Any organization that goes beyond dabbling with Hyper-V should use System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 to manage virtual resources in the Hyper-V component of Windows Server 2008 R2.
Hot on the heels of the release of Windows Server 2008 R2 is System
Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2, an essential management
companion for the Hyper-V component of Microsoft's server platform.
Any organization that goes beyond dabbling with Hyper-V should use
System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2, or SC VMM, to manage
virtual resources in Microsoft's revamped Hyper-V--including Hyper-V's
new ability to move running virtual machines from one physical host to
SC VMM has also gained the ability to manage both Microsoft Hyper-V
and VMware environments, a feature not found in VMware's management
tools. All told, the advances in SC VMM are significant but are not yet
enough to dislodge frontrunner VMware from the leading position in
The most important new capability in Hyper-V is live migration. During tests
conducted by eWEEK Labs' Executive Editor Jason Brooks, running virtual
machines could be "live migrated" with barely noticeable impact on
application performance. During those tests, Microsoft's Failover
Cluster Manager was used to initiate the live migration.
Using SC VMM, I was similarly able to orchestrate the live migration
of virtual machines. But SC VMM goes further and also centralizes
myriad virtual machine management tasks such as VM creation and
teardown, as well as physical-to-virtual and virtual-to-physical
SC VMM also provides basic up/down status reporting on VM state and
barebones information about VM utilization. For greater depth on VM
utilization and reporting, SC VMM can be integrated with Microsoft's
System Center Operations Manager.
When I reviewed SC VMM 2008 in January, I noted that one of its most
important features was cross-platform support for Hyper-V and VMware
Since that time, VMware released the current virtualization platform
champion, vSphere 4. eWEEK Labs is running a vSphere 4 environment on a
pair of Dell R710 servers, each equipped with 24GB of RAM. My tests
showed that SC VMM was able to work just fine with vSphere 4, although
Microsoft officially supports only VMware Infrastructure 3 environments
at this time.
This cross-platform support is still one of the most attractive
features of SC VMM from an IT operations point of view. SC VMM actually
proxies the desired action, such as VM startup/shutdown or VMotion
calls to VMware's management console and reports of status in the SC
VMM administrative console.
Overall, the interaction between SC VMM and both versions of
VMware's management tools worked without a flaw in my tests. The end
result was the centralized management of seven Intel Xeon 5500-based
physical host systems running more than 20 virtual machines across both
VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V environments.
As mentioned earlier, SC VMM can orchestrate the migration of
virtual machines between physical hosts with similar but not identical
processors. VMware also has this capability. In both cases, the
hypervisor presents a processor to the virtual machine that represents
the CPU capability of the lowest common denominator in the migration
group. Neither product can yet migrate virtual machines to physical
systems running processors from different manufacturers.
With SC VMM, a configuration check box comes up during VM creation
that allows the system to move to physical hosts with similar physical
processors. The primary consideration here is that IT managers must
ensure that applications running on the VM don't use instructions
provided in a more advanced chip before enabling this feature.
Microsoft also added storage enhancements to SC VMM to accommodate
changes in the way that VMs can now use CSV (clustered shared volumes)
and for provisioning changes to speed up VM deployments.
These features--along with a variety of convenience features,
including a library to store resources such as virtual machines,
virtual hard drives and other profile settings for hardware and guest
OS settings--make SC VMM a workable complement to the improved Hyper-V
role in Windows Server 2008 R2.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.