Hyper-V in my House

Hyper-V in my House

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I often chat to people about how I use Hyper-V in my house – so I figured that I should write it down for all to read. 

At the moment I have a single server in my house.  It is a single processor quad-core system (Q6600 processor) with 8GB of memory.  This server is kept in the mezzanine space under the stairs in my house.  I have gone a little crazy with this space and have setup a basic raised floor with cooling and a beefy UPS.  It is a very small space (I cannot stand up in there) so I try to do as much remote management as possible.

At the moment the system configuration looks something like this:

Drawing1

I used to run this system with Windows Server core in the parent partition, but I am currently using a full installation of Windows Server. 

The main reason for this change was to make it easier to troubleshoot the system when I break something. 

As this is the only server in my house – it fills the roles of Domain Controller, DHCP server and DNS server.  This means that when it is having problems I often cannot authenticate to it from a remote computer, which in turn means that most of my troubleshooting is done from the physical console.  This is much easier when the physical console has a full graphical user interface, and not just a command line.

I also used to run my Domain Controller / DHCP Server / DNS Server in a virtual machine, but I know run them in the parent partition (you can read a discussion about Domain Controller configuration options here).

The reason for this change is that I want to be able to do remote troubleshooting if something is wrong.  But as I have already alluded to – I cannot do this if the Domain Controller is down.  If something does go wrong with the system (either in hardware or software) that stops virtual machines from running – the parent partition is usually still functional.  Putting the Domain Controller there means that I have a higher chance of being able to do remote troubleshooting.

All that said – my setup is by no means utopian.  The main issues that I have at the moment are:

  1. I have yet to get the behavior out of System Center Operations Manager that I want.

    So far, my experience with System Center Operations Manager has been one of fixing a long parade of error events that I do not particularly care about.  At the moment it is telling me that my Hyper-V server is “red” because I have a bunch of drives that are almost out of space.  This is expected in my case, because these drives are filled up with fixed size virtual hard disks.

    Not a show stopper – but it means that I am constantly having to double check error events.

    I have not given up on System Center Operations Manager yet – but so far it has been more irritating than useful for me. 

  2. Monitoring my parent partition remotely is a pain, because it is a Domain Controller.

    The biggest thing that I want to be able to monitor remotely is the state of my hardware.  I have set this up before when my parent partition was not a Domain Controller.  But now that it is a Domain Controller I am finding many cases where it is either impossible to do remote management, or you need to follow different (poorly documented) steps to do so.

    At the moment I find that I often fall back on just using Remote Desktop to connect to the parent partition, and checking things manually from there.  I really do not like doing this.

    This one issue is making me reconsider the whole decision to put the Domain Controller in the parent partition.

  3. C:\ is a performance bottle neck in my server.

    I have a bunch of virtual machines running on my system drive – which is a general performance (and best practice) no no.  It does not bother me too much – but I have noticed performance issues with this configuration.

    I am debating about what to do about this.

    Top on my list of ideas is to move C:\ to a set of mirrored disks.  This will help read performance, and would also help with the next point too.

  4. C:\ and D:\ are single points of failure in my system.

    I love Windows Home Server for many reasons.  The biggest one is how it manages data redundancy to protect me from disk failure.  Over the last couple of years I have had a number of disks failures – and thanks to Home Server I have not lost any data.

    Unfortunately, if either the C:\ or the D:\ were to fail, I would be in a lot of pain.

    I could recover from D:\ failing with no data loss, but it would be a pain to recover from.  Losing C:\ would involve data loss (did I mention that C:\ is the oldest disk in the system?).

  5. I do not have a good backup story.

    Leading on from the previous point – I do not have a good backup story for this system.  In fact, I do not have a backup story at all.



    I really need to do something about that.

  6. I have to bring everything down to do anything with the hardware.

    Every time that I need to reconfigure the hardware in this system, I have to bring everything down.  This does not happen too often, but when it does happen it is a big pain.  This also keeps me from putting my media center files on my home server – as I do not want to have the rest of the family mad at me if I need to reconfigure the server for other reasons.

  7. I do not have enough storage space on my home server.

    Yup.  Need more storage :-)

Cheers,
Ben

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  • I have a similar setup.  Main machine is Q6600 with 8 gigs of ram.  Server is an E6600 with 8 gigs of ram.  Running Hyper V on the server with the following setup.

    Note: All Hard Drives are mirrored raid sets

    System Drive 250 GB(C and D Partitions)

    Data Drive 1 750 GB

    Data Drvie 2 750 GB

    I am running the following

    Domain / DNS

    TFS Server

    SQL 2008 Server

    Oracle 11g Server

    Windows 2008 Web Server

    It is very functional.  MS did a good job with Hyper V.  

  • Great post!

    How many virtual memory do you allocate for MED-V Server so that it runs well?

    If you want to manage this machines even from your mobile phone have a look at hyper9 virtualization mobile manager. Testing it at the moment.

    Cheers,

    Bjoern

  • do you have a lot of free time on your hands, or do you really have a need for AD, DNS, DHCP,MED-V, SCOM and SCVMM at home?

    my home setup includes a Win7 Media Center PC and cloud backup services (which used to just be called online backup services ;)

  • Bjoern -

    The MED-V server only has 1GB of RAM, but then again - it only has one user.  Me :-)

    I have tried using Hyper9 VMM but have not been able to get it to work probably.

    nzregs -

    No, I do not need all of this, but I do dedicate time to using our software "hands on" so that when I talk to server admins I can actually have some level of credibility :-)

    Cheers,

    Ben

  • My suggestions:

    1) Can't you use a physical drive as a virtual drive?  Thus you could use the physical drive in your VM instead of using a fixed VHD on the physical drive.  It would make any future disk almost full errors useful as well.

    It would also simplify things as well, maybe even speed up disk access slightly for the VM?  Probably negligibly.

    Switching over would be a pain though, since you'd have to move files around a bit.

    3) Once you do 1) you'd have access to the free space on your other drives to figure out how to organize things.

    4&5) If you do 1) you have an opportunity to make a good backup system, or at least make a single backup then (since you'd have to move the files somewhere anyway so you can remove the VHD and put them back).

    7) This would make 1) easier too. :)

  • Hey Ben,

    Do you have any suggestions for an antivirus product for this sort of setup? I've also got a Windows server running lots of VMs, and currently (gasp!) don't have any AV on the parent partition. I know I should - but it seems like the price jump from client to server AV is hideous.

    I've got access to Forefront if I want it, but it seems like overkill for my situation - just wondered if you have any suggestions.

    Cheers

    John

  • Ben -

    That's clear that you are the only MED-V user ;)

    Good to know that it works with only 1GB.

    Think I have had the same issue with Hyper9 VMM but I mailed with the guys and get a solution (some hours ago) will test it.

    If it works I let you know.

    Cheers,

    Bjoern

  • I guess that your server cannot stream more that two simultaneus stream and it's a single point of failure.

    I have choose to use more on the networking side (router that have DHCP, Firewalling and other identity and function) and NAS function (Synology DS407e w/RAID5) to have my data always available and secured.

    All my computers does backup on the NAS on a scheduled based.

    I guess this configuration is more stable and reliable that ones you are using in your house.

    Think about you upgrade the parent partition and something broke... you cannot see your favourite media that reside on a VM....

  • Just to add I don't have any data I cannot afford to lose on a single drive.  All drives must be mirrored in my house.  :o).  Any critical data not on the server is backed up to 1 of 2 500 GB USB drives attached to the server.  The server automatically backups specific folders online when their contents change.  

    FYI as a rule I separate my VM's according to usage.  In my post above I showed the following.  I've added the VM's to show how they are dispersed.  

    System Drive 250 GB(C and D Partitions)

    - Domain /DNS

    - Data Drive 1 750 GB

    - SQL 2008 Server

    Oracle 11g Server

    Data Drvie 2 750 GB

    - TFS Server

    - Windows 2008 Web Server

    This allows me to keep most of the disk I/O separated when performing functions.  The biggest user I've noticed is the TFS server as it is running the following.  I had to dedicate 2.5 GB of ram to it for it to run smoothly.  

    - TFS

    - TeamCity

    - SQL 2005

    I have some shared directories on my data drives as well.  On one drive I keep some personal stuff and the other all of my MSDN and development stuff (OS images, etc).  

    As a rule anything I can re-download off the internet without hassle I do not backup other than having it on raid.    

  • Ben,

    Have you looked at a Mozy type poduct for Backup?  60 bucks a year for UNLIMITED data (Home use).  Backed by EMC.. Sounds like a good deal! :)

    Take Care.

    Carlo.

  • There is obviously a pressing need for more hardware here. With your job, how can you find it acceptable with a system at home that you can't test live migration with? =) You should add an i5/i7 system (or one of those new 6-core AMD:s?), with an SSD as main/VHD disk. Add 3+ pcs of 2TB drives for safe raid 5 future-proof storage. That should take care of most of your problems.

    No sorry, I have no clue how to get the wife-unit to see the logic in the above.

  • So how about a hyper-v high availability cluster?  With just one more decent-spec'd machine and one more smaller machine, you could run another 2008 server and cluster the two using the small-ish machine as a Windows Storage Server 2008 iSCSI-target for shared storage.  RAID 5 the WSS machine and use that to share out your VMs.  I have the same setup at work with two Dell Optiplex 755's as nodes and an older GX620 as the iSCSI target.  Works a treat as a lab setup, considering replicating the whole thing for home use as well...

  • Possible mitigation for the single points of failure....  Although Windows Server isn't "officially" supported as a client of Windows Home Server, it works just fine.  I haven't tried restoring a DC, but the DC's data is ultimately still files on the disk.

    Install the Connector on the parent partition, then go into the Backup Configuration and exclude the drives/folders which contain the WHS data and (optionally) the WHS system partition.

  • My question is about a Windows 7 Machine in this configuration.

    I really love media centre with Windows 7, which I currently use my Xbox360 as an Extender.

    I would really love to build this kind of setup at home, and have a Windows 7 Client in there for Media Centre extender.

    But Last time I tried, the performance to Xbox360 was terrible, and media centre was unusable.

    Do you have any experience with this?

  • Ben,

    I don't have the number of drives you do, but I do have almost the same configuration, Core 2 Quad (Q6600) with 8 GB of Memory and a single 750 GB drive on my lab server running Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 in workgroup mode. I also love the Home Server, but I purchased one of the Hewlett Packard units and it works really well. I put a 1.5 TB drive in the server and attached a 400 GB drive in addition to the 500 GB included drive. The couple of things that I like about the Home Server is automatic backup and remote access with a URL rather than trying to remember my external IP address.

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