Upgrading Hyper-V's Virtual Machine Manager R2 to release candidate

If you're chomping at the bit to try the latest release of Microsoft's Virtual Machine Manager, here's how to upgrade Hyper-V's VMM from beta to the release candidate.

If your Hyper-V production environment already runs the beta of Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM), it's possible to migrate it to the release candidate (RC) using the steps outlined below.

Running an infrastructure on beta or RC software has long been a no-no. There's no guarantee that the upgrade path from a beta or RC release will work, so early adoption can create system downtime. But I've noticed that Microsoft's VMM is one software package for which that conventional wisdom has been widely ignored.

Now, this article is not intended to wag a finger at IT pros who've made the production jump to VMM 2008 R2 (though you know who you are). Instead, I want to help them get their beta software upgraded to the recent RC. Honestly, early adoption of VMM 2008 R2 could be one of those rare cases where rolling out prerelease software to a production environment might not be the worst solution. Here's why:

  • VMM 2008 R2 is far more sophisticated and feature-rich than the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version. Running atop Windows Server 2008 R2 with support for Live Migration and cluster-aware volumes in addition to all sorts of other goodies, this update raises the bar for inexpensive virtualization platforms.
  • VMM embodies Hyper-V's management functions only. VMM 2008 arrives as a functional layer on top of Windows Server's other management components. You can easily manage many components of your virtual machine (VM) and host configuration with VMM, but nearly all these elements are available in their native consoles. Within VMM, for example, you can initiate VM failover or VM configurations. Failover and configuration adjustments can be accomplished in either the Windows failover clustering console or the Hyper-V console for the node that owns the virtual machine.

Thus, if you can't wait to get the upgrade of VMM into your operation, a rip-and-replace move shouldn't be too painful. The obvious caveats apply, but if you're a bleeding-edge adopter, I can understand the wish to upgrade to the latest release of Virtual Machine Manager.

Despite all the soapboxing, some steps are necessary to get your VMM 2008 R2 beta instance upgraded to the release candidate bits. Many of these steps may be different based on whether you plan to keep your existing VM and host configurations.

Enroll in the VMM 2008 R2 RC program at Microsoft's website. This nets you access to the installation bits as well as the recently updated documentation. Prior to starting the upgrade process, remove any hosts that are not members of the same domain as the VMM server. This includes perimeter network hosts or those in domains that don't have a two-way trust with the VMM server. It also includes any VMware vCenter servers that are connected to the VMM infrastructure. You'll be adding these hosts back after the upgrade.

Uninstall the VMM server. Select the checkbox to retain data. This will ensure that your VMM configurations remain resident during the upgrade. If other VMM components are installed elsewhere in your environment -- such as in library servers or a self-service portal -- uninstall them as well.

VMM 2008 R2 RC must be installed to a Windows Server 2008 R2 server that is running SQL Server 2005 SP3 or SQL Server 2008 SP1. This may require an upgrade of the operating system or the database.

Run a small tool on your candidate VMM server to upgrade its database components once the core upgrades are complete. This tool, named UpgradeV2R2Beta.exe, is also found on the Microsoft Connect website. Run this tool from a command prompt with the syntax UpgradeV2R2Beta.exe -server [servername\instancename] -database [databasename]. Here, the default VMM instance name is MICROSOFT$VMM$, and the default database name is VirtualManagerDB. The VMM server where this tool will run must have .NET Framework 2.0 and SQL Server tools installed for the tool to function.

Begin the installation of the new version, starting with the VMM server. The VMM server installation looks relatively similar to the beta version. Answer its questions, and verify its successful installation. At this point, your Hyper-V servers should be available in the VMM console, though virtually all of them will show an agent status of Access Denied and an agent version status of Upgrade Available. This happens because VMM 2008 R2 RC arrives with a new version of the VMM agent. That update must be deployed to Hyper-V hosts if they're to participate in the updated VMM infrastructure. It is possible to update agents on attached hosts by right-clicking the hostname and choosing Update Agent. For agents that experience problems with this activity or those outside the domain, the agent can also be installed from the VMM media.

Some attached Hyper-V hosts require extra work to reconnect to the VMM infrastructure. For these hosts, once the agent has been installed, navigate to the Administration view in the VMM console and click the Managed Computers node. In that screen's middle pane, right-click the Hyper-V hosts that are experiencing problems, and choose to re-associate. Occasionally, a Hyper-V host may require a reboot after an agent installation or upgrade for this process to complete correctly. Successfully re-associated hosts display a Responding statusin this view. To complete the re-attachment process, click back on the VMM console's Hosts view, right-click any misbehaving hosts and choose Refresh.

Note that the direct upgrade process will lose the table of jobs as well as any passwords and product keys for standalone templates, operating system profiles and hardware profiles. Once your VMM infrastructure is upgraded and functioning properly, you'll need to re-populate these elements with their information.

About the expert

Greg Shields
Greg Shields is an independent author, instructor, Microsoft MVP and IT consultant based in Denver. He is a co-founder of Concentrated Technology LLC and has nearly 15 years of experience in IT architecture and enterprise administration. Shields specializes in Microsoft administration, systems management and monitoring, and virtualization. He is the author of several books including Windows Server 2008: What's New/What's Changed, available from Sapien Press.


This was first published in July 2009

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