Friday, August 22, 2008

Microsoft to support VMWare under SVVP

Microsoft and VMWare have finally finished the prep work to get VMWare signed up under the Microsoft Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP). The SVVP enables third party virtualization vendors to validate various configurations so that customers of Windows Server can receive technical support from Microsoft in virtualized environments. Customers with validated solutions will benefit from the support provided by Microsoft as a part of the regular Windows Server technical support framework.

Now, this is great news for SBS 2008 users in particular because of one serious oversight by the Hyper-V team. As most virtualization users are aware, Microsoft Virtual PC and Virtual Server cannot present USB devices natively to guest environments whereas VMWare Workstation and VMWare Server both are able to do this. Now, move to true Hypervisor virtualization and VMWare ESXi and ESX both allow you to see USB devices attached to the host. Hyper-V does not.

The issue here with SBS 2008 is that the SBS team decided to support only USB devices as SBS 2008 backup destinations. This means that this cannot work properly in a Hyper-V environment. Big oops there! At least the SBS Team listened to the logic of their beta testers and changed this so that they will natively support USB, but also allow you to use another device with a drive letter (unfortunately, not a UNC path which would have made the most sense). This is still an issue as you are not able to write to a device that is "shared" from the Hyper-V instance as this will breach the "Host+Hyper-V can only be used to host guests, not provide any other services such as DHCP, DNS, AD, File & Print Sharing, etc" restriction that is in the $28 Core+Hyper-V product and also Windows Server 2008 Standard.

So, with VMWare now being added to the SVVP list of vendors, if (and assuming) ESXi is a product that is validated, this means that SMBs will be able to run ESXi as their Hypervisor, SBS 2008 inside that, have USB devices plugged into the server presented to the SBS instance and have this fully supported by Microsoft.

Isn't it a shame Microsoft failed to get Hyper-V right?


The Outspoken Wookie


Chris Knight said...

Well Hyper-V is v1.0, which means it's still not feature complete for a non-specific audience. Hint: SMB is not the primary market for Hyper-V.

With careful design you can use the Hyper-V VSS Writer in conjunction with the Windows Server Backup role on the parent partition. But this does take backup/restore out of the SBS management and puts it in the parent partition management. There's also the caveat that it's a complete volume restore and not individual VMs. Definitely not SMB friendly.

As you said, ESX/ESXi is the only effective way to allow backup/restore to exist inside the virtualised SBS environment. But again, not necessarily SMB friendly.

Maybe Hyper-V v2.0 (please MS, not v3.0) and SBS 201x.

Hilton Travis said...

Hi Chris,

The issue is that with the US$28 Core+Hyper-V product, you *get* no other roles such as the Windows Server Backup Role you mentioned. With a Server 2008 Standard running Core+Hyper-V (or full Server+Hyper-V) you don't get rights to run any other roles on the host.

With SBS 2008 - and I'm guessing here as there's no official word yet - I'd bet a body part on us not being able to use the Server 2008 component in Core+Hyper-V + SBS Virtualized without having to buy the additional Core+Hyper-V $28 SKU, and then we still won't be able to add other roles to the host.

So, unless you really want to fiddle, you'd be better off running SBS 2008 virtualized on ESXi instead of Hyper-V if you want to be able to back up the SBS instance.

And yes, Hyper-V is definitely a Microsoft v1.0 product, however it is on the better side of this, not the lower side (such as MS Groove is).

Chris Knight said...

I'm assuming that you mean that there's a USD$28 difference between the Windows Server 2008 SKUs withand without Hyper-V? Coz I'm having difficulty finding a USD$28 SKU that you're mentioning (Hyper-V is bundled into an SKU - it's not an SKU by itself).

If you perform a Core installation of a Windows Server 2008 edition that includes Hyper-V, you can then add the Hyper-V role and then add the Windows Server Backup feature. Or vice versa. The EULA's fairly vague on what it allows the physical install to handle when the license is used for both a physical and virtual install. It simply says:

If you run both permitted instances at the same time, the instance of the server software running in the physical operating system environment may be used only to:
- run hardware virtualization software
- provide hardware virtualization services
- run software to manage and service operating system environments on the licensed server

IANAL, but I'd say the use of the Windows Server Backup feature would be allowed on the physical install as it would meet the requirements of the last point. I'd say that backup/restore would be considered part of managing a virtual OSE.

The RCs of SBS 2008 have the Hyper-V role available, so if this is left in the RTM, you can then add Hyper-V to the SBS install to virtualise the second Windows Server 2008 install if you're running the Premium edition. From memory, Sean Daniel mentioned that the second Windows Server 2008 install must be joined to the domain, making it difficult to use as the parent partition to then virtualise SBS 2008.

But this is all pointing to what you suggest - using ESXi to virtualise an SBS 2008 install. Because Hyper-V isn't targetted at the SMBs (well, not the SBSers) and neither is a virtualised SBS 2008.

Hilton Travis said...

Hi Chris,

Nope, there's a US$28 SKU that's not yet available (typical, eh?) that will be like ESX/ESXi - a "Core+Hyper-V" install that goes onto metal and acts as a standalone Hypervisor. It can be purchased for US$28 and then you can run Linux on it if you want - that is, once they get around to releasing this Hypervisor product.

IANAL either, but as you cannot add any roles to the Host if it is a Server 2008 Standard install used to virtualize a guest (using the Standard Host + single VM instance condition), I'd say that adding the "Windows Server Backup" Role would be breaching this condition. Yes, it is vague. No I don't think it makes sense. However, since when has that stopped Microsoft's Licensing, legal and Marketing departments in the past?

The second instance of Server 2008 *must* be joined to the domain as this is the only way it can make use of the main SBS instance's CALs. Of course, you could use the second license in a SBS 2008 PE install to virtualize both the SBS instance and the second instance. :) Doesn't help SBS 2008 Std though.

I wouldn't be virtualizing the second instance under Hyper-V on top of SBS 2008 - I think that is pushing the friendship a little too much. A Hypervisor, after all, is meant to be a lightweight HAL of sorts, not a fully blown OS with Exchange and AD! :)

Yes, Microsoft is missing the boat here. My VMWare ESXi suggestion really does seem to be the way to go - saves the backup hassles and the US$28 missing SKU issues too.

I know for a fact that I will not be installing any SBS 2008 instances onto bare metal - every single one will be virtualized. I know there are quite a few people who agree with this position as well.

Chris Knight said...

$28 SKU - gotcha. That clears up the confusion for me.

I'd still say that installing the WSB Feature on the parent partition was within the intent of the Hyper-V EULA. But volume-only backup/recovery would make this a restore of last recovery for my mind.

Technically an SBS 2008 box with the Hyper-V Role installed is virtualised as it's sitting on top of the hypervisor. But semantics doesn't help solve the recovery scenario.

I'm still weighing up the virtualised/non-virtualised approach. There's been some good discussion over on the ActiveDir mailing list regarding this. Hopefully there will be enough of us blogging about our SBS virtualisation experiences to help formulate some good processes for doing this.

G said...

Actually you can install SBS 2008 Standard Edition into a VM that's hosted by Hyper-V (Core or Full) as part of the base SBS 2008 license. Ref these two links for more details:

SBS 2008 and Virtualization

SBS 2008 Licensing FAQ

What you can NOT do is run Hyper-V on the SBS 2008 server that also runs Exchange, AD, etc. Microsoft explicitly does not support this and I don't blame them (hilton already pointed out why you might not want this).

Since VMware is not a Microsoft SVVP running SBS 2008 on top of ESX/ESXi is fully supported. I just dont know many SMBs that can pony up for the big iron that would be required to run SBS and a handful of member servers on a single box.

Hilton Travis said...

Hi G,

Yes, that's true - no-one claimed that you couldn't load SBS 2008's primary server under a Hyper-V Server install. And it is totally true, also, that you cannot load the Hyper-V role on an SBS 2008 primary server and leave that server and any guests in a supported situation.

There's loads of information out there on how to virtualize SBS 2008, so I'm wondering why we're constantly having to clarify things that are (fairly) clearly explained in the official documentation.

Maybe I'll write a blog entry on the possibilities... dunno.