Saturday, June 14, 2008

Can you notice the difference?

For those of you who are long time readers of my blog (shame on you if you're not!), you'll know a while back I went through trials and tribulations virtualizing all my CIAOPS machines. Basically, this meant that I could now run the entire infrastructure on a single piece of hardware. I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't a perfect solution but it did save lots of space, kept the power bills down and made management much easier.


Then after recent escapades getting SBS 2008 working I was so impressed with Microsoft Hyper-V I thought that migrating my existing virtual machines to Hyper-V would give it a nice boost in performance and again allow me to reduce the total hardware I have to maintain.


The first step in the process I figured was simply to transfer the existing virtual PC's to the new hardware still running Microsoft Virtual PC. Even though the host operating system is Windows 2008 64 bit and "doesn't" support Microsoft Virtual PC it will run. So the idea was simply transfer the machines to new hardware as a starting point. I duly shut down the virtual PC's on the original hardware and committed all the changes to hard disk and then copied the images off onto the new hardware.


What I found on the new Windows 2008 64 bit host system with Microsoft Virtual PC was that the images did load but once there were two or more images operating they ran really slow. Ok, I thought, if I'm already this far down the track I'll go Hyper-V. Another great thing about Hyper-V is that they can use existing Microsoft Virtual PC hard disk images, will alleviates the need to re-create the machines from scratch. This is pretty impressive when you consider that the virtual machine images I was going to use had been originally created in a 32 bit application. It's a nice and easy way to go to 64 bit in my books.


I knew the major issue with Hyper-V was going to be the network cards since they would be different from those already installed under Virtual PC. Problem is you can't add the Hyper-V additions to better support the new environment until you remove the old Virtual PC additions. So I had to fire the machines back up in Virtual PC, remove the Virtual PC additions and then save the virtual PC image back to disk. Now, after restarting the virtual machines in Hyper-V I could install the Hyper-V additions (needs 2 reboots). After that the only thing I needed to do was re-activate the operating system. Migration complete - I love virtualization!


Now all the CIAOPS infrastructure (including this Sharepoint blog) is running on a single machine under Hyper-V. Combined with an improved broadband link I think the performance is markedly better. What do you think?


The great thing is that I can still use the host same machine for testing virtual SBS 2008 RC0 and at a later stage can do a migration from my existing SBS 2003 R2. I also like the way that Hyper-V allows you to take snapshot backups which is going to be a real bonus when it comes to putting on updates and testing. Rolling back to a previous snap shot is a sinch. I've still got plenty to learn about Hyper-V but if you haven't looked at it I recommend you as I think it is going to be pretty big.


Now, I'll admit that what I have in place probably could be improved even further but on a cost basis I am ecstatic with what I have been able to achieve and the additional flexibility it is going to provide. It also has been very beneficial to get exposure to Hyper-V which I am liking more and more every day. If Hyper-V keeps working this well I am very confident that we'll be using for most customers in the future, it just makes so much sense on so many levels.


Finally, one of the big benefits so far is also that the issues I was having with my Sharepoint blog server seem to have gone away. Maybe it's just like getting new hardware? All I know is that it runs a hell of lot faster now!