System Center Virtual Machine Manager is what Microsoft offers for centralized virtual machine management. What a lot of people don't realize, however, is that Virtual Machine Manager isn't limited to just managing virtual machines -- it can also be used to deploy Hyper-V hosts. This article will discuss some of the things that you need to know prior to attempting a Hyper-V bare-metal host deployment.
Bare-metal host requirements
The deployment of bare-metal Hyper-V hosts first became practical with Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2. However, you may find the process to be a bit easier if you use Virtual Machine Manager 2012 or 2012 R2.
One of the most important things that you need to know prior to attempting to perform a bare-metal Hyper-V deployment is that you can't perform it to just any server. The target server must have a Baseboard Management Controller (BMC). Furthermore, the server must be compliant with an accepted out-of-band management protocol. Virtual Machine Manager is designed to work with the following protocols:
- System Management Architecture for Server Hardware 1.0 over WS Management
- Intelligent Platform Management Interface versions 1.5 or 2.0
- Datacenter Management Interface version 1.0
In some cases it is possible to use Virtual Machine Manager with custom out-of-band management protocols. For instance, Virtual Machine Manager supports Integrated Lights Out.
It is worth noting that Virtual Machine Manager uses a discovery process to discover the bare-metal host prior to the host being PXE booted. This discovery process involves the use of a RunAs account. As such, you will need to make sure that you have created a RunAs account and that the RunAs account has permission to access the BMC.
The PXE server
System Center Virtual Machine Manager was never designed to be a fully integrated, self-contained solution for performing bare-metal deployments on physical servers. That being the case, Virtual Machine Manager does not include one of the key components that is required to make a bare-metal deployment work -- a PXE server.
When you power up the bare-metal host server for the first time, it will need to establish a network connection to a PXE server before an operating system can be written to the server. Although some administrators have allegedly had success using third-party PXE servers, Microsoft requires that you use a Windows server that has the Windows Deployment Service role installed. If you are running Virtual Machine Manager 2012, then the PXE server will need to run Windows Server 2008 R2. If you are running Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 or higher -- or 2012 R2 -- then you can run the Windows Deployment Service on either Windows Server 2008 R2 or on Windows Server 2012. Regardless of the version of Windows you use to host the Windows Deployment Services, you must place the PXE server in the same subnet as the bare-metal host.
The host deployment process
The host deployment process is relatively easy, although the actual instructions for deploying Hyper-V to a bare-metal host can vary widely depending on your own unique configuration. At a high level, the deployment process consists of five main steps:
- Use Virtual Machine Manager to discover the bare-metal server through out-of-band management.
- Configure a host profile or a physical computer profile through Virtual Machine Manager.
- PXE boot the new server and use the host profile or the physical computer profile to deploy an operating system to the new server.
- Enable the Hyper-V role on the new server.
- Configure Virtual Machine Manager to treat the new server as a managed host.
Of course in the real world, Hyper-V hosts are almost always deployed as a part of a failover cluster. As such, you would also want to install the Failover Clustering feature and join the new Hyper-V server to a failover cluster.
The host profile
One more important piece to the puzzle is the host profile. The host profile (or the physical computer profile) is used to deploy an operating system to the bare-metal server. In order to create a host profile, you will need an operating system image that has been generalized. You can generalize the image by running SYSPREP.
The host profile contains a link to the operating system image, but also includes information about how to deploy the image. In some ways the host profile works similarly to a SYSPREP answer file. Microsoft provides instructions for creating a host profile.
Deploying Hyper-V to a bare-metal server is a relatively straightforward process, but there are a lot of steps involved in setting up Virtual Machine Manager for bare-metal host deployments. Microsoft provides instructions on their TechNet library.