System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager (Part 1) - Introduction

by [Published on 22 May 2012 / Last Updated on 22 May 2012]

In this article the author will take a look at some of the new features of VMM 2012.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

Introduction

You may have read the news the Microsoft is releasing a new version of their System Center product suite. In a break from past tradition, Microsoft is now positioning the System Center line as a single unified management tool rather than as a suite of related-but separate-products. Although the wisdom of such a move is questionable, it’s not up for discussion here. Instead, this article will focus on one aspect of this newly combined suite: Virtual Machine Manager 2012. As of this writing, Microsoft has yet to move System Center 2012 to RTM status; it’s still at RC2.

New features

VMM 2012 drops support for particularly old versions of Microsoft virtualization software, such as Virtual Server 2005. VMM 2012 supports the versions of Hyper-V that are included in the following versions of Windows:

  • Hyper-V Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2008 with Service Pack 2

Unfortunately, for those of you that are running Windows 8 or Windows Server 8 and testing out Hyper-V 3.0, VMM 2012 cannot yet manage this beta version of Hyper-V. So, for now, you’ll need to continue using just the Hyper-V Manager included when you install the Hyper-V role.

There are a lot of new features that are included in VMM 2012, including:

  • Bare metal provisioning of new Hyper-V hosts.
  • Intelligent Placement. Helps administrators identify a host that’s suitable for a particular workload.
  • Cluster enhancements. Unlike previous versions, VMM 2012 is a cluster-aware application, making VMM 2012 itself more highly available than was possible in older versions.
  • Dynamic Optimization. Migrates virtual machines within a cluster in order to load balance workloads and ensure adherence to placement rules.
  • Power optimization. This is an optional capability that’s a part of Dynamic Optimization and allows VMM 2012 to power down hosts that do not need to be active as long as resource requirements are being met.

Hypervisor support

VMM 2012 brings order to heterogeneous chaos by allowing management of non-Hyper-V hosts, including Citrix XenServer, and VMware vSphere/ESX hosts. In previous versions of VMM, management of these kinds of hosts has not always been flawless. How VMM operates with these third party hypervisors has also undergone some changes.

vSphere/ESX

First of all VMM 2012 drops support for older versions of ESX. Specifically, anything below ESX/ESXi 3.5 is no longer supported. VMM 2012 supports ESX/ESX 3.5 and ESX/ESXi 4.1 as well as vCenter 4.1 As of this writing, there is no information regarding support for vSphere 5.

Citrix XenServer

On the Citrix front, VMM 2012 suppots Citrix XenServer 6.0 Beta 3 or later. You must also have the Citrix XenServer Integration Suite supplemental pack for Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager.

VMM components and requirements

Before I explain the roles and requirements for each role, I want to mention that I highly recommend deploying all VMM 2012 roles onto Windows Server 2008 R2 with SP1. Although some earlier versions of Windows are supported, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 includes everything with less need to install additional prerequisites.

Further, although some of the roles might work under Windows Server 8, which is still in beta, that scenario is not supported, so avoid doing so unless you’re playing in a test lab.

As is the case with all of the System Center products, there are various components that comprise the product. Here are the components that make up VMM 2012 along with the system requirements for each role.

Management server

The computer on which the Virtual Machine Manager service runs and which processes commands and controls communications with the VMM database, the library server, and virtual machine hosts.

If you’re managing up to 150 hosts with VMM 2012, Microsoft recommends that your server has at least a dual core 2.8 GHz or faster processor, 4 GB RAM and 40 GB of 140 GB of disk space, depending on where you install SQL Server. If it's a local installation, the larger number is recommended.

If you’re going to manage more than 150 hosts, you should have a 3.6 GHz or faster process, at least 8 GB of RAM and a minimum of 50 GB of disk space. In this scenario, it’s not recommended that you share a single server for both the management server and database server components.

On the operating system front, the management server component must be installed on Windows Server 2008 R2 or later. Further, this server must be a member of an Active Directory domain, which means that you can’t install VMM 2012 into a standalone environment. Also, note that the server to which you’re installing the VMM management component cannot have a name that includes “-scvmm-“ (with the dashes). Without the dashes is fine.

Database

The server on which the VMM 2012 database is housed. With VMM 2012, there is a big change: SQL Server Express is no longer supported for use by VMM. Instead, you must use a full SQL installation. If you’re worried about cost, don’t be; Microsoft makes available a run-time license that you use in conjunction with software such as VMM. You don’t need to actually buy a full copy of SQL Server.

From a system hardware perspective, the recommended configuration for the database component is as those for the VMM server. Beyond that, you should know that SCVMM can use the following versions of SQL Server:

  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Datacenter (64-bit), Service Pack 1 or earlier
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise (64-bit), Service Pack 1 or earlier
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard (64-bit), Service Pack 1 or earlier
  • SQL Server 2008 Enterprise (64-bit), Service Pack 2
  • SQL Server 2008 Standard (64-bit), Service Pack 2

Console

The console is the software that provides an administrator with his windows into the virtual environment. From here, you can manage all aspects of the supported virtual environment.

The console can run on Windows Server 2008 R2 or on Windows 7 machines. As a reminder, Windows 8 is not supported for this role. From a hardware perspective, just about any modern desktop will do. The largest installation managed by VMM requires that the console machine has 2 GB of RAM. The desktop must have Windows PowerShell 2.0 and the Windows .NET Framework 3.5 with SP1 or higher. Finally, the console workstation must be a member of an Active Directory domain.

Library

The library is a catalog of resources—virtual hard disks, templates, and profiles—that are used to deploy virtual machines and services. Microsoft recommends that the server hosting this role has at least a dual core 3.2 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM. There is no formal recommendation on disk space since this varies from installation to installation, but plan on needing quite a bit of space. After all, virtual hard disks and ISO files alone can consume a whole lot of space. Ideally, this information will be placed in a location that can grow with your needs.

Command shell

PowerShell has become standard fare in every Microsoft product. VMM 2012 includes this command line component, which allows administrators to automate pretty much any system admin task desired. This will be installed along with other roles and carries no additional specific requirements.

Self-service portal

How nice would it be if I could deploy a service and then walk away? Although this dream vision isn’t likely to happen in the near future, when possible, moving as much as possible into the world under a user’s control helps IT “do more with less” while, at the same time, allowing users to get their needs met immediately.

If your portal needs to host up to 10 concurrent user connections, Microsoft recommends a server with 2 GB of RAM and 20 GB of disk space. For more than 10 users, a dual core processor, 8 GB of RAM and 40 GB of disk space is recommended.

In addition, since this is a web service, you need to install the IIS role with the following features included:

    • .NET Extensibility
    • ASP.NET
    • Default Document
    • Directory Browsing
    • HTTP Errors
    • IIS 6 Metabase Compatibility
    • IIS 6 WMI Compatibility
    • ISAPI Extensions
    • ISAPI Filters
    • Request Filtering
    • Static Content

Also, make sure that PowerShell 2.0 is enabled on the server.

Summary

These are some of the new features of VMM 2012 as well as components and required hardware for each role. In Part 2 of this series, we will walk through an installation of VMM 2012.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

The Author — Scott D. Lowe

Scott D. Lowe avatar

Scott has written thousands of articles and blog posts and has authored or coauthored three books, including Microsoft Press’ Exchange Server 2007 Administrators Companion and O’Reilly’s Home Networking: The Missing Manual. In 2012, Scott was also awarded VMware's prestigious vExpert designation for his contributions to the virtualization community.

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