Intro to Microsoft Virtualization: Installing the Hyper-V Role on Windows Server 2008

Install Hyper-V on Server 2008

The Backstory: How Virtualization Got Started

Ever since the late thirties, a computer has been a computer.

Ok, so let’s try to make that statement a little less weird.  Here we go…

Many of us our entire lives have had a very specific idea of what a computer is.  It’s physical parts: a processor, some form of memory, some form of long-term storage and some form of input and output devices that was assembled together.  Software was then installed on it to allow us to have an interface and actually use the hardware.  And it was good.

Then, an interesting phenomenon occurred.  Our hardware capabilities outgrew our software capabilities.  Our servers began to sit, many performing at no more than 15% of their hardware potential.  Company spreadsheet monkeys and environmentalists began to freak out (and that’s ok, they’re just doing their jobs).  There needed to be a way to utilize the unused power of our computer hardware.  Enter virtualization.

Virtualization allows us to create a “pretend” computer that looks real to a network, but is in fact using a “host” server for all of its processing power, memory and storage.  The benefit of virtualization is that it allows us to use all of the hardware power we’ve purchased in our servers while still maintaining separate computers for separate roles, like domain controllers and Exchange servers.

The Product: Microsoft Hyper-V

Since 2004, Microsoft has been in the virtualization arena, and in 2008 released Hyper-V (short for hyper-visor, a virtualization engine). Hyper-V is a free download and can be installed either directly onto a “bare metal” server or onto a server running Windows Server 2008 or higher. 

If you install it onto bare metal, you have the benefit of lower overhead and therefore more resources available for your VMs, but you don’t get a direct GUI for managing the VMs. Conversely, if you install the Hyper-V role in Server 2008, you’ll get a usable GUI, but will be short the license fee for server.

Hyper-V Minimum Requirements

As with anything computer related, these are the bare minimums you have to have it order for Hyper-V to technically work, but having more than the minimum will give you a better experience. 

So, here’s your starting point, remember, the further you go over your minimum, the better the experience:

  • 64 bit processor, capable of hardware-assisted virtualization and hardware data execution prevention (aka DEP).  Look for “Intel Virtualization Technology” or “AMD Virtualization”.
  • The minimum amount of RAM needed for your host OS + the virtual OS’s you’ll be installing.  If you plan on installing Windows Server 2008 R2 as the host and four virtualized Windows Server 2008 R2 machines, you’ll need – at a bare minimum – 5 GB or RAM – 1 GB for the host, 1 GB each for the four virtualized servers.
  • At least one NIC if you want your virtual machines to access the network

How to Install the Hyper-V Role in Windows Server 2008

For this article, we’re assuming you want to install Hyper-V into an already running version of Windows Server 2008 or higher. For the screenshots and demonstration purposes, I’ll be using the full installation of Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise.

1. First things first, make sure you have the most up-to-date version of Hyper-V. If you’re still rocking the RTM version of Windows Server 2008, your version of Hyper-V is actually still the beta version.  Thankfully, Microsoft has updated Hyper-V since then, and you’ll need to obtain it either through Windows Update or via direct download here: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=123539

2. From your desktop, open Server Manager.  You can do this by clicking Start, right-clicking Computer and selecting Manage, or you can simply click the Server Manager shortcut on your taskbar. 

Install the Hyper-V Role in Windows Server 2008

3. Right-click the Roles node and select Add Roles

Adding the Hyper-V Role

4. This will open the Add Roles Wizard

Hyper-V Add Roles Wizard

Acknowledge the introduction and click Next.  Here, you will indicate which Server Role you want to install.  We, of course, will choose the Hyper-V role

Choose the Hyper-V Role

5. Click Next past the Hyper-V Introductory screen, and you should see the Create Virtual Networks screen.  Select the NIC that you’ll want to use for creating the internal network that your host machine will use to forward packets to the virtual machine.  Realistically, you’ll want to install at least one physical card into your host machine for every virtual machine you plan on running. 

Hyper-V: Create Virtual Networks

6. You’ll next receive a confirmation screen. Look over the settings and verify that they are correct. If you’re satisfied with them, click Install to begin the Hyper-V Role installation. 

Note that your server will need to reboot once installation is complete, so take that into consideration if this server is currently a production server.

Begin Hyper-V Installation

7. After your server finishes its reboot cycle, open Server Manager and expand the Roles node  (see step 2).  You should see the final steps of your Hyper-V configuration. 

Hyper-V Configuration

8. You are now ready to begin managing your very own Hyper-V irtual machines, either through the Hyper-V Manager MMC or through System Center Virtual Machine Manager.

Hyper-V Installation Complete

As you can see, setting up Hyper-V on your Windows Server 2008 R2 computer is an extremely simple process, with dividends that will make both your boss and the environment happy. I hope this was a good introduction to Microsoft virtualization – there are lots of cool things virtualization allows us to do!

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