SCVMM 2008 R2 Beta Released!

Wow that was quick!  Not even a week ago and I was talking here, and at a presentation I gave to the Brisbane Infrastructure Group about how the System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 Beta would be available within 30 days.  The SCVMM team has definitely not made me a liar, as here it is already!

https://connect.microsoft.com/Downloads/Downloads.aspx?SiteID=799

So hit up connect now and give it a whirl!  If you are worried about not having the infrastructure to give this a try, then try running it on a virtual machine as this is a supported configuration, even better, on connect you can actually download a VHD file with SCVMM 2008 R2 Beta pre-installed and configured, ready to rock.

If you still aren't convinced, then check out the feature list from my last blog post : 

Support for new features of Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta

  • Live Migration: – Seen through the VMM console, this enables administrators to move virtual machines from one machine in a virtual host cluster to another with no downtime. This allows administrators greater flexibility in responding to planned or unplanned downtime, provides higher machine availability and more robust fault tolerance within virtualized infrastructure. The basic requirements for Live Migration are that all hosts must be part of a cluster and host processors must be from the same manufacturer.  Additionally all hosts in the cluster must have access to shared storage.  No changes are required to existing virtual machines, network, or storage devices in moving from Quick Migration to Live Migration other than upgrading to beta versions of Windows Server 2008 R2 and VMM 2008 R2.
  • Hot addition/removal of VHDs:  Allows the addition and removal of new virtual hard disks (VHDs) on a running virtual machine.  This enables storage growth in virtual machines without downtime.  Additionally, ?live? VHD management allows administrators to take advantage of additional backup scenarios and readily use mission critical and storage-intense applications (eg: SQL Server and Exchange).
  • New optimized networking technologies: VMM 2008 R2 Beta supports two new networking technologies ? Virtual Machine Queue (VMQ) and TCP Chimney ? providing increased network performance while demanding less CPU burden.  NICS that support VMQ, create a unique virtual network queue for each virtual machine on a host that can pass network packets directly from the hypervisor to virtual machine. This speeds throughput as it bypasses much of the processing normally required by the virtualization stack. With TCP Chimney, TCP/IP traffic can be offloaded to a physical NIC on the host computer reducing CPU load and improving network performance.

 Enhanced storage and cluster support

  • Clustered Shared Volumes (CSV): Provides a single, consistent storage space that allows virtual hosts in a cluster to concurrently access virtual machine files on a single shared logical unit number (LUN). CSV eliminates the previous one LUN per virtual machine restriction and coordinates the use of storage with much greater efficiency and higher performance. CSV enables the Live Migration of virtual machines in and out of the shared LUN without impacting other virtual machines. Enabling CSV on failover clusters is straightforward and easy to monitor through the VMM administrator?s console; many storage configuration complexities prior to CSV have been eliminated.
  • SAN migration into and out of clustered hosts: This allows virtual machines to migrate into and out of clustered hosts using a SAN transfer, which automatically configures the cluster nodes to recognize and support the new workload.
  • Expanded Support for iSCSI SANs:  Previously, only one LUN could be bound to a single iSCSI target whereas now — with VMM 2008 R2 Beta — multiple LUNS can be mapped to a single iSCSI target.    This provides broader industry support for iSCSI SANs allowing customers more flexibility in choosing storage providers and iSCSI SAN options.

Streamlined process for managing host upgrades:

  • Maintenance Mode:  Allows administrators to apply updates or perform maintenance on a host server by safely evacuating all virtual machines to other hosts on a cluster using Live Migration or putting those workloads into a saved state to be safely reactivated when maintenance or upgrades are complete. Maintenance mode is enabled for all supported hypervisor platforms on Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta.

Other VMM 2008 R2 Beta enhancements

  • Support of disjoint domains:  Reduces the complexity of reconciling host servers with differing domain names in Active Directory and DNS.  In these situations, VMM 2008 R2 Beta automatically creates a custom service principal name (SPN) configured in both AD and DNS allowing for successful authentication. 
  • Use of defined port groups with VMware Virtual Center:  On installation, VMM 2008 R2 Beta will present available port groups for VMM?s use with VMware Virtual Center thus allowing administrators to maintain control over which port groups are used.

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SCVMM 2008 R2 Beta registration open

Beta registration for System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 was released just today!

https://connect.microsoft.com/SelfNomination.aspx?ProgramID=3021&pageType=1&SiteID=799

The registration page also lists some of the features of SCVMM 2008 R2, which will tie in pretty heavily with the new Hyper-V on Windows Server 2008 R2

Support for new features of Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta

  • Live Migration: – Seen through the VMM console, this enables administrators to move virtual machines from one machine in a virtual host cluster to another with no downtime. This allows administrators greater flexibility in responding to planned or unplanned downtime, provides higher machine availability and more robust fault tolerance within virtualized infrastructure. The basic requirements for Live Migration are that all hosts must be part of a cluster and host processors must be from the same manufacturer.  Additionally all hosts in the cluster must have access to shared storage.  No changes are required to existing virtual machines, network, or storage devices in moving from Quick Migration to Live Migration other than upgrading to beta versions of Windows Server 2008 R2 and VMM 2008 R2.
  • Hot addition/removal of VHDs:  Allows the addition and removal of new virtual hard disks (VHDs) on a running virtual machine.  This enables storage growth in virtual machines without downtime.  Additionally, ?live? VHD management allows administrators to take advantage of additional backup scenarios and readily use mission critical and storage-intense applications (eg: SQL Server and Exchange).
  • New optimized networking technologies: VMM 2008 R2 Beta supports two new networking technologies ? Virtual Machine Queue (VMQ) and TCP Chimney ? providing increased network performance while demanding less CPU burden.  NICS that support VMQ, create a unique virtual network queue for each virtual machine on a host that can pass network packets directly from the hypervisor to virtual machine. This speeds throughput as it bypasses much of the processing normally required by the virtualization stack. With TCP Chimney, TCP/IP traffic can be offloaded to a physical NIC on the host computer reducing CPU load and improving network performance.

 Enhanced storage and cluster support

  • Clustered Shared Volumes (CSV): Provides a single, consistent storage space that allows virtual hosts in a cluster to concurrently access virtual machine files on a single shared logical unit number (LUN). CSV eliminates the previous one LUN per virtual machine restriction and coordinates the use of storage with much greater efficiency and higher performance. CSV enables the Live Migration of virtual machines in and out of the shared LUN without impacting other virtual machines. Enabling CSV on failover clusters is straightforward and easy to monitor through the VMM administrator?s console; many storage configuration complexities prior to CSV have been eliminated.
  • SAN migration into and out of clustered hosts: This allows virtual machines to migrate into and out of clustered hosts using a SAN transfer, which automatically configures the cluster nodes to recognize and support the new workload.
  • Expanded Support for iSCSI SANs:  Previously, only one LUN could be bound to a single iSCSI target whereas now — with VMM 2008 R2 Beta — multiple LUNS can be mapped to a single iSCSI target.    This provides broader industry support for iSCSI SANs allowing customers more flexibility in choosing storage providers and iSCSI SAN options.

Streamlined process for managing host upgrades:

  • Maintenance Mode:  Allows administrators to apply updates or perform maintenance on a host server by safely evacuating all virtual machines to other hosts on a cluster using Live Migration or putting those workloads into a saved state to be safely reactivated when maintenance or upgrades are complete. Maintenance mode is enabled for all supported hypervisor platforms on Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta.

Other VMM 2008 R2 Beta enhancements

  • Support of disjoint domains:  Reduces the complexity of reconciling host servers with differing domain names in Active Directory and DNS.  In these situations, VMM 2008 R2 Beta automatically creates a custom service principal name (SPN) configured in both AD and DNS allowing for successful authentication. 
  • Use of defined port groups with VMware Virtual Center:  On installation, VMM 2008 R2 Beta will present available port groups for VMM?s use with VMware Virtual Center thus allowing administrators to maintain control over which port groups are used.

 Really looking forward to this one, it has the possibility of turning SCVMM 2008 into a real competitor for vmWare's Virtual Center.

No Virtual Machines in SCVMM 2008 Self Service Portal – What the?

After installing System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (SCVMM 2008) into our production environment we decided to try fully utilize the feature of the product to offer our clients a web based portal to login and manage their virtual machines.  This all seemed fine in practice until we actually installed the SCVMM 2008 Self Service Portal and found that not a single Virtual Machine is visible, and no error messages or helpful information is displayed.

We had initially assumed this was a problem with the User Roles which I had assumed to be the primary mechanism for distributing permissions to individual users and groups.  Well I was half right, User Roles controls access to the portal itself, as well as the hosts and library shares that that user role will have access to. To actually view a Virtual Machine within the portal you need to be an Owner, or a member of a group that has Ownership of the Virtual Machine.

I'm still undecided if I like this feature or not, I like the granularity it offers – i.e. I can allow a client to view their two virtual guests on our host, without compromising the security of the other guests on the server.  On the other hand, I don't like having to double handle my permissions in two different areas.  I think time will tell on this one, and functionality will win out over inconvenience as it usually does.

To change the ownership of a Virtual Machine using SCVMM 2008 Administrator's Console is fairly simple as it can be edited in the properties menu.  For more than one server I would recommend using PowerShell.  The command to change the ownership of a Virtual Machine follows :

Set-VM -vm "VMName" -owner "DomainNewOwner"

For anyone who wants to do any SCVMM 2008 Self-Service Portal PowerShell Scripting this is a great resource, http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb963722.aspx, it includes a bunch of useful sample scripts. 

And an additional quick warning, I have found that running PowerShell scripts to change properties of large groups of Virtual Machines can from time to time slow down VMM, or even bring it to a complete half.  Use wisely!

5 reasons why I have fallen in love with SCVMM 2008

A few months ago System Centre Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (SCVMM) was fully released, I know I actually took a long while to give this a try, mostly due to a fairly miserable experience I had with it in beta.  However after taking a bit of time to install and get to know this it, I am really thrilled to say that this product is fantastic and it really delivers.

Less than 48 hours after testing and installation I was trying to bring the guys I work with around to my viewpoint on why we need this product in our organisation immediately.  If you have multiple virtual servers within your organisation, you cannot afford not to have this!

Here are my 5 reasons I have fallen in love with it, and I think you would too.

1.  Migrations

Three kinds of migration are now available in SCVMM.  Virtual To Virtual (V2V), Physical to Virtual (P2V), Host To Host (H2H?  Maybe I just invented a new term)

V2V – Virtual to Virtual Migration.  This feature is amazing, it allows you to do an on the fly conversion / migration of virtual servers to a new host.  I recently converted a set of VMDK files from an ESX Virtual Machine to new Hyper-V machine with no problem at all.  You can store the VMDK files in the SCVMM Library (See #5) and do an offline conversion, or if you have SCVMM managing an ESX server (See #4) you can do an online migration.  It will even install all the necessary drivers for you to get your VM up and running with a minimum of fuss.

P2V – Physical to Virtual Migration.  This is something that has been around in ESX for a while now, but it is very nice to have this feature running in SCVMM.  Either offline or online P2V can be performed; I have heard some rumour that the offline version may be more reliable, I have not yet substantiated this for myself.

H2H – Host To Host migration.  This is simply called "Migration" within SCVMM, in ESX it was called "VMotion".  This is an offline migration of a server from one host to another, during this process the server will be turned off and turned back on when migration to the new host server is complete.

2.  Web Console

This feature is going to be big news for Hosting companies.  It is a web based console you can log into to manage your Virtual Machines, Hosts, Anything!  Pretty much if you can do it in the SCVMM Administrators Console, you can do it in the Web Console.  Finally a tool to allow your end users, customers or even developers the ability to remotely manage their own servers.

This sounds like it could potentially be a security concern, but the SCVMM team has built in a fairly robust permissions system that will allow you to delegate appropriate permissions fairly granularly to your users.  A specific user may only be able to see the status of their own VM Guest, while another user may see an entire group of servers they can reboot at will.

3.  Operations Manager and PowerShell Integration

Combine SCVMM 2008 with System Center Operations Manager and suddenly amid a few new Management Packs you have the ability to monitor the health of your hosts and guests.  For any service provider being able to actually monitor the health of the VMs at a host level will be very useful.  There may be other features and benefits here too, but as yet I have not had a chance to fiddle too much with it. 

With every 2008 or later product, Microsoft has been including PowerShell providers, and SCVMM is no exception.  Anything you can do in the Administrators console you can do in PowerShell.  At a quick guess the administrators console merely generates PowerShell scripts and executes them in the background, and a plus side of this is that most of the wizards can export a PowerShell command so they can be re-run if needed.

4.  Management, Maintenance and Resources

If I have not mentioned it already, if you have ESX infrastructure as well as Microsoft virtualisation technologies, SCVMM can also manage all of your Hosts and VMs in one place.  Of course this is not just limited to Hyper-V and ESX, if you have Virtual Server 2005 SCVMM can also manage this.

For monitoring your resources the Administrators console allows you to quickly view on a pie chart the status of your hosts, guests and jobs. This console also allows you to select a host machine and quickly find out how many VMs are on there, and more importantly how many resources are available on the host.   This is something Hyper-V and Virtual Server do not have readily available. 

The SCVMM Administrator and Web console also give you an indication of how much CPU and Memory each of your guests are using, this is not a particularly new feature as it was available in the Virtual Server 2005 Web interface, but having it in the same place as all the other tools is fairly useful.

5.  The Library

Think of the library as a catalogue of Virtual Disks, Virtual Servers, ISO's and Configurations that you may want to deploy more than once.  By right clicking an object in the library you can bring up a deployment wizard. For example, deploying a new Guest would be as easy as right clicking on an image stored in the library and filling in a few blanks in the wizard, or you could potentially convert an ESX guest that was stored in the library to Hyper-V, and so on.Of course for the library to be much use, you need a fast and easy way to import new content. 

A currently running VM can be imported quite easily, the import process will copy the VM into the library as a template, and also perform a sysprep on the operating system VHD files, this way new VMs can be deployed extremely quickly.  VMM also allows the ability to run post-configuration scripts so that if you have any build scripts that would ordinarily be run after a server had been installed, this can do it for you with no interaction.

I have not gone terribly in depth with any of these features, but I hope I have given a few people out there an idea of what SCVMM can do for them.  If you have any lingering doubts, I recommend grabbing a trial copy and running it up on a VM.  It is probably not a supported configuration, but that?s what I did and it worked relatively well for me.

180 day trial downloads of SCVMM are available and more information can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/virtualmachinemanager/en/us/default.aspx