SBS 2008 / SBS 2011 to virtualize or not to virtualize

Because virtualization becomes more and more common use and with Microsoft Hyper-V included in Windows Server at no additional costs and most server hardware nowadays is more than capable of running a physical Small Business Server (SBS) 2008 or 2011 installation and never get the full benefits of the hardware. It is worth considering to virtualize the SBS 2008 or 2011 server and run one or maybe two or more virtual servers beside it on the same hardware.

In this blog post I will put together some facts, tips and considerations you should look after before you start virtualizing a SBS 2008 or 2011 server. Of course a lot of this information can also be used for virtualizing non SBS servers.

Enable Hyper-V role on a SBS 2008 or 2011 server
So if you just want to add just one other server, why not install SBS 2008 or 2011 on the physical hardware and just enable the Hyper-V role?

The answer is really simple, because it is not supported!! Enabling the Hyper-V role on a SBS 2008 or 2011 server will break stuff, for some additional information read here: http://blogs.technet.com/b/sbs/archive/2009/08/07/you-cannot-install-the-hyper-v-role-on-the-sbs-2008-primary-server.aspx

Hyper-V Host
So as we cannot enable the Hyper-V role on a SBS 2008 or 2011 server we need to install a Windows Server version on the physical hardware to function as a Host for the Virtual Machines. It is recommended that the Hyper-V Host will only hold the Hyper-V role and not to include any other roles or tasks. Only exception maybe for some management or backup tasks.

The Windows Server version we will choose is a real important decision, so let’s see what choices we have:
Hyper-V is included within Windows Server since version 2008 this was a version 1.0 and has a lot of limitations. I would not recommend using Windows Server 2008 to host the virtual machines. So I will limit to choice between the different server versions based on Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012.

SBS 2011 Premium Add-on
When you already bought SBS 2011, you might have bought the SBS 2011 Premium Add-on (PAO) in addition. The SBS 2011 PAO includes a Windows Server 2008 R2 standard and SQL 2008 R2 license. With Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard you have the right to install the software on a physical machine and install one Virtual Machine with the same license. This is called virtualization rights (1+1), you may do this only when you do not install any other role on the Host installation other than the Hyper-V role. When you install another role you will lose this right and need to buy a separate license for the virtual installation.

This said the SBS 2011 PAO will be a perfect consideration to use for your Host installation and run SBS 2011 and a second Virtual Machine for SQL server and / or a LOB application or even a Remote Desktop Session Host (Terminal) Server.

So the SBS 2011 PAO looks like an ideal solution, but one limitation is worth naming. Windows Server 2008 R2 standard has a 32GB memory limitation, this might be a problem when running SBS 2011 standard and also have a memory consuming SQL / LOB application. SBS 2011 standard itself with especially Exchange 2010 is a very memory consuming product, if you also need to run a loaded SQL / LOB application server beside this 32 GB might not be enough.
The Windows Server 2008 R2 Host installation needs about 2 – 4 GB, a SBS 2011 Standard for 25 – 50 users will need at least 20 – 24 GB, so this only leaves 6 – 10 GB for your SQL / LOB application server, this might be a problem. So keep this in mind if you are a growing organization and see the limit coming it is not possible to just insert more memory in your server, Windows Server 2008 R2 standard has a hard limit of 32 GB memory.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise or Datacenter
If memory could be an issue you might consider Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise or Datacenter, they both have a memory limit of 2 TB, this is a significant improvement. Also if you need to run more than one additional Virtual Machine you might consider both, Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise has an 1 to 4 virtualization right and Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter even 1 to unlimited. So with both version you will be far more flexible, but will cost considerably more than a standard or PAO version. Because also Windows Server 2012 is available at this moment I would not recommend these option only if you already own a license for these products it might be worth considering.

Hyper-V Server
If you do not have the SBS 2011 PAO or already have a Windows Server 2008 R2 license the free Hyper-V server might be worth considering. The free Hyper-V Server is a stripped Windows Server version with only the Hyper-V role included, there aren’t any other roles included.
The Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 has a memory limit of 1 TB and the Hyper-V Server 2012 has even a memory limit of 4 TB. There are no limitations between the Hyper-V server and the full blown versions of Windows Server, only thing is there is no graphical user interface (gui) on the Hyper-V Server. There is a small configuration menu to do some basic tasks but furthermore you need to configure and administer the server via a command window or via a remote management console.

For additional information about the Hyper-V Server look here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh923062.aspx

Windows Server 2012
If you are not comfortable with a non gui server or have no ability to remotely manage the server and also not have any license available the best option would be to go for a Windows Server 2012 edition. There are only 2 version applicable, the Standard and the Datacenter version, only difference between both versions are the Virtualization rights. Windows Server 2012 Standard has an 1 to 2 virtualization right and Datacenter even 1 to unlimited. Both version have a memory limit of 4 TB so no limitation anymore on the standard version.

Client Access Licenses
If you need one or two Virtual Machines beside the SBS 2008 or 2011 the Windows Server 2012 Standard is an ideal solution.
One thing to keep in mind is that when the Virtual Machines also are installed with Windows Server 2012, the SBS 2011 client access license (CALs) are not covered. SBS CALs cover for all servers in your SBS domain but up to the same version as is the base operating system (OS) of your SBS version. So with SBS 2008 this is Windows Server 2008 and for SBS 2011 this is Windows Server 2008 R2, if you install a newer version of Windows Server you need to buy separate CALs.

Enough considerations on which OS you could install on the physical hardware as Hyper-V Host. You have to keep in mind there is not one best choice available it all depends on your situation, do you already have licenses that can be used, are you comfortable using a server installation without a gui, how many Virtual Machines do you need to run, etc, etc. To make some choices easier here a little table with the different versions:

Version Memory Limit Virtualization rights
Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard (SBS 2011 PAO) 32 GB 1 + 1
Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise 2 TB 1 + 4
Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter 2 TB 1 + unlimited
Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 1 TB None
Hyper-V Server 2012 4 TB None
Windows Server 2012 Standard 4 TB 1 + 2
Windows Server 2012 Datacenter 4 TB 1 + unlimited

Because licensing is complex material I would recommend you contact your distributor or reseller if you have any doubt about the solution you would like to choose and verify if it fits your company.
If you want to read more about virtualization and licensing I would suggest reading this excellent post: http://www.aidanfinn.com/?p=13090

Let’s continue with some other considerations if you could or could not virtualize the SBS 2008 or 2011 server.

SBS Backup
With SBS 2008 Microsoft introduced a wizard for configuring a backup, SBS Backup it is based on the Windows Backup but has its own configuration and monitoring options via the SBS console. It is easy to use and has no additional costs, you can configure backup to multiple disks, only thing is it only uses USB disks.

Problem is Hyper-V does not support USB redirection so you cannot attach the USB disks to a Virtual Machine and use them for SBS Backup. Of course there are some workarounds possible to attach an USB disk to a Virtual Machine, see this blog post http://blog.ronnypot.nl/?p=721 for some information, but this is probably not a supported workaround.
You can also create VHD files and attach them to the Virtual Machine and use them for SBS backup, but these VHD files are not attached and detached automatic and are not stored offline by default. You have to consider if this is a good alternative for you. Another option would be not using the wizards and interface but create command scripts using the command version (wbadmin.exe) of Windows Backup.

So if you want to use SBS Backup the way it is intended with USB disks, virtualization is not a good option.

USB redirection
As said there is no USB redirection with Hyper-V, this is for USB hard disks, but also for all other USB hardware, so no USB printers, scanners, drivers, dongles or what so ever.

As there is no USB redirection it also is not possible to redirect some other hardware like, Fax boards, other pci cards, hardware dongles, etc.

So if you have any specific hardware that needs to be connected to a Virtual Machine you have to make sure this is possible, but in most cases this might be a configuration where virtualization is not an option.

The question to virtualize or not to virtualize cannot be simply answered with just a true or false, it all depends on many factors, decisions and considerations. Hope the information given in this blog will help you making the decision if you would virtualize your SBS 2008 or 2011 server or not.


Posted in Blog, Hyper-V, SBS 2008, SBS 2011, Windows 2008R2, Windows 2012 at February 8th, 2013. 1 Comment.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 service (vmmservice) keeps crashing

After installation of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1, setup finishes without any errors, but when you try to start the program it tells the Virtual Machine Manager (vmmservice)service is not started. When you take a look at services indeed the service is not started, when you try to start the service it starts but almost immediate it crashes.

Taking a look at the System Event Log there are a couple of Event ID 7031 source: Service Control Manager events:
“The System Center Virtual Machine Manager service terminated unexpectedly. It has done this 1 time(s). The following corrective action will be taken in 100 milliseconds: Restart the service.”

In the Application Event Log you will see a Event ID: 19999 Source Virtual Machine Manager:
“Virtual Machine Manager (vmmservice:3620) has encountered an error and needed to exit the process. Windows generated an error report with the following parameters:

Also in the Application Event Log you will see a Event ID: 1 Source Virtual Machine Manager:
“System.FormatException: String was not recognized as a valid DateTime.
at System.DateTime.Parse(String s, IFormatProvider provider)
at System.Convert.ToDateTime(String value)
at Microsoft.VirtualManager.Engine.SqmRefresher.IsRefreshRequired(String refreshTime)
at Microsoft.VirtualManager.Engine.SqmRefresher.RefreshData(SQMSessionManager manager)
at Microsoft.VirtualManager.Engine.RefreshDriver`1.RefreshThreadFunction(Object obj)-2146233033

Fault bucket , type 0
Event Name: VMM20
Response: Not available
Cab Id: 0

Problem signature:
P1: vmmservice
P2: 3.1.6011.0
P3: Engine.Common
P4: 3.1.6011.0
P5: M.V.E.SqmRefresher.IsRefreshRequired
P6: System.FormatException
P7: 5104

After a couple of different approaches and reinstallation the problem solution was that I installed the Windows Server 2012 server with the Dutch region setting. So the date and time were set to the Netherlands, when I changed the Region format to English (United States) and did a new installation setup finished a lot quicker and the services stays started.

So conclusion do not change the Date and Time setting when trying to install System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1.

Posted in Blog, Hyper-V, SC Virtual Machine Manager, Windows 2012 at December 31st, 2012. 3 Comments.

Add printer wizard not showing all printers

When you start the add printer wizard on windows 7 or windows server 2008 R2 (and probably windows 8 and windows server 2012) not all your printers are displayed in the list. But all printers are configured to be listed in Active Directory.

It seems there is a default limit set to only show 20 directory printers in this list. You can change this amount with a Group Policy:

  • Open Group Policy Management
  • Add a new policy or edit an existing policy
  • Browse Computer Configuration – Administrative Templates – Printers Add Printer wizard and edit Network scan page (Managed network)
  • Enable the policy and change the value for Directory printers to a higher number. This is the amount of printers you will see in the list.

Windows Server 2012, the end of Windows Small Business Server Standard

Today Microsoft announced the Windows Server 2012 editions, they have simplified the licensing. There are coming dramatic changes and there will only be four editions, Datacenter, Standard, Essentials and Foundation. For more details see this post on the official site and the licensing datasheet.

There is also a FAQ with most common questions answered. Specific I would point to Q33 because this will sign the end of an era Windows Small Business Server.

Q33: Will there be a next version of Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard?

No. Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard, which includes Exchange Server and Windows server component products, will be the final such Windows Server offering. This change is in response to small business market trends and behavior. The small business computing trends are moving in the direction of cloud computing for applications and services such as email, online back-up and line-of-business tools.

The Small Business Server Essentials product introduced with version 2011 with a connection to Office 365 will be kept but renamed to Windows Server 2012 Essentials, so it also will lose the product name SBS. Here is the official announcement on the SBS Blog.

So as expected Microsoft is changing their complete focus with Windows Server 2012 to cloud optimized solutions and the Windows Small Server doesn’t fit in this picture anymore.

Posted in Blog, SBS 2011, Windows Server 2012 at July 5th, 2012. 3 Comments.

TechEd Europe 2012 a personal experience

Last week I attended my very first TechEd, TechEd Europe to be precise and what an experience it was. This is my personal experience and a global overview of my interests that I have seen this week. TechEd Europe was a great mix of getting input for projects I am working on and to get a grip on what to expect the next couple of months.

Day one started with a keynote presented by Brad Anderson and Jason Zander, with a lot of information about Windows Server 2012 and Microsoft’s perception on private, public and hybrid clouds. And what cool new features are waiting for us. Probably the most impressive demo was where they showed 1.000.000 iops on one single virtual machine. Also the copy of a 10gb file that was finished in about 10 seconds on an odx (Offloaded Data Transfer) storage solution was really cool.

Watch the day one keynote over here: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Europe/2012/KEY01

Day two there was another keynote, this time presented by Antoine Leblond it was more about Windows 8, applications and some developer stuff. Beside the new Windows 8 metro interface and the demo’s it is not only optimized for touch experience but you can do fine with keyboard and mouse, I really liked the demo of Windows to Go. A complete Windows 8 installation on an usb device, boot from the usb but use the hardware of the desktop it is put in.

Watch the day two keynote over here: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Europe/2012/KEY02

Beside both keynotes there were over 300 breakout sessions, exam crams, workshops, hands-on labs and a TechExpo with a lot of partners showing their products and services. There were also a lot of Microsoft product manager talk with you about their products and answer your questions.

The enormous amount of session made it really hard to decide which session to attend, because on every timeframe there was more than one interesting session. Luckily al session are recorded so we can watch them on a later moment. All sessions can be found here: http://channel9.msdn.com/events/TechEd/Europe/2012/

Because of my job, projects and interests most sessions I attended were about Windows Server, Hyper-V, Virtual Machine Manager and Exchange Server. Of course not all sessions reached the expectations, but there are some sessions I really enjoyed.

Although you think you know a lot about Exchange 2010 the “Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 SP2 Tips & Tricks” session by Scott Schnoll showed there is always place for some new information. There was also an announcement for the new version 1.5 of the Remote Activity Analyzer tool, which can be tested over here: Remote Connectivity Analyzer.

The “What’s New in Active Directory in Windows Server 2012” by Samuel Devasahayam and Ulf B. Simon-Weidner was probably one of my favorites. Because of all the new features in virtualization world the other new features in Windows server 2012 don’t get that much attention, but also here there are a lot of new features waiting for us. Another thing I liked about this session is the deep dive they did on some material I didn’t expect this at all.

Two other great sessions I would like to mention, because these are two new features I really like and I think they have great potential. First the “Enabling Disaster Recovery for Hyper-V Workloads Using Hyper-V Replica” session by Vijay Tandra Sistla and Mike van de Merwe, the solution by creating a replica of your Virtual Machine on another server local or in another location (datacenter) gives great opportunities for disaster recovery solutions.
Second “Building Flexible Hyper-V Environments Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Live Migration and Live Storage Migration” by Ben Armstrong because of the possibility of migrating a Virtual Machine from one physical server with direct attached storage to another physical server with direct attached storage only connected by an Ethernet cable without any downtime is brilliant. Or even better as Ben Armstrong said, I did it over wireless ethernet so there is no physical connection at all. Of course this will also work for cluster to cluster, standalone to cluster and vice versa. Think of the flexibility you have with this feature.

If you think these are the new features, you are wrong there were dozens of other cool new ones like, Windows Server 2012 Dynamic Access Control, SMB 3.0, Hyper-V Network Virtualization, Bare metal deployment of Hyper-V hosts via Virtual Machine Manager 2012, and so on and so on.

Beside all the great sessions and loads of technical information I also really liked the talks with other it professionals and to meet the people you normally only know via twitter or blog posts.

Another personal highlight for me was the achievement of the new MCSE Private Cloud certification, via the possibility to do some free and discounted exams on the TechEd site.

To end with a quote by Brad Anderson on the keynote on day one; there are a lot of opportunities. “Don’t follow, LEAD!”

Posted in Blog at July 2nd, 2012. No Comments.

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