Testing Hyper-V 3.0 is a worthwhile side project, as it will help you attain valuable skills and experience before the official release of Windows Server 8. But, first, you need to assemble the proper hardware.
Obtaining a copy of Hyper-V 3.0
To try out the new features, you first need a copy of Hyper-V 3.0. Because the standalone hypervisor isn’t publicly available, you need to download the Windows Server 8 Developer Preview, which requires an MSDN subscription.
The hardware requirements for Hyper-V 3.0 are relatively mundane, making it easy to set up a Hyper-V 3.0 sandbox before its release.
The hardware requirements for a Hyper-V 3.0 sandbox
Your success with a production environment depends, in part, on your choice of hardware and associated technologies. But for a Hyper-V 3.0 test server, however, there is a broad range of hardware possibilities that you may already have at your disposal.
Most hardware from the last three years will likely support Hyper-V 3.0, so a spare server or desktop computer may suffice. Check out the following hardware requirements and recommendations to ensure compatibility with Hyper-V 3.0:
- Processor with virtualization extensions (required):Enabled within the BIOS, hardware-based virtualization extensions allow virtual machines (VMs) to interact directly with the processor, which provides increased performance over type 2 hypervisors (i.e., Oracle VM VirtualBox, Virtual PC). This has been a hardware requirement since the Hyper-V release to manufacturer (RTM) in 2008.
To enable processor virtualization (which is usually disabled by default), launch the BIOS on your server/workstation and look for a section titled: Advanced Processor Options. Otherwise, when you set up Hyper-V and start your first VM, you will receive this message: The virtual machine could not be started because the hypervisor is not running. You will need to boot to your BIOS and enable the processor virtualization feature to continue.
- DEP-enabled processor (required): Like processor virtualization, the Data Execution Prevention (DEP) setting has been a hardware requirement since the Hyper-V RTM. It prevents the execution of potentially harmful code in-memory. This setting is found within your BIOS under a section entitled Advanced Processor Options, Security Settings or Advanced Security.
- SLAT-enabled processor (optional): This technology allows VMs to access physical memory in a more efficient manner. There are conflicting reports about whether Second Level Address Translation (SLAT), also known as Extended Page Tables or Nested Page Tables, is a requirement for Hyper-V 3.0. The answer is, the desktop version of Hyper-V in Window 8 requires SLAT, but the Windows Server 8 version does not, unless you plan to try the RemoteFX feature.
- A second Hyper-V host (optional): Hyper-V 3.0 does not require a second host, but if you want to test new features such as Hyper-V Replica, Live Storage Migration or Live Migration without shared storage, having a second host is highly desirable. You do not, however, need to have duplicate hardware in your test environment. A desktop that meets the hardware requirements above may be good enough to evaluate these features, allowing you to keep costs down.
The ability to use Hyper-V 3.0 on a variety of hardware platforms has both positive and negative implications. It allows for broad testing, but be careful not to carry your test environment into production, or you could face costly performance issues.
You should not provision anything critical on this pre-beta version of Hyper-V 3.0. In my testing, Hyper-V 3.0 has performed quite well, but expect options, menus and processes to change as the hypervisor matures toward RTM.