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Most useful Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V R2 features

This overview of the key Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V R2 features has information on Live Migration, jumbo frames, cluster shared volumes, Remote Desktop Services and more.

With the release of Windows Server 2008 R2 and the much anticipated Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, a lot of solutions providers are trying to figure out how to make the most business from this newly updated virtualization product. In this tip, you'll find information that highlights the Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V R2 features that are the most useful to you and your customers.

More resources on Hyper-V R2 features:

Microsoft Hyper-V R2 features and comparison guide

Hyper-V R2 Live Migration and other features: Study guide

Three setbacks when designing Hyper-V R2 High Availability

Hyper-V R2 Server overview

There are many options for rapid deployment and automated installation of the Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 role. Rapid deployment and automated installations are especially attractive to customers, because it means they can quickly use the new technology and reap the benefits of their investment.

Microsoft has quite a few options for managing Hyper-V R2 features on Windows Server 2008 R2, with one being the free Hyper-V Manager that's included with the product. Hyper-V Manager works for the smallest installations but may not scale well to larger environments. If advanced management and configuration options are required, using System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) may be the best choice. However, SCVMM introduces additional licensing costs for customers as well as installation complexities.

For customers that may be new to Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V R2 features, it is important to help them select the correct product and equipment for their needs. All processors need to support x64 editions of Windows, which should not be a problem in today's IT landscape. Windows Server 2008 is only available as an x64 operating system (OS) in the R2 release. Here are some notes on the different editions of Windows Server:

  • Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 -- This is the free instance of Hyper-V that is based on the Windows Server Core edition. In this edition, the Hyper-V role is installed by default and then managed by Hyper-V Manager.

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard -- This is the most popular edition installed on servers; its features meet a variety of needs. Basic virtualization implementations with Hyper-V can also use the standard edition.

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise -- This edition makes more sense for larger virtualization installations that need clustering, hot-add functionality or a remote desktop services gateway.

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter -- The Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter edition offers "unlimited virtualization rights" for each licensed processor. The unlimited virtualization rights can be a boon for customers because an additional installation of Windows Server on the physical processors can be added with no extra cost. User client access licenses (CALs) are not unlimited, however. Be sure to consult with your licensing professional and also consider the SQL Server 2008 R2 licensing options that include unlimited virtualization rights.

Hyper-V R2 features: Live Migration

By far, Hyper-V Live Migration is the most anticipated Hyper-V R2 feature for customers considering Hyper-V implementation. This addition doesn't put Hyper-V right on par with VMware ESX or vSphere, but for many customers, it does put this Microsoft product in the "good-enough" category. Live Migration moves a running virtual machine (VM) from one Hyper-V host to another. This feature is critical for customers that need to minimize downtime associated with system maintenance of Hyper-V systems, and it is also crucial when moving workloads around to better utilize host resources.

New Hyper-V R2 features

Microsoft's virtualization offering has a number of new features that are of interest to customers:

  • Jumbo frames -- Using a 9,000 byte "jumbo" network frame, can be very useful for virtualization installations. For customers that have an existing network infrastructure, you may have to purchase new network gear to take advantage of this new feature. You might also need to replace or reconfigure downstream components to take advantage of jumbo frames. If the larger virtualization implementation includes a network-based storage solution using a network file system, common Internet file system or iSCSI, it may be necessary to select the appropriate storage gear and configure it for jumbo frames. Further, solutions providers should look to see if the storage vendors have produced any material showing quantifiable performance increases that have occurred by using jumbo frames. If you can find this material, you'll have a better case for justifying additional costs.

  • New clustering features -- In Hyper-V, Microsoft introduces a special implementation of Microsoft clustering services called Clustered Shared Volumes (CSV). CSV effectively hosts the disks associated with a VM as a clustered resource. This hosting permits the Live Migration feature to minimize customer downtime associated with Hyper-V host maintenance and enables the distribution of a particular workload across a number of hosts.

  • Virtual hard disk boot -- For customers considering a virtual desktop infrastructure, Microsoft's offer to boot from a virtual hard disk file is probably very attractive. Booting from a virtual hard disk allows both physical and virtual systems to boot from a centrally managed disk image. And booting from a centrally managed disk image benefits customers by having centralized configuration as well as a rapid re-provisioning process for client computing.

Windows Server 2008 R2 features: New display technology capabilities

The release of new Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V R2 features has introduced substantial updates to remote display technology. Remote Desktop Services is one key area that has seen improvements. Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services has the ability to provide presentation virtualization sessions and remote desktop connections to servers, which are traditionally known as terminal servers. Remote Desktop Services can also host virtual desktop sessions. This hosting is done by replacing the terminal session broker with the Remote Desktop Services session broker, which involves Hyper-V integration. Further integration with RemoteApp (application virtualization) gives solutions providers the option to design a well-rounded service offering with Microsoft technologies.

Along with these new features come new points to consider when architecting a service offering for a customer. One of the most important points to consider is client licensing. The Terminal Server client access license (TSCAL) model for Windows Server 2008 R2 has changed substantially from the prior TSCAL model in Windows Server 2003 and earlier.

However, licensing can quickly increase the cost of a new Windows Server 2008 offering. For both presentation virtualization and Windows Server-based licensing, there are licensing requirements that you may need to review further. Depending on many factors, vendor-provided products may be able to work with existing licensing arrangements.

If a virtualization solution is deployed to a customer with an existing Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) relationship that includes Software Assurance, there may be opportunities to use these software licensing options for additional purchases. When a vendor provides retail editions of server OSes and CALs, the costs involved are always going to be higher than in an EA and Software Assurance arrangements. Customers are savvy of this information and the many ways to address licensing. Therefore, it is a good idea to engage the licensing requirements discussion during the early phases of a project.

Hyper-V R2 features: Are they enough for your service offerings?

Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V R2 features are very strong in today's market and are attractive to many customers. A lot of vendor products can use virtualization, but whether Microsoft-based virtualization services are the right choice depends on several factors.

In terms of performance requirements, Hyper-V R2 now has many features that other products lack. The fact that it's free also makes it attractive to solutions providers that want several features, including live migration, without incurring additional licensing costs.

About the expert:
Rick Vanover, (VCP, MCITP, MCTS, MCSA) is an IT infrastructure manager for Alliance Data in Columbus, Ohio. Vanover is an IT veteran specializing in virtualization, server hardware, operating system support and technology management.

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