Now that Windows Server 2012 is the current release of Windows server, you may decide that your next Microsoft virtualization host is going to run the latest version of Hyper-V. The article covers what may be familiar territory for Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V administrators-the basic setup of a single virtualization host. There are a few new features available in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, the most interesting are:

  • Hyper-V Virtual Machine (VM) Replication, a new disaster recover (DR) mechanism for VMs.
  • Virtual SAN Manager and the ability to deploy virtual fiber channel adapters to VMs.
  • New virtual hard drive (VHD) format “.vhdx” offers superior performance, capacity, and reliability over Hyper-V VHDs in Windows Server 2008.
  • Ability to Live Migrate VMs between hosts that are not in a cluster and have no shared storage.

When installing Windows Server 2012, it matters if you have the retail version of Windows Server 2012 setup media or the volume license version. The retail version of Windows Server 2012 requires a product key to proceed. The volume license edition does not require a product key at installation time.

Windows Server 2012 defaults to installing a core operating system only, with no GUI. You may want to install your first Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V host using the GUI mode to help you learn and evaluate the server features when using a server console screen. In production or at scale, you may prefer the core OS mode for reducing the updating footprint and attack surface of a host.

Before installing the Hyper-V role on Windows Server 2012

After a default installation of Windows Server 2012 Datacenter on supported server hardware, there are just a few things to do to prepare the server to be a Windows domain member and virtualization host:

  • Enable Remote Desktop, which is disabled by default. This will let you work with the host desktop remotely over the network.
  • Assuming the host has more than one network interface card (NIC), select which NIC is the primary “host” NIC and which will be reserved for use by guests.
    • On the guest NIC disable NetBIOS and disable DNS client name registration in the IPv4 networking settings.
    • In the Network Connections, Advanced Settings, set the host NIC as the primary connection, and disable the File and Printer Sharing and Client for Microsoft Networks bindings on the guest NIC.
  • Run Disk Management from the Windows-X menu (double-right click in the lower left corner of your Remote Desktop window). Initialize any disks, create any volumes, format any partitions, and create any folders where the first VM VHDs will reside.

Steps to install and configure Hyper-V role on Windows Server 2012

Follow these steps to install Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V host on a physical server:

1.      From the Windows Server 2012 Server Manager Dashboard, click Add Roles and Features.

2.      Select the Hyper-V role. Consider installing Windows Server Backup feature at the same time. At the Create Network Switch page, select the NIC to be used by the guest VMs for network communication.

3.      New with Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, you can specify a NIC for use with live migration even when the host is not part of Windows Failover cluster and when there is no shared storage. See in Figure A that you can use Kerberos with constrained delegation or the CredSSP protocol to authenticate live migrations outside clusters. The default for this setting is ‘not configured’.

Figure A

Configuring for Live Migration with no cluster and no shared storage. (Click to view larger version).

4.      Select the default locations for VHDs and VM configuration files and proceed to complete the installation of roles and features.

Remember that Windows Server 2012 has an in-line deployment configuration template exporter, so if you are going to set up another Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V host with the same hardware configuration, click the Export configuration settings link to save the file DeploymentConfigTemplate.xml. Using PowerShell, you can automate repeated, identical installations using the settings file on other Windows Server 2012 computers.
5.      After installing the Hyper-V role, the host server will need to be restarted to load the virtualization drivers. The health state of the Hyper-V role will change to critical in Server Manager (see Figure B) until the server is restarted.

Figure B

Windows Server 2012 Server Manager will let you know the host needs to be restarted.

6.      After rebooting, run the in-line Hyper-V role Best Practices Analyzer in Server Manager for a quick validation on your Hyper-V configuration.

7.      You can start the Hyper-V GUI from the Start Screen as shown in Figure C. An MMC console for Hyper-V Manager that is just like the Windows 2008 Hyper-V UI will open, with a few new options.

Figure C

Windows Server 2012 Start Menu with Hyper-V role installed.

8.      Something you will want to do is open the Virtual Switch Manager in the Hyper-V console, examine the properties of the virtual switch, and unselect “Allow management operating system to share this network adapter”. This will give the guest VMs exclusive access to the NIC in the virtual switch that is reserved for their use.

9.      A new feature in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V is the ability to create a Virtual Fiber Channel SAN as seen in Figure D. Each guest VM created on Windows Server 2012 includes a new Add hardware option for Fiber Channel Adapter, where you can assign World Wide Node Names (WWNN) and select the desired Virtual SAN to connect the virtual fiber channel adapters to.

Figure D

The Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Manager console with Virtual SAN Manager open.

Keep up with all of the latest TechRepublic coverage of Windows Server 2012 by bookmarking this page, which compiles links to all the posts.