As an instructor, I use virtualization as an educational tool. Virtual machines are perfect for training in that a student can experiment knowing that any mistakes can be quickly discarded for another try — the perfect safe environment far away from production systems. Now many production servers are becoming virtual machines providing flexibility, failover, and efficient utilization. Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor claims a “live migration” feature allowing a production VM to switch to new hardware without stopping the service. That’s new in Windows Server 2008 R2. VMWare is still market leader, but watch out for Microsoft!
In pale comparison, my requirements were that I wanted a virtualization product to support my existing educational VMs built using Virtual PC and Virtual Server. I was very interested in Hyper-V as it has this compatibility (at least for VHD files) but was dismayed to learn that it was delivered on the 64-bit platform only. I was working with Windows 7 Professional 32-bit, so what are my options? Well, to find out if your machine supports 64-bit systems (even if you are currently running a 32-bit OS) you can use a Processor Identification Utility such as Intel’s Processor ID Utility. But Hyper-V is not available with Windows 7 anyway, so I would need to upgrade to Windows Server 2008 64-bit. There are other Hyper-V requirements you can check on. If you want to migrate from Virtual Server to Hyper-V there is a whole VM Migration guide for that too.
Reluctantly, I decided to revert to Virtual Server 2005 SP1, especially since Microsoft Learning VM’s are fully compatible with this version regarding the courses that I teach. Yes, any new VM’s from Microsoft Learning are now fully Hyper-V compatible, but I’ll have to wait for SQL Server 2011 before I see any that are applicable to me. OK, I’ve installed Virtual Server 2005 SP1 many times before, so piece of cake, right? Wrong.
Much as I love Windows 7, it actively blocks the install of Virtual Server 2005 SP1. So I was caught between a rock and a hard place — or specifically between Windows 7 and Virtual Server. Now Google and Bing are just brilliant, but often you have to sift out the poor quality forum entries from the well crafted, accurate, and knowledgeable blog entries. I found a great step-by-step solution that involves a few registry hacks but ultimately worked like a charm and even has a solution for the infamous Microsoft Learning “Lab Launcher”. It is a blog entry by MVP Thomas Lee whose blog is branded “Thomas Lee’s collection of random interesting items, views on things, mainly IT related, as well as the occasional rant”. The blog entry is titled: “Windows 7 and Virtual Server”. Thanks Thomas!
Now I must get into Hyper-V, but I’ll jump through those virtual hoops a little later!