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Installing SCVMM 2008 R2

Installing Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 on a candidate server has several prerequisites and gotchas that you should be aware of before introducing it to your environment. An expert points out the potential pitfalls.

Greg Shields
In this series on Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 (SCVMM), we've covered the factors that drive a business to upgrade to SCVMM from Hyper-V and the new features and functionality in SCVMM 2008 R2. If SCVMM is a good fit for your environment, the next step is to install it on a piece of hardware.

For more on Microsoft's Hyper-V management:
Upgrading to Microsoft's SCVMM 2008 R2: The top seven considerations

New features in Microsoft's SCVMM R2 improve Hyper-V management

Now, in part three, we discuss the requirements for installing the release candidate version of SCVMM 2008 R2. As with any release candidate software, the final version may differ, so this information on installing SCVMM is designed to prepare you for what you may see. While the software is in pre-release form, you can download a 180-day trial version from Microsoft's website. If you're considering SCVMM, this fully functional free trial is a great starting point to get familiar with the software.

Prerequisites for installing SCVMM
Before installing SCVMM, you should know about its prerequisites. First, you need to grab three Hyper-V updates. Download and install KB950050, KB956589, and 956774 on each Hyper-V host before registering them with SCVMM. Although SCVMM 2008 R2 can be used to upgrade an existing instance of SCVMM 2008, it's not suggested with the pre-release version. Microsoft has a history of creating upgrade paths between software versions, but not from pre-release to release versions. Also, SCVMM 2007 installations cannot be upgraded because they have to convert to the 2008 version first.

For environments with up to 10 virtual hosts, Microsoft suggests a dual-core, 2 GHz, x64 server with at least 2 GB of RAM. If you double the number of managed hosts, you need to double the amount of RAM. In addition, you need PowerShell 1.0, the Windows Automated Installation Kit 1.1, IIS 7.0 and SQL Server 2005 Express Edition.

While SQL Server Express Edition has limited functionality and a small database, Microsoft claims an SCVMM server can manage up to 150 Hyper-V hosts before an upgrade to a full SQL edition is necessary. You can place your SCVMM instance on an existing virtual host, but remember that software colocated on a virtual host reduces the available resources you can assign to virtual machines (VMs). Finally, if you use host-based firewalls in your environment, or plan to manage VMs in other network domains, SCVMM requires TCP ports 80, 443 and 8100 to communicate with Hyper-V hosts.

Installing SCVMM on a candidate server
SCVMM comprises five separate components that manage your Hyper-V hosts. Each can be installed on the same server or, if your environment has existing services available, on different servers.

The SCVMM server is where the management logic and SCVMM application itself are stored. It works with the SQL database, which can be remote or local for data storage. One or more library servers can be provisioned as well to store templates, ISOs, profiles and other data. Library servers are little more than a share on a file server whose contents are managed by SCVMM. SCVMM's self-service portal can be installed locally, or to an existing IIS 7.0 server in your environment. This optional component is necessary if you want to provide VM console access for non-administrators. The final component is SCVMM's reporting server, which is an instance of System Center Operations Manager. This will likely be installed elsewhere.

Prior to installing SCVMM, you need to verify your server configuration with the Configuration Analyzer tool. This tool looks at the configuration of existing Hyper-V hosts and the machines that will eventually execute SCVMM's functions to validate them. The Configuration Analyzer tool operates like its predecessor System Center products, so ensure that candidate servers pass its tests before continuing installation. Take note that to use this tool, though, you have to download the Microsoft Baseline Configuration Analyzer.

Once the prerequisites have been met, installing SCVMM is simple. The installation runs a series of prerequisite checks, asks you to identify the type of SQL installation you want to use, creates a new library share or point to an existing library share, and provides a location to adjust ports and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) service account settings. Any missing prerequisites will be installed as well.

Once you've completed the installation of SCVMM to a server, you may be confused because there aren't obvious ways to interact with it. This is because the SCVMM console is not installed to the server when the rest of the application is installed. If you want to work with SCVMM on the same server, install its console separately. The same holds true with the self-service portal if you intend to use it on the same server. But if your SCVMM server is colocated with a Hyper-V host, it will install the agent to the host as part of the installation.

And that's the process to install SCVMM -- or almost. Once you've completed each of these separate installations you can begin to enjoy SCVMM's advanced features . Your next step is to grab a copy of the bits and pieces while you can and prepare yourself for the release version of SCVMM 2008 R2

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Greg Shields, MCSE, is an independent author and consultant based in Denver with many years of IT architecture and enterprise administration experience. He is an IT trainer and speaker on such IT topics as Microsoft administration, systems management and monitoring, and virtualization. His recent book Windows Server 2008: What's New/What's Changed is available from Sapien Press.

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