Hyper-V R2 SP1 Beta testing & Dynamic Memory

So this week Microsoft released the beta code of SP1, this was one of the many anticipated announcements at the Worldwide Partner Conference this week.

As our business (The Full Circle – www.thefullcircle.com) is a Microsoft Gold Partner that has been involved in Microsoft virtualization since the beginning I thought it was time we were testing Hyper-V with Dynamic Memory!  Microsoft’s answer to VMware’s memory over commit allows Hyper-V to dynamically allocated memory to a guest machine from a pool of available memory.  This doesn’t allow you to over specify what physically isn’t available (a safer option than over-commit), but it does allow a group of VM’s to more efficiently use memory resource where it is needed – just what is needed for Microsoft to get serious in the VDI space.

From Microsoft’s own words:

Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V introduces a new feature, called Dynamic Memory, in the Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Beta releases.  It allows customers to achieve increased density when they’re consolidating physical servers into a virtual realm, providing them with predictable performance and linear scalability.  With Dynamic Memory, IT administrators are able to pool available memory on a physical host and then dynamically dole that memory out to virtual machines running on the host, based on current workload needs.
For a technical overview of the new Dynamic Memory feature, download the Dynamic Memory Technical Overview whitepaper.

So a quick 1.2GB download later (to support Win7 x86 & WS2008R2 IA64 & x64) and you’ve got an ISO to unpack or burn.

1st hurdle on my test install of Hyper-V Server R2 is.. a language blocking issue with the installer reporting ‘Hyper-V Service Pack 1 install has detected unsupported language files’ reporting that Chinese (Traditional) is not supported..

Did I install Chinese?  I don’t think so.. well, not intentionally anyway! but checking both our test and live Hyper-V cluster systems revealed that the ‘Chinese (Traditional)’ display language was installed (by default) per:

Fortunately this is a simple fix, as shown in the picture – at a command line (or Task Manager Run) you can access the Region and Language settings control panel by executing  ‘intl.cpl’, goto Keyboards and Languages, hit the Install/uninstall languages button, and finally select Chinese (Traditional), Next.  After a few moments the progress should report ‘Uninstall complete’ and you can close and OK out of the Control Panel app.

Once the language support (or lack of if you wanted Chinese!), re-running setup should run through as below:

And eventually, after the mandatory reboot checking out the Windows version (Task Manager, About, no more winver from the command line in Hyper-V Server or Server Core) should report – Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Build 7601: Service Pack 1, v.178 – yikes that’s a lowish version, and the Build number is significant up from 7600 (more accurately version 6.1.7600), anyway we are only on test system at the minute! (and without EAP support I think that’s about as far as it should go! ;-))
(more on EAP’s and The Full Circle’s involvment in the development of Hyper-V 2008 R2 at http://blog.thefullcircle.com/2009/11/05/the-full-circle-secures-ascom-network-testing-for-windows-server-2008-r2-early-adopter-program/)

next on to the changes within Hyper-V and hopefully dynamic memory!

Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 beta adds Dynamic Memory host memory management and RemoteFX to enhance VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) implementations. The beta release of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 introduces new ways to manage virtual machine memory, graphics and peripheral devices that add new dimensions to the usefulness of Hyper-V.

These features, including Dynamic Memory, RemoteFX and improvements to USB redirection, will require IT manager attention as plans are made for server and remote desktop implementations over the next several years. IT managers who are considering data center virtualization projects should put the Windows Server 2008 R2 service pack beta on their immediate evaluation shortlist. The beta is stable enough for use in a test environment.The SP1 beta became available in July and is offered as a no-charge download from Microsoft. I tested the SP1 beta on our test rig HP ProLiant ML110 G5 with a single dual core Intel 2.33Ghz cpu, 8GB of memory, and 2 mirrored arrarys (2x250GB system, 2x1TB data), it does not have a sufficiently powerful graphics card to test RemoteFX but I’ll be sourcing one!

This system, and all the virtual server instances that I created in my test environment, were running Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 beta version 178.

It’s clear that with SP1, Microsoft is signaling that the server hardware of tomorrow will need to be equipped much differently than it is today if certain workloads, including those that vary significantly in memory usage or desktop graphics support, are destined for the data center.
Buyers that are accustomed to buying server hardware with only minimal graphics capabilities will need to become much more savvy in the ins and outs of specifying high-end graphics cards for data center servers that are destined to host sophisticated virtual desktop implementations. This is on top of the growing RAM requirements of dense virtual environments.

Dynamic Memory

The SP1 beta includes Microsoft’s answer to VMware’s memory management system. In Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 this feature is called Dynamic Memory. I used the Dynamic Memory feature to balance the memory automatically between my VMs based on preset limits. As with most management systems, Dynamic Memory uses policy set in a period of calm to determine how scarce resources (in this case RAM) will be divvied up when in times of tumult and contention.

When I created my VMs, I specified several RAM memory parameters including Startup, Maximum, Buffer and Priority. These parameters make sense in that they specify the minimum amount of RAM needed to start a system, the maximum I would ever want it to consume, a buffer measured as a percentage and the priority of this workload in the overall scheme of business operations.

In my tests, the VMs performed as expected. When I beefed up operations on a high priority VM, the other VMs were starved in order to keep my priority system running at top performance. When RAM requirements on my priority system fell, this resource was reallocated among the other VMs on the test system.


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