Your basic ITPro blog... What's going on at work, what I'm interested in.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Big Week Here At CCCEV

FirstVMAs you may have read, I am facing two significant projects here at Central. First, we ordered a Dell PowerEdge 2950 to use as a virtualization platform. This server will run Windows Server 2008 DataCenter Edition with Hyper-V.

The second big item (which ties in to, and was dependent on, the server) was the implementation of a Groove Server platform for team collaboration. I will hit on this item first.

I spent most of last weekend researching Groove and learning everything I could about it. It is a pretty slick technology. We knew that we could use the Groove application (part of Office 07) to create 'workspaces'. Our big issue, and one that prompted the idea of a Groove Server infrastructure, was backups. Groove workspace files would be sitting out on the members' computers, but there would be no central location (on a network resource) where we could then performs backups.

Well, through my poking around this weekend, I found that you can connect Groove to a SharePoint site. That is, you can have your Groove workspace synchronize with a SharePoint file folder. Pretty cool! So, we don't need a whole Groove Server infrastructure to get the files onto an easily 'backup-able' resource.

Our plan now is to implement a Groove workspace for our team, integrate it with a SharePoint site (which is accessible from the Internet), and let them run with it. Hopefully, it will work well, the team will be satisfied, we will get backups, and my shiny new server will be available for other fun! Which brings me to my second item...

I have read, watched, and generally consumed so much information about Hyper-V that I could hardly wait to play with it. As it turned out, there were many more steps (and mis-steps) involved to get me to the screencap you see above (which is of my first VM on Hyper-V running a Win2003Ent install).

After unboxing the server and having a look inside (you always have to look inside, right?!) I installed the 4-port NIC. This will give us six NIC ports total, enough to connect this server to our LAN, our SAN, and a few ports for VMs. Then it was time to install the OS. Windows 2008 DCE went on very smoothly using the Dell System Management Tools. The process of running updates was a bit different, as is most of the UI... Not crazy different, but just enough to slow me down. But, updates got on, as well as the Hyper-V Role.

I really like the idea of Roles for servers. I like that the OS comes stripped down and that each Role only installs what it essentially needs to function. This, of course, is even more drastic in the Server Core implementation, which I have not played with yet.

My next big issue was storage for this box... It came with 70GB drives mirrored for the OS, which isn't much for a machine that will eventually be hosting multiple VMs. But, that is why we have a SAN. I wanted to use a 300GB virtual disk from our MD3000i SAN for storing VMs and other related files (ISOs, etc.). I thought this was going to be a snap, after all, I had connected four other servers to our SAN already. Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems.

First of all, Server 2008 comes with an iSCSI Initiator already installed and ready to go.  When I went to install the MD Storage Manager software, I got an install failure. After some research, and a call to Dell, I downloaded a new version of the Storage Manager software. It's still 32bit, but it is Server 2008 aware. This got my server attached to the virtual disk I had created for it! On to Hyper-V and creating my first VM.

This process is a snap. The 'New Virtual Machine' wizard makes everything very easy. So, on the last screen of the wizard, I select 'Start this VM after creation' and click OK. The VM was created but did not start. I got an error stating that the hypervisor was not running! WHAT!? My first thought was to check the BIOS for any virtualization-related settings and make sure that they are right. Reboot...

It turns out that the 2950 came with hardware virtualization turned off by default. After thinking about it, I guess that makes sense. No sense running electrons through these chips if we aren't using the server as a virtual machine host. So, I enable this option and reboot once again.

Once I got back in to Hyper-V Manager, I right-clicked on the VM and selected Start... VIOLA! A running VM! I am anxious to explore all the other features of this new tool. We have bought in to virtualization in a big way (14 virtual servers in production) and are looking to Hyper-V going forward.

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