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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1

Virtualization with Microsoft May 8th, 2008

about server virtualization, you go on talking about Virtuozzo, Xen,
VMWare Server etc. This article aims to present another virtualization
application offered by Microsoft - Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1.

A couple of attractive features about
Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 are: it is available free of cost
and also it supports the usage of Microsoft Windows as well as Linux
distributions as guest operating systems.

Where to get it?

Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 is offered
as a free download by Microsoft. It can be freely downloaded by
visiting the following URL:

In this article, we will deal with the 32-bit edition of this application.

System Requirements

The minimum system requirements for the physical computer are given below:

  1. An x86-based computer with a 550 megahertz (MHz) or faster (1 GHz
    recommended) processor with L2 cache, such as processors from any of
    the following families:
    • Intel-Xeon or Pentium families.
    • AMD-AMD64 or Athlon families.

  2. CD-ROM or DVD drive
  3. Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher resolution monitor recommended
  4. Host operating system: The 32-bit version of any of the following operating systems:
    • Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition.
    • Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition.
    • Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition.
    • Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003.
    • Microsoft Windows XP Professional

By using Microsoft Virtual Server 2005
R2 SP1, it is possible to setup a virtual server, under which one or
more virtual machines can be deployed. Let us first examine the
components of a virtual server, before getting to the installation of

Virtual Server Components

A virtual server is an application that
runs as a system service. Each virtual machine runs as a separate
thread of this application. The host operating system provides two core
functions to the virtual server:

  1. The host operating system kernel schedules CPU resources.
  2. Its device drivers enable virtual machines to access devices attached to the system

Basically, a virtual server setup using Virtual Server 2005 will have the following components:

  1. Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM) - It is a kernel mode driver and acts
    as a firewall between the host operating system and virtual machines.
    It has access to the physical computer processor and manages resources
    between the two environments preventing application on a guest
    operating system from requesting excessive hardware resources from the
    host operating system.
  2. Virtual Server Service (Vssrvc.exe) - It creates virtual machines
    and projects the emulated hardware into the virtual environment. This
    service should be running to be able to create and run virtual machines
    using the virtual server.
  3. Virtual Machine Helper Service (Vmh.exe)- This allows the running
    of a virtual machine in the context of a specified user account.
    Specifying a user account is optional and if not specified the virtual
    machine runs under the account of the user that started it.
  4. Virtual Networks- A virtual network will consist of one or more virtual machines. It can be of two types:
    • Virtual network configured to use a network adapter in the physical
      computer- If a virtual network is attached to a physical adapter it can
      access the networks attached to that adapter. This configuration can be
      used to provide access for the virtual machines to external machines
      and networks.
    • Virtual network configured not to use a physical network adapter-
      If no physical network adapter is selected then the virtual machines
      attached to that network can communicate only to other virtual machines
      within that same internal virtual network.

  5. Administration Website - It is a browser based tool for configuring
    and managing the virtual server and its associated virtual machines and
    virtual networks.
  6. Virtual Machine Remote Control Client- It is used for remote
    management of virtual machines. It communicates with the VMRC server
    component of virtual server service using VMRC protocol developed by
    Microsoft for communication between VMRC clients and VMRC server.
  7. Virtual Machine Additions- This component adds enhancements to guest operating systems like:
    • Improved mouse cursor tracking and control.
    • Greatly improved overall performance.
    • Virtual machine heartbeat generator.
    • Optional time synchronization with the clock of the physical computer.

    Virtual Machine Additions are included for the following supported operating systems:

    • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 (all versions)
    • Microsoft Windows 2000 Server
    • Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 6a (SP6a)
    • Microsoft Windows XP (all versions)
    • Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
    • Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition
    • Microsoft Windows 98
    • Microsoft Windows 95

  8. Virtual Machines- Within the Virtual Server one or more virtual
    machines running their own operating systems can be created. The
    virtual machine emulates a standard x86-based computer including basic
    hardware except the processor. Using emulated hardware and the
    processor of the physical computer each virtual machine operates
    similar to a physical computer.The Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM)
    manages virtual machines, providing the software infrastructure for
    hardware emulation. Each virtual machine consists of a set of
    virtualized devices. The guest operating system and applications run on
    the virtual machine as if they were running on physical hardware,
    rather than emulated hardware. All software code running within the
    virtual machine runs in a separate VMM context.A virtual server can
    support upto 64 virtual machines. The number of virtual machines that
    can be run simultaneously is limited primarily by, the amount of RAM
    and hard drive space available in the physical computer. A single
    virtual machine can have a maximum RAM size of 3.6 GB. Also even if the
    physical computer has multiple processors installed in it virtual
    machines created will emulate only one processor.

    Each virtual machine requires at-least the following files to function properly:

    • A virtual machine configuration (.vmc) file in XML format that contains the virtual machine configuration information.
    • One or more virtual hard disk (.vhd) files to store the guest operating system, applications and data for the virtual machine.

  9. Virtual Hard Disks- A virtual hard disk provides storage for a
    virtual machine. Within the virtual machine it is visible as a physical
    disk, but actually it is file that resides on a physical disk that only
    the host operating system can access. The virtual machine does not have
    direct access to the physical disk that stores the .vhd file.There are
    four types of virtual hard disks that can be created:
    • Fixed-size disk- This is a .vhd file whose size is designated when
      the file is created. For example, if a fixed-size virtual hard disk of
      10 GB size is created the virtual server creates a 10 GB .vhd file. All
      the storage space that is required by the virtual hard disk is reserved
      when it is created. During creation, it utilizes as much contiguous
      space as is available on the physical disk storing it.
    • Dynamically expanding disk- In this type of virtual hard disk the
      size of a .vhd file grows as data is written to the virtual hard disk.
      A maximum size however, has to be specified at the time of its creation
      and the .vhd file cannot expand beyond this size limit set.
    • Linked disk- A linked disk points to an entire physical disk
      attached to the physical computer. It is used for converting a physical
      disk to a virtual disk. These disks cannot be used to start a virtual
    • Undo and Differencing disks- These disks store changes made to the
      virtual machine operating system configuration as well as the virtual
      hard disk to a separate file. This can be used to keep the original
      virtual hard disk unchanged when testing configuration changes or
      applications. A single undo disk is configured for all virtual hard
      disks associated with a virtual machine, while differencing disks have
      to be configured for individual virtual hard disks.

Setting up a Virtual Server

Setting up a virtual server involves the following steps:

  1. Installation of IIS

  2. IIS, specifically the World Wide Web Service component of IIS, has
    to be installed on the host operating system. It is required by the
    administration website used to manage Virtual Server.

  3. Installation of Virtual Server

    1. Download the Setup.exe file from the link given in the URL above and start the setup wizard.
    2. Continue the installation till you reach the ‘Setup type’ page.
    3. On this page select the ‘Complete’ installation option and proceed.
    4. On the ‘Configure Components’ page accept the default website port or enter another one and proceed.
    5. Then, either accept the default ‘Configure the Administration
      Website to always run as the authenticated user’, or select ‘Configure
      the Administration Website to always run as the Local System account’
      and proceed.
    6. Finally click ‘Install’ and to begin the installation and then ‘Finish’ when the ‘Setup Complete’ page appears.

    1. To setup Virtual Server Service:
      • Start the setup wizard and continue till you reach the ‘Setup Type’ page
      • On the computer you wish to install the Virtual Server service,
        select the ‘Custom’ installation option in the ‘Setup type’ page.
      • Then in the next page click on ‘Virtual Server Web Application’ and select ‘This feature will not be available’.
      • After that proceed with the installation and complete it as explained above.

    2. On the computer you wish to install the Administration Website:
      • Select the ‘Custom’ installation option in the ‘Setup type’ page and in the next page click on ‘Virtual Server Service’.
      • Select ‘This feature will not be available’ and complete the installation.

    1. Create a new virtual machine:

      • Open the Administration Website.
      • In the Virtual Machines section of the navigation pane click on Create.
      • Enter the fully qualified path to the location you want to store
        the virtual machine files in the ‘Virtual machine name’ textbox.For
        example, if you want to create the virtual machine named Virt under the
        C:Virt folder enter the following name’ C:VirtVirt. This will create
        the Virt.vmc configuration file under C:Virt.If you enter just a name
        instead of the fully qualified path the virtual machine files will be
        created in the default location, C:Documents and SettingsAll
        UsersShared Documents.
      • In the ‘Virtual machine memory’ text box enter the amount of RAM you want to set aside for the virtual machine.
      • In the ‘Virtual hard disk’ setting you can either select ‘Create a
        new virtual hard disk’ and enter the size of the virtual disk to create
        it or select ‘Use an existing virtual hard disk’ and enter the fully
        qualified path to the virtual hard disk.
      • The virtual network adapter for the virtual machine can be
        configured to be connected to a physical network adapter, if you wish
        so, using the ‘Connected to’ drop down menu.
      • After entering all these options click ‘Create’ to create the new virtual machine.

    2. Add a virtual machine from an existing configuration:

      • Open the Administration Website.
      • In the Virtual Machines section of the navigation pane click Add.
      • Enter the fully qualified path to the virtual machine configuration file and click Add.

    1. In the Administration Website go to the Virtual Disks section in the navigation pane and point to create.
    2. Click on the type of hard disk to be setup from the following options available:
      • Dynamically expanding virtual hard disk.
      • Fixed size virtual hard disk.
      • Differencing virtual hard disk.
      • Linked virtual hard disk.

    3. Enter the fully qualified file name for the virtual disk you wish to create and its size and then click ‘Create’.
    4. The only type of hard disk which requires any additional setting is
      the linked virtual hard disk for which the physical drive to which it
      has to be linked needs to be selected before clicking ‘Create’.

    1. Open the Administration Website.
    2. Under the ‘Virtual Machines’ section in the navigation’s pane,
      point to configure and then select the appropriate virtual machine.
    3. In the ‘Configuration’ section towards the lower part of the page, click CD/DVD, then either:
      • In the CD drive of the physical computer running the Virtual Server
        service, Insert the startup CD for the operating system. Click Physical
        CD/DVD drive. Also select the corresponding CD or DVD drive letter from
        the drop-down menu, if necessary.
      • Or

      • Click Known image files. The ISO image (.iso) file containing a
        startup CD image can be selected from the drop-down menu, if the file
        is located in the default folder (Documents and SettingsAll
        UsersDocumentsShared Virtual Machines). Else, type the image file’s
        complete directory path in ‘Fully qualified path to file’

    4. After that go to status, point to the virtual machine name and click Turn On.
    5. Point to the virtual machine name, once the virtual machine is
      turned on. Then click Remote Control to connect to it and complete the
      operating system installation.

    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 update 6
    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 update 6
    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.0
    • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9.0
    • Red Hat Linux 7.3
    • Red Hat Linux 9.0
    • SUSE Linux 9.2
    • SUSE Linux 9.3
    • SUSE Linux 10.0

  4. The Virtual Server can be configured to have both the Virtual Server
    Service and Administration Website components on the same physical
    computer or on separate computers.

    To setup both components on the same physical computer:

    To setup both components on separate computers:

    Now let us examine the methods for adding virtual machines, virtual hard disks to the virtual server.

    Adding Virtual Machines

    Everything related to the administration of the virtual server and
    the virtual machines is done from the Administration website accessed
    as shown below,

    Start–>All Programs–>Microsoft Virtual Server–>Administration Website.

    Adding a virtual machine to the virtual server can be done in two ways:

    Setting up virtual hard disks

    The most commonly used virtual hard disks are fixed-size virtual
    hard disks and dynamically expanding virtual hard disks. All hard disks
    are setup using the same procedure as explained below:

    While creating a virtual machine, a previously created virtual hard
    disk of any of the above mentioned types, except linked virtual hard
    disk, can be used.

    Adding an operating system to the virtual hard disk

    When the virtual machine is created, a virtual version of the CD/DVD
    drive in the physical machine is created in it. This CD/DVD drive can
    be configured to either capture a physical disk inserted into the
    physical drive or capture an ISO image file available anywhere in the
    physical computer. To configure this:

    Another and a much more easier way to deploy the guest operating
    system would be to copy the .vhd file of another virtual machine having
    the same operating system and application settings as the machine you
    wish to setup, rename it to match that name of the new machine you are
    setting up and then simply specify it as the virtual hard disk for the
    virtual machine you create. This method can be used to setup the
    virtual machine and deploy the guest operating system quickly and
    reduce the time it takes to setup the virtual machine. However, if the
    virtual machine whose .vhd file is being copied, as well as the new
    machine being deployed, belongs to an active directory domain the
    Sysprep utility needs to be run to prepare the operating system for
    transfer before copying the virtual hard disk.


    Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 definitely offers a cost effective and
    robust technology that can be used to deploy virtual servers in a
    production environment and presents itself as a viable alternative to
    the VMWare Virtual Server applications. The guest operating systems
    supported by it, in addition to Microsoft Windows operating systems,
    include the following Linux distributions as well:

    So it can be used for application development and application
    migration across multiple platforms and the consolidation of separate
    application servers under a single server bringing down administrative
    and operations cost, as well as improve resource utilization. It is
    also capable of providing efficient and quick disaster recovery
    solutions to enterprise as well as business users.

     About the author: Jeffrey
    T Jackson is basically
    a Windows administration expert with more than 1 year experience in
    pure Windows administration. At present, he is trying his hands on
    Linux administration too.

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