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Configuring Hyper-V hosts with Microsoft's VMMCA

Microsoft's Virtual Machine Manager Configuration Analyzer can verify that a host server is ready for Hyper-V R2 and, after installation, validate the configuration.

It can be challenging to ensure that environments virtualized with Windows Server 2008's Hyper-V R2 are properly configured. Microsoft's free Virtual Machine Manager Configuration Analyzer (VMMCA) can check whether the correct components are on the target host server and, after installation, validate the configuration of the Hyper-V host.

Correct Hyper-V settings with VMMCA
Users have complained that Hyper-V R1 required numerous updates and special configurations to be fully operational. While Microsoft was wise to include a beta version of Hyper-V R1 for Windows Server 2008, finding and installing the extra bits of that beta to update it to production code required a sizable effort.

Although the need for such updates will change with Hyper-V R2, which will be released with Windows Server 2008 R2, the updating process is still important. Simply put, Hyper-V's code base will always trail its core Windows Server operating system because Microsoft wants to complete final testing of Hyper-V -- and likely a subsequent round of updates -- on an officially-blessed code base. In the same vein, Microsoft doesn't want that testing to delay the release of its OS. As a result, we in the field will be awash in post-release updates that tune Hyper-V to Windows Server's released code base.

Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. We need assurance that we've got bulletproof code for stable virtualization environments. I'll gladly pay an extra patch cycle or two to ensure that I've got the best environment possible, especially with Hyper-V R2's modernized failover capabilities. But figuring out exactly what these correct configurations are can be a challenge.

Enter Virtual Machine Manager's Configuration Analyzer. This tool, which you can freely download from the Microsoft website, does some of that configuration verification for you. This tool requires the Microsoft Baseline Configuration Analyzer, which can be download for free from Microsoft's website, to run a set of verification checks against your Hyper-V and VMM infrastructures.

VMMCA has two primary functions, the first of which is used before installing VMM services in an infrastructure. Since VMM has several requirements above and beyond that of Hyper-V, the VMMCA tool analyzes the candidate server to verify that the right components are in place. For example, it verifies that the right Internet Information Services (IIS) settings and role services are installed, that any file servers to be used as VMM Library servers are correctly configured and even the prerequisites for VMM itself. As a best practice, run this tool on a candidate server before a VMM implementation. You'll find a link for it on your VMM media in the installation's startup splash screen.

VMMCA can also validate the configuration of Hyper-V hosts. This capability isn't well known because this added functionality isn't exposed until VMM has been successfully installed. Once the VMM installation is complete, a new set of options appears in VMMCA for analyzing candidate or existing Hyper-V hosts for their configuration and ability to be supported under a VMM server.

To analyze a Hyper-V host, run the VMMCA tool from your fully installed VMM server and look for the new element "Other computers." You'll find a drop-down box that allows you to target the analysis against a Windows Server-based host, a VMware VirtualCenter server, a physical-to-virtual source computer or an Operations Manager agent. Add the hostnames of the computers to be scanned, and hit the Scan button. You'll then get an HTML page with information about the connected hosts.

Firewalls must be configured with exclusions for Windows Remote Management and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) communication for the scan to function on remote computers. In addition, to verify VMM servers with remote databases, remote connections must be enabled on those databases. While remote connections are often enabled on full SQL connections, environments that use SQL Express won't automatically have remote connections enabled.

VMMCA runs on top of the Microsoft Baseline Configuration Analyzer (MBCA), a tool set that sounds similar to -- but is not -- the ancient Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer. If Microsoft continues to use it across the board, the MBCA could be an exceptional offering. MBCA represents a new way to facilitate the same kinds of pre-installation verifications we've seen in recent versions of Microsoft server software. Extending those verifications into running configurations is a smart move for Microsoft and help administrators in the never-ending search for nasty misconfiguration problems.

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.

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