Rules to Better Hyper-V

Hold on a second! How would you like to view this content?
Just the title! A brief blurb! Gimme everything!
  1. Do you first get your Cluster and SAN going?

    This is an advanced topic. The pre-requisites are that you already have Clustered nodes setup, and then your SAN.

    Then you enable your Hyper-V role on your cluster.

    First refer to all rules listed in "Rules to Better Hyper-V" as these are the basics for Hyper-V.

    hyper-v feature matrix
    Figure: The following rules are referring to the 2nd column on Hyper-V (this also tells you why choose Hyper-V Live Migration over VMWare VMotion)

    Let's continue with the rules specially for clustering...

  2. Do you use Fixed Disks?

    When SysAdmins first get going with Hyper-V, they often choose to use dynamically expanding VHD’s. They often do this to increate VHD creation time and reduce hard disk usage.

    The problem with dynamically expanding VHD’s is that they reduce the performance of the Virtual Machine. It is much better to use a fixed VHD when the Virtual Machine is used in a production environment.
  3. Do you use a Microsoft supported network setup for Hyper-V Clustering?

    Microsoft lists several recommended and supported network configurations. It is very important that you configure your Hyper-V Cluster with one of the supported network types otherwise you will have performance issues once you load up the cluster.

    Hyper-v configuration page Figure: Check you have one of the supported configurations listed on the >Microsoft Hyper-V Live Migration – Network Configuration page (this example has 3 networks)

    It may work fine initially on a non-supported configuration but when you start loading more Virtual Machines on to the cluster the performance will be degrade dramatically.

  4. Do you use Basic Volumes inside VHD's?

    When formatting a new virtual disk you have attached to a Hyper-V Virtual Machine, you can choose to to format the disk as a Basic disk or Dynamic disk.

    A Dynamic disk might be useful in situations where you want to create a software RAID array, but when using Hyper-V this not a good idea because it prevents Microsoft Data Protection Manager (DPM) from doing Child State Backups (backups while the machine is running).

    For this reason, never use Dynamic disks inside Hyper-V Virtual Machines.

    Bad Example - DPM cannot backup this Virtual Machine's child state as it has a Dynamic Disk
    Figure: Bad Example - DPM cannot backup this Virtual Machine's child state as it has a Dynamic Disk

    Good example – Using Basic Volumes allows DPM to backup the Virtual Machine’s child state
    Good example – Using Basic Volumes allows DPM to backup the Virtual Machine’s child state
  5. Do you have the iSCSI and Cluster networks on their own VLAN (or even better their own switch)?

    Having the network flooded with a virus is bad news – but it will be worse news if iSCSI traffic is going across the same network. This is why you should have your iSCSI or SAN traffic on a different VLAN.
    VLAN Figure: A managed switch allows VLANing

    Note: An even better and more expensive solution is purchase a separate Switch for each network (this example means 3 network adapters = 3 networks)

  6. Do you know how to expand your VHD's when you are low on space?

    Occasionally when you estimate the size of a VHD that you will be using in a server, you can get it wrong and you will need to give the Virtual Machine some more space. Instead of adding a bigger data disk in the Virtual Machine and migrating data, you can expand the existing disk.
    1. Open the Hyper-V Manager on the server hosting the Virtual Machine
    2. Shutdown the virtual machine
    3. Click Edit Disk... in the Actions pane of the Hyper-V Manager
      You expand a VHD from the Actions Menu | Edit Disk
      Figure: You expand a VHD from the Actions Menu | Edit Disk
    4. In the Edit Virtual Hard Disk Wizard window, choose the VHD you want to edit and choose Next.
    5. Select Expand and click Next
    6. Enter the new size of the VHD and click Next

    You will now have a resized VHD. Next step is to boot up into the virtual machine and tell disk manager to resize the partition on the VHD to use the free space which has been added at the end of the VHD. Windows Server 2008 makes this very simple:

    1. Boot into the virtual machine
    2. Open Computer Management and choose Disk Management
    3. Right click on the partition sitting at the front of the newly resized disk and click on Extend Volume...
      The first partition on the disk needs to be expanded to use up the unallocated space created when expanding the VHD
      Figure: The first partition on the disk needs to be expanded to use up the unallocated space created when expanding the VHD
    4. You will have to use all the available space when you extend the volume as it is a Simple Volume. (See Rule: Do you use Basic Volumes inside VHD’s? ) When you are asked to select your disks just click Next
    5. Click Finish
      The disk is now using all the available space inside the VHD
      Figure: The disk is now using all the available space inside the VHD
  7. Do you give your Network Adapters meaningful names?

    When you configure Hyper-V Clustering, each node will have upwards of 4 network adapters, some virtual and some physical. It is important to give these adapters meaningful names so you know what network adapter does what.
    Bad naming Figure: Bad Example - It makes it hard to know what network adapter does what if you don't have meaningful names Good naming Figure: Good example - As an example naming convention for network adapters on each node Goodnaming Figure: Good Example - It is easy to tell which network adapter does what when they have meaningful names
  8. Do you name your Virtual Machines with a standadized naming convention?

    When your Hyper-V environment is spread across multiple hosts and contains many Virtual Servers, it can get very confusing to find the one you are looking for amongst them all. This is why you should use a standard naming convention for all your Virtual machines.
    How do you know what machine is what?
    Bad Example - How do you know what machine is what?The standard we use for Production Virtual Machine naming is as follows:


    For example: Falcon-SCVMM

    The standard we use for Development Virtual Machine naming is as follows:


        For example: DEV-demo2010a-SP2010MSInfoWorker-JL

    It is easy to tell which VM is which when they are named to a standard
    Good Example - It is easy to tell which VM is which when they are named to a standard
  9. Do you export a Virtual Machine if you need to move it?

    If you need to move a virtual machine from one Hyper-V server to another, you should using the Hyper-V Managers export option rather than just moving the VHD files.

    If your machine has snapshots and you copy them rather than export them, it can cause issues with the VHD’s and AVHD’s (Snapshot VHD’s) because Hyper-V does not know there has been a snapshot when you load it onto the new Hyper-V Host. You also lose the settings for your Network Adapter, like its static IP address.

    To export a Virtual Machine from the Hyper-V Manager:
    1. Right click on it when it is shut down and clicking Export...
    2. Choose the location you wish to export the Virtual Machine to and click on Export
  10. Do you use Group Policy to Apply Settings to all of your Cluster Nodes?

    Don't log in and make manual changes to the clustered nodes.

    When working with clustered environments it is important that settings be consistent across every node. The best way to handle this is through group policy.

    Create a policy that you would like applied to each node of the cluster using the Group Policy Management.

    Group policy bad Figure: Bad Example - Do not manually change settings on each node Group policy good Figure: Good Example - Changing settings through Group Policy keeps node settings the same
  11. Do you know how to specify a Network for Live Migration?

    It is important have the Live Migration and Cluster traffic on a separate network interface than the iSCSI or SAN traffic. If you do not you will see a performance hit while migrating virtual machines and the process will be a lot slower.

    To specify the roles of each network adapter:

    1. Open the Failover Cluster Manager
    2. Expand the Networks section and you will see all of your network adapters listed
    3. Right click on the network that you are using for LAN and ISCSI and make sure that the following setting is selected
    Network properties window Figure: Network properties window

    This setting prevents ISCSI and LAN traffic from going over the cluster network

  12. Do you shut down a Virtual Machine before running a snapshot?

    Snapshots are a very convent way to back up a system before a big change is made. It is important to note that Microsoft does not support snapshots of running systems. This is because a snapshot is taken of the system exactly as is, with open connections and interrupt requests. For more information on this you can read Brian Harry’s blog post here:

    This is why you MUST shut down your server before taking a snapshot.

    1. Shutdown the virtual server
    2. In the Hyper-V Manager, ensure the Virtual Machine has the state of Off
    3. Right click on the virtual machine you wish to snapshot and click Snapshot
    4. The snapshot should run very quickly and you will notice the snapshot in the Snapshots area of the Hyper-V Manager

      You will see the snapshots associated with a Virtual Machine when you click on them
    5. You will see the snapshots associated with a Virtual Machine when you click on them

    6. You can start your server back up again
  13. Do you delete old snapshots before making a new one?

    Snapshots are a very handy tool for a System Administrator, but they can quickly turn into a nightmare if they are not managed properly. Snapshots take far more hard drive space than a virtual machine without, and if you don’t clean up your snapshots you may run out of drive space.
    Snapshots are useful, but they can take up a lot of space
    Figure: Snapshots are useful, but they can take up a lot of space

    When you delete a snapshot you can no longer restore the virtual machine to the point in time the snapshot was taken. Deleting a snapshot does not affect any other snapshots, nor will it affect the current state of the virtual machine.

    Set yourself a calendar reminder 3 weeks after you make a snapshot so you remember to apply the snapshot to the Virtual Machine (assuming you are happy with the virtual machine after the snapshot).

    1. In the Hyper-V Manager, click on the virtual machine you want to apply the snapshot to
    2. In the Snapshots window, right click on the snapshot you wish to apply and click Delete Snapshot…
    3. Confirm the snapshot deletion.
    4. Wait for the merge process to complete (this may take a while if you have had the snapshot running for a long time and it has grown large in size).
  14. Do your network cards to the latest driver?

    As Hyper-V Clustering requires some advanced networking technologies make sure you download the very latest drivers for all your network cards – don’t just rely on the out of box driver.
  15. Do you have your cluster network on a separate Active Directory domain?

    Being able to communicate with the domain is so important for Hyper-V and clustering. To protect yourself from Active Directory problems, you can completely separate your primary Active Directory domain.

    Having a separate Active Directory domain will allow your Hyper-V machines to run without problems in the case that your main Active Directory domain fails for any reason.

    When you setup a new Active Directory domain for your Hyper-V cluster, create a trust between to 2 domains.

  16. Do you know how to decommission a Virtual Machine?

    It is important to properly decommission a Virtual Machine rather than just delete it. Developers have a knack for leaving important files everywhere, and inside a Virtual Machine is no exception.
    1. Let the people that may have been using the Virtual Machine that it is going to be decommissioned. This might be difficult if it was being used for testing or staging.
    2. Make a text file that matches the name of the Virtual Machine.
    3. Note down the Virtual Machines static IP address in the text file.
    4. Check the DNS Manager on a domain controller and note down any DNS names that pointed to the IP Address of the Virtual Machine.
    5. Copy the Virtual Machines folder to a file server or backup drive.
    6. Copy the text file into the same location.
    7. Set a calendar reminder for yourself to delete the Virtual Machine if it hasn’t been requested in 3 months.
  17. Do you make sure all of your nodes are all domain controllers?

    When clustering it is important that the software setup of each node in a cluster is identical. It is also important to have a stable Active Directory. For this reason, each node of your cluster should be an Active Directory domain controller, and a Global Catalog server.
  18. Do you disable NetBIOS on all dedicated purpose adapters (iSCSI and Cluster Communications)?

    To improve performance, it's a good idea to disable NetBIOS over TCP/IP on your cluster NIC and iSCSI NIC. NetBIOS isn't used in Server 2008 R2 clusters.
    Disable netBIOS Figure: Good example – the NetBIOS is disabled on the dedicated NIC's (iSCSI & Cluster Communications)