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Intel Haswell CPU available in June with VMCS shadowing – nested virtualization

In the beginning of June, the new Intel Haswell CPUs will be available. Besides the regular improvements like being faster, having better energy efficiency and having better graphics capabilities, these new CPUs will also include VMCS shadowing (Virtual Machine Control Structure Shadowing).

Basically it’s a feature that allows you to run a hypervisor (like VMware, Hyper-V, Xen Server) and create another hypervisor as a VM beneath it. This is also called nested virtualization.

Some of you might say, “Hey this is not new, I’ve already done this with VMware!”. The difference however is that the current method uses some sort of emulation that does not directly access the hardware. And even though it’s great for testing purposes, the performance is suboptimal.

With the embedded hardware supported VMCS shadowing in the new Intel Haswell CPU the nested hypervisor can directly access the hardware, which should improve performance. Also, it might even make it possible to use non-VMware hypervisors in a nested virtualization scenario.

Of course as always, we’ll just have to wait and see how the performance will be in real-life. It’s also not clear to me yet if hypervisors need to be updated to be able to leverage this option. Nonetheless, to me it sounds very promising and I look forward to playing around with it.

For more information read this great article by Gabe Knuth called “Could VMCS Shadowing (a.k.a. nested VMs) from Intel’s new Haswell processors be what Bromium needs to work in VMs?”. When you use the links in the article you will be able to get more information about the Intel Haswell CPUs including benchmarks and more detailed information about VMCS shadowing and use cases.

[EDIT 08-06-2013] Citrix is working hard on integrating VMCS Shadowing / Nested VMs in their products:
http://blogs.citrix.com/2013/06/03/intel-and-citrix-collaboration-to-bring-support-for-hardware-accelerated-nesting-of-hypervisors-into-market/#comments

If you’re planning to build / buy an Intel Haswell based computer or Home Lab, be sure to look into the confirmed USB3 bug in the chipset. Also unfortunately the DDR3 prices have increased substantially (almost 50%) over the last half year.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2013 in Hardware

 

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Microsoft – Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V 3.0 best practices checklist

Roger Osborne has posted a great article with a Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V best practices checklist.

I especially like the fact that it’s not just a checklist, but it also explains what it does and why it is considered a best practice to do it this way (in specific situations).

Additionally you might also want to take a look at “Top 20 Hyper-V Performance Metrics You Should Care About” and System Center Advisor.

 

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Microsoft – Virtualization for VMware Professionals Jump Start recordings and Q&A now available on MVA

The videos of the “Virtualization for VMware Professionals Jump Start” have been posted to the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA):
https://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/tracks/microsoft-virtualization-for-vmware-professionals

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend this session live, but thanks to MVA I can still view the recordings when it is convenient for me.

 

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Microsoft – Introduction to Hyper-V Jump Start videos and Q&A transcript

The videos of the “Introduction to Hyper-V Jump Start” have been posted to Microsoft Virtual Academy:
https://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/tracks/introduction-to-hyper-v-jump-start

Unfortunately however, the link to the Q&A transcript has only been sent by mail to participants. The Q&A has very valuable information in it as well, so be sure to take a look at it here.

[EDIT] I mailed the MVA people and they added the Q&A to the MVA website as well. Love the MVA [EDIT]

 

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Home LAB – How to use Windows 8 Client Hyper-V and VMware Workstation on the same machine

In yesterday’s post I described that for my purposes it was still necessary to run VMware Workstation sometimes despite having Client Hyper-V installed on my Windows 8 machine.

What you have to keep in mind though, is that you’re already running a hypervisor when you have Client Hyper-V installed in Windows 8. Installing and running VMware Workstation might cause problems. So unfortunately you cannot run them at the same time. This is also true for other virtualization products like by example virtualbox.

As a workaround you can either uninstall or (temporarily) disable Hyper-V. When you want to switch between Hyper-V and VMware Workstation it is ofcourse best to just temporarily disable Hyper-V.

In this forum post, a couple of methods are described to (temporarily) disable Hyper-V. It includes creating a seperate boot menu entry to boot with Hyper-V disabled and modifying the setting either through registry or a command. All methods do require a reboot however.

PS:

  • This kind of configuration is ofcourse not supported and should only be used for testing purposes in non production environments.
  • Depending on both your hardware and what your planning to do, you might also want to consider:
    • Running VMware ESXi from a USB stick
    • Running Windows 8 from a USB stick with Windows To Go (WTG).
  • It should also work on Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 and up, but I haven’t tested it.
 

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Free training – Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) hosting 3 virtualization related Jump Starts

Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) is hosting 3 virtualization related Jump Starts in January and February:

  1. Introduction to Hyper-V Jump Start (January 24th, 2013)
  2. Microsoft Virtualization for VMware Professionals Jump Start (January 30th, 2013)
  3. Microsoft Tools for VMware Migration and Integration (Late February)

I’ve attended a couple of Jump Starts including those of Office 365, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 already and I think it’s a great way to quickly get up-to-date about a subject. Also there’s a great team of people working behind the scenes to answer questions and provide more detailed resources. Other attendees often also share their experiences and provide valuable insights.

The links above provide include a course outline and a link to register for the Jump Start.

I hope to see you there.

 

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in ICT, Learning, Microsoft, Windows, Windows 2012

 

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Home LAB – Virtualization and how to enable nested ESXi and other hypervisors in VMware vSphere 5.1

As a passionate ICT person, I work with multiple virtualization products including Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere.

At home I’m running Server 2012 with Hyper-V in my home lab and even though it works perfectly, I miss the option to be able to run multiple other hypervisors beneath it like by example multiple Hyper-V, VMware ESXi or Citrix XenServer instances.

With VMware products like VMware Fusion, VMware Workstation you can enable this with only a couple of minor adjustments as described in these great articles:

For me personally, I’ll stay with my Hyper-V based home server and my Windows 8 Client with Client Hyper-V installed. For testing purposes however, I’ll have to use VMware Workstation 9 on my Windows 8 machine.  (even though I have Client Hyper-V installed). This way I can still run other hypervisors when needed.

I still hope though that Microsoft will add a similar feature to Hyper-V in the future.

 

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