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Let's get graphical with Hyper-V

Trevor scripts up some GUI admin tools

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Stumbling block

The bigger problem with the GUI tools to manage Hyper-V Server 2012 is that it requires the very latest operating system. The RSAT package required to fully manage all the various elements of a Server 2012-based system will install only on Windows 8 or Server 2012. You can manage some functions from older versions of RSAT, but with reduced functionality.

For me, this is a huge problem. You won’t get me to use Windows 8 as my personal desktop.

None of my clients are using Windows 8 as part of their internal deployments; indeed, many are putting time and money into converting their app base to HTML5 in their desire to escape it altogether. Putting aside the like/dislike new interface wars for a second, this causes some pragmatic issues.

You could certainly set up an administration workstation (or virtual machine) somewhere that was Windows 8 and whose sole purpose was to manage the infrastructure. Two problems with this arise. First, you need two of these at least to allow for the inevitable "it died right in the middle of a crisis”.

The second, Microsoft's own VDI rules place some rather severe restrictions on your ability to do that. The cost of trying to administer your infrastructure remotely from a Windows 8 system dedicated to the task which you remote into on an as-needed basis can be ruinous. Hyper-V Server 2012 is only a free lunch if you are already a member of the Windows 8 family.

A free lunch

Depending on who you talk to, I'm either a cynical old git who is terrified of change or a pragmatic sort who embraces change only if it actually benefits him. Either way, my personal preferences regarding user interfaces don't change the value of the underlying technology.

Hyper-V Server 2012 is top-notch stuff. Without paying Microsoft a dime you can build yourself a pretty awesome CLI-managed virtualised data centre.

With the purchase of a couple of copies of Windows 8 as management operating systems, you can build an great GUI-managed version of the same. You even get Cluster Aware Updating without having to spring for System Center. That is a nice bonus.

If you pair it with System Center 2012, you can build yourself a private cloud with remarkable ease. System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 can go toe to toe with VMware on nearly every feature and Microsoft has a few that VMware lacks.

Students, hobbyists and small businesses can use the technology

Where Microsoft starts to pull away from VMware is in providing Hyper-V Server for free. It means that students, hobbyists and small businesses can use the technology without having to worry about patently ridiculous things such as a 32GB physical RAM limit or crippled APIs.

A free, fully featured Hyper-V Server means that Microsoft has a really good chance of building a broad skills base around Hyper-V. This has always been core to Microsoft's long-term success with any technology.

Microsoft's 2008 R2 lineup was good enough for most; 2012 is a damned fine offering. The next round coming up – which I have recently had a sneak peek at – is of sufficient quality that VMware should be constantly checking its back to make sure Microsoft wasn't gnawing on it.

Between the two offerings I far prefer VMware. If I am spending money on a virtualisation stack, that would be my pick.

My reasoning is simple, if unimaginative: when two technologies can both do the job equally well, I will pick the one with the user interface I hate the least. After all, I'm the one who has to use the thing all day.

In a practical sense, the only real difference is how many innovative invectives per hour I hurl at my monitor. This makes Hyper-V something worth learning. The software is free and the time investment is well spent. Keeping my skills sharp with both vendors means I can provide a broader range of support for my clients.

For those who don't have spare hardware to devote to tinkering with Hyper-V, fear not: you can do what I do and run Hyper-V Server 2012 as a guest operating system on ESXi 5.1 or VMware Workstation. You can have your quiet little tryst without a messy divorce.

I don't think it's all roses quite yet but the HVRemote script makes Hyper-V Server 2012 actually usable in a production environment.

Microsoft has come an awful long way since Virtual Server 2005 R2. I wonder what the future will bring. ®

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