server 2003 R2, if you have previously enabled WinRM by using the Management and Monitoring Tools components group in Add/Remove Windows Components, it will not work with VMM. You must disable WinRM and then install the version of this software indicated here, which overwrites your existing version.”

VMM Self-Service Portal: Microsoft describes the self-service portal as “a fully supported, partner-extensible solution built on top of Windows Server 2008 R2, Hyper-V, and System Center VMM… use[d] to pool, allocate, and manage resources to offer infrastructure as a service and to deliver the foundation for a private cloud platform inside your datacenter.”  I won’t be doing much with the self-service portal in this series.

Web Server role with the following role services:

  • IIS 6 Metabase Compatibility
  • IIS 6 WMI Compatibility
  • Static Content
  • Default Document
  • Directory Browsing
  • HTTP Errors
  • .NET Extensibility
  • ISAPI Extensions
  • ISAPI Filters
  • Request Filtering

Hardware requirements

In no case should you install SCVMM components on a domain controller. Although the services may operate, this is an unsupported configuration. You can install VMM in either a single server or multi-server configuration depending on the size of your environment. VMM does, however, have some limits that have been tested by Microsoft. The maximum number of hosts and virtual machines supported by VMM is 400 hosts and 8,000 virtual machines.

Single server

If you’re planning to manage twenty or fewer virtual hosts, you can run all of the SCVMM components on a single server. This single SCVMM 2008 R2 server requires a server with a Pentium 4 or better processor running at a speed of at least 2GHz. On the RAM side, if you’re going to use SCVMM to manage up to ten hosts, you should have at least 2GB of RAM. For anywhere up to twenty hosts, your SCVMM server should have at least 4GB of RAM. For disk space, it’s recommended that you have at least 40GB to 50GB of disk space with the high-end being necessary for more hosts.

Multiple VMM servers

The single server option is suitable only for small installations of up to twenty hosts. As you move beyond that limit, the SCVMM servers begin to get taxed more and a separation of roles becomes necessary. Microsoft recommends that, if you are managing more than 150 hosts, you use a dedicated server for the VMM role.

If you’re managing up to 150 hosts, Microsoft recommends that you run a server with at least a 2.8 GHz dual core processor, 4 GB RAM and 40 GB to 50 GB of available disk space. If you’re using the SQL Server 2005 Express database instead of a separate SQL instance, err on the higher side for available disk space but do bear in mind that SQL Server 2005 Express databases top out at a maximum size of 4 GB. If you need more than 4 GB of SQL disk space and/or you’re using a full copy of SQL Server rather than Express, Microsoft recommends that you reserve 150 GB of disk space. For other server roles, you don’t need any more than the 40 GB to 50 GB mentioned.

As you grow your installation beyond 150 hosts, keep roles separated and running on servers with at least dual core fast processors (Microsoft recommends 3.6 GHz or faster, but there aren’t that many processors out there these days where each core runs at that speed), 8 GB of RAM and 50 GB of disk space for the VMM server, self-service portal and database roles. At more than 150 hosts, plan for about 200 GB of disk space for the database role.

The primary exceptions to the standard configurations above are as follows:

  • VMM library server role: Can survive with 2 GB of RAM and varying amounts of disk space depending on the number of files that are stored on it.
  • VMM Administrator: Installation requires a server with 2 GB of RAM and 4 GB of disk space.

Other requirements

There are some additional requirements that are necessary depending on your environment.  I’ll outline these here:

Garbage collection for large installations

Although SCVMM can manage more than 150 hosts, Microsoft recommends that you enable server-optimized garbage collection on the VMM server if you exceed this number. Doing so can reduce CPU utilization on the VMM server and improve overall performance. This task is accomplished by creating a file named vmmservice.exe.config in the c:\ProgramFiles\MicrosoftSystemCenterVirtualMachineManager2008R2\Bin folder on your VMM server and populating it with the following:


Domain functional level

The Domain functional level for the domain into which you plan to install SCVMM 2008 R2 must be at the Windows Server2003 or higher level.


And thus completes part one of this series on Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 in which you learned about the items that must be in place before you can move forward with the installation. As luck would have it that just happens to be the exact topic we’ll cover in Part 2 of this series.

If you would like to read the next part in this article series please go to System Center Virtual Machine Manager – Part 2: Installation.

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