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Building a Hyper-V Lab – cheaply!

I’ve been trying to build a lab at home for a while, but have continued to put the thought aside, over and over. Not because I lack motivation, no, because it’s so damned expensive to purchase so much kit if I’m going to use it for a few months, and then not use it again.

My latest certification path is to complete the MCITP: Server Virtualisation cert, and so the time came for me to start thinking seriously, how am I going to do this?

Cue new PC.

  • Intel Core i7 3930K Processor LGA2011 3.2GHz 12M Cache 6 Cores
  • Asus SABERTOOTH-X79 Motherboard
  • Corsair Vengeance  CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9 16G(4x4GB) 1866MHz DDR3 CL9  x2 (total 32gb)
  • Asus GF GTX680 2GB Graphics Card
  • Intel 520s 128GB SSD disk
  • SilverStone ST1200-G-EVO 1200W PSU

Look at that magnificent part list, and you’d be confused as to whether I’m building an ultimate game machine, or a super virtualisation workbench. Truthfully, it’s both. And damned good at it.

Loading it all up, I played with the idea of running Windows Server 2008 R2, or just plain Windows 7.

Windows Server 2008 R2:

  • PRO: Best option for Hyper-V performance
  • CON: It’s a server OS on a desktop – most apps etc I use will probably be fine, but there’s always the “what if”
  • CON: You cannot run Hyper-V inside a virtual machine hosted on a Hyper-V platform
  • CON: You cannot build a Hyper-V cluster in a lab with only one machine
Windows 7:
  • CON: Hyper-V not build in to OS, poor performance
  • CON: Virtualisation software required
  • CON: You cannot run Hyper-V inside a virtual machine…
  • PRO: wait… yes you can!

I didn’t believe it was possible. I had previously attempted to install Hyper-V inside of VMWare Workstation, but with no luck. Turns out I was doing everything right. But there’s just one more step – passing the hardware virtualisation functionality to the VM.

So, I found this link…

Bit behind the times, but it filled in the blanks. There’s one (only one) setting you need to manually configure, by editing the VM’s .vmx configuration file. Simply add the following line for your VM that will run Hyper-V:

hypervisor.cpuid.v0 = “FALSE”

After changing this setting, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could now install the Hyper-V role. If I recall correctly, all the other settings mentioned in the blog above, were automagically set by default, but just quickly, you need to run in Workstation 8.0 hardware compatibility mode, select Windows Server 2008 R2 x64 as the operating system, and ensure that you pass through the Intel VT-x/EPT features on the VM processor settings page.

With all that said and done, I now have two virtualised Hyper-V servers, so I can finally play with Hyper-V failover clustering and cluster shared volumes!

And with that, I successfully passed 70-659 🙂

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