Crash course: Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V introduction

Looking for a quick Hyper-V introduction? We've got you covered with these tips highlighting important changes to Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

Last year was a year of change, especially for Microsoft with its release of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V earlier this year. Adapting to change can be tough, but we're here to help get you up to speed on Hyper-V changes. In this Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V introduction, we cover topics like licensing options, the new Hyper-V virtual hard disk format and planning for Hyper-V updates. Then take the quiz to see how prepared you are for a Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V 3.0 upgrade.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 removes licensing option for Hyper-V

Microsoft's Windows Server 2012, which includes Hyper-V 3.0, simplified its licensing in September, eliminating the Enterprise edition and giving users two options instead: the Datacenter and Standard editions. The Datacenter edition comes at a cost of $4,809 per two processors, with unlimited virtual operating system instances. The Standard edition comes at a cost of $882 per host, with two virtual operating system instances.

Microsoft hoped its new licensing would make things easier for IT shops. The Datacenter edition is the best option for highly virtualized environments. On the other hand, the Standard edition is the best fit for small IT shops, because licenses can be accumulated to reach the number of virtual machines (VMs) needed for low-ratio virtualized environments.

However, any organization requiring more than five Standard licenses is probably better off just purchasing the Datacenter edition.

Getting to know VHDX: The new Hyper-V virtual hard disk format

The new VHDX virtual hard disk format replaced Virtual Hard Disk (VHD). This key feature to Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V allows administrators to create much larger virtual hard disks with a 64 TB capacity. IT pros with existing Hyper-V environments that use the VHD file format will be able to convert them easily to the VHDX format when they acquire Windows Server 2012. However, it is important to migrate VMs to Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V servers to be able to make the format conversion.

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Fixed and dynamically expanding virtual hard disks are still available, but the VHDX version has the ability to create differencing disks in Hyper-V Manager. Differencing disks make it easier to build VMs from a VM template and actually allows you to spawn multiple VMs from one VM template parent.

VHDX files support larger block sizes for differencing and dynamically expanding disks. Additionally, Microsoft has taken steps to prevent corruption within VHDX files. It seems that the VHDX features can make IT pros happy.

Creating a Hyper-V update roadmap to get it right the first time

When planning for a Hyper-V update with Windows Server 2012, there are key points to consider. First, take into account Microsoft's new licensing model, which only offers either the Datacenter or Standard edition. If you have the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition, you will only be able to upgrade to the Datacenter Edition.

Keep in mind that the update does cause a bit of downtime, so schedule a time that will be the least disruptive for end users. On the other hand, if your Hyper-V servers are clustered, it will require a migration to a couple of new servers. You also have to determine what to do with VMs during the migration

Here are some key things to keep in mind while doing the update. First, backup all of your VMs and virtual hosts. Before performing either an in-place upgrade or migration, you should rehearse the Hyper-V update in a test environment. Finally, once the VMs are running on the updated hypervisor, you'll need to update Microsoft Integration Services on each VM.

Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V introduction to storage

Even with the new storage architecture of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, Microsoft can still make some improvements. There are three methods, however, that could simplify Hyper-V management and reduce downtime.

First, you can convert to the new VHDX format with minimal downtime for your Hyper-V VMs if you are a legacy VHD user. Second, you can change from fixed to dynamically expanding disks without downtime. This could save your organization not only time but money, because Hyper-V will better use storage resources, and administrators can easily alternate between disk types, reducing effort and downtime.

And finally, expand VM storage without any downtime. This not only saves a considerable amount of time but also reduces the administrative practice of overprovisioning disk resources. Thus, organizations could utilize their storage resources in a more intelligent way, saving them money. The purpose of these three methods is for IT pros to spend less time coordinating downtimes so that they can focus on optimizing management and performance.

Hyper-V introduction quiz: Crash course for an upgrade

Microsoft's Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V 3.0 has been one of the hottest releases in the last year. With so much buzz around the new Hyper-V 3.0 features, it is easy for IT shops to overlook the basics of an upgrade. Brush up on your fundamentals knowledge by taking this quiz!

This was first published in January 2013

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