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Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization: Installation and system requirements

Learn about installation and system requirements for Microsoft's new Hyper-V virtualization solution in this tip.

Thinking of taking Microsoft's new Hyper-V beta release for a test drive? This tip describes requirements for testing Hyper-V, giving a first-hand view of the product itself. The advice is based on my experiments on the pre-beta version. There are a few changes in the just-released beta, but this tip's pointers are applicable to the new beta.

IT people can be a fairly diverse bunch, but one thing we tend to have in common is our desire to stay up-to-date with current (and future) technology. Taking it even further, we're not afraid to try untested preview versions of software. Well, there's nothing more futuristic than Microsoft's upcoming Hyper-V technology (formerly code-named "Viridian," and later "Windows Server Virtualization (WSv)"). It's currently available in an official beta version that runs on Release Candidate 1 of Windows Server 2008. If that doesn't say cutting edge, I don't know what does.

Still, it's never too early to learn about what promises to change the virtualization landscape in the not-too-distant future. In this tip, I'll focus on the requirements for testing Hyper-V, so you can get a first-hand view of the product itself. Of course, you can expect significant changes related to the user interface, features and capabilities, and performance in subsequent builds of the operating system.

(Note: For more information on the architecture of Hyper-V, see my previous article, Inside Microsoft's Hyper-V Windows 2008 Virtualization Architecture.)

Getting Hyper-V from the dealership

Hyper-V is an add-on component that will be available for the Windows Server 2008 platform in the latter half of 2008. To get started, you'll need to download and install a copy of Windows Server 2008. You can download the bits for free from Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 Evaluation Web site. Lest you think you can get away with doing this on a virtual machine, read on for system requirements.

System requirements

The system requirements for Hyper-V are far from ordinary, and this is the toughest hurdle for those that don't have dedicated test environments: Your standard desktop machine might not meet the system requirements. Here's what you'll need:

  1. 64-bit hardware and operating system (OS): Hyper-V is available on only the x64 editions of Windows Server 2008. Most recent CPUs from Intel and AMD will meet these requirements. (Of course, you'll still be able to run both 32-bit and 64-bit OSes in guest virtual machines [VMs]).

  2. OS options: At this stage of the game, you'll need to install Windows Server 2008 Standard, Enterprise (recommended), or Datacenter edition. The Hyper-V Beta also supports installation on a Server Core deployment of Windows Server 2008 (in this and future Tips, I'll focus on using Hyper-V in the full installation unless otherwise noted).

  3. Hardware-assisted virtualization extensions: The CPU(s) on your computer must support Intel-VT or AMD-V hardware virtualization extensions. Hyper-V's architecture relies on features in these extensions, and the hardware platform must have them. Decoding current CPU model numbers can be tricky (thanks, marketing guys!), but you can find more details at the Intel Processor Numbers Web site and from AMD's virtualization Web site. The bottom line: You'll need an AMD Opteron chip or at least an Intel Core2 chip to continue (although not all models of the latter support Intel-VT).

  4. BIOS Settings: In addition to enabling hardware-assisted virtualization features, you must also enable the No Execute (NX) feature (for AMD machines) or the Execute Disable (XD) feature (for Intel-based machines). Generally, all you'll need to do is set the appropriate options in the system BIOS. However, in some cases, a BIOS upgrade might be required.

  5. Other Requirements: You'll also need to meet the minimum system requirements for Windows Server 2008 in order to install the base OS. Generally, this won't be a problem. If you're planning to create some VMs, set aside around 30 GB or so of available disk space (for the OS and a few virtual hard disks).

At least for now, meeting the system requirements in a test environment might be the biggest barrier. New machines will support all of these requirements, so by the time Hyper-V is released, it won't be much of an issue for newer servers.

Installing Hyper-V

Currently, the Hyper-V technology is referred to as the Windows Server Virtualization (WSv) server role. If you're not familiar with Windows Server 2008, this would be a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with the new administration tools. In particular, Server Manager is the new "command central" for managing your server. Using the Add Roles and Add Role Services features, you can easily configure the OS with the features you need. And, yes, you can install many (or all) of them at the same time.

The Hyper-V Beta is included in the free evaluation download from Microsoft: Windows Server 2008 Release Candidate 1 Enterprise with Hyper-V Beta. After you have installed the operating system on a physical machine that meets the requirements stated earlier, you'll be able to use the Server Manager's Add Roles Wizard to select the Windows Server Virtualization role. You'll need to restart the computer to complete the installation process.

Examining the dashboard

Once you have finished the installation process, you can launch the Windows Server Virtualization Management administrative tool (it's in the Administrative Tools program group, or you can just search for it using the Start menu). At the risk of ending with a cliff-hanger, I'll hold off on the guided tour of creating and managing new VMs until my next article.

Summary

So, there you have it: The basic steps for kicking the tires of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008. Current test versions of Microsoft's upcoming virtualization technology have numerous limitations, but there's enough here for you start getting familiar with the product. I'll build upon this information in future articles that cover details about and installing and using the product. Keep in mind that this will be a moving target. New features and changes are likely before the eventual release of Hyper-V. Stay tuned, though; the ride's just beginning.

About the author: Anil Desai is an independent consultant based in Austin, Tex. He specializes in evaluating, implementing and managing solutions based on Microsoft technologies. He has worked extensively with Microsoft's Server products and the .NET development platform and has managed datacenter environments that support thousands of virtual machines. Anil is an MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA and a Microsoft MVP (Windows Server -- Management Infrastructure).

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