In the first part of this LAB setup guide, I described the hardware selection process. In this second part I will be describing the hypervisor selection and installation.
First of all, you have to decide on which bare metal hypervisor(s) you wish to use. Personally I prefer Microsoft Hyper-V and VMWare ESXi. Alternatives include but are not limited to Citrix XenServer, Xen, KVM, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization. I don’t have much experience with these hypervisors though.
Characteristics that could influence your choice of hypervisor:
- Supported hardware.
- Performance of the hypervisor.
- Features of the hypervisor. By example when using Transparent Memory Page Sharing, it requires less memory when you run many highly identical systems on a host.
- Footprint / attack surface.
- Supported methods for running the OS. By example run from USB stick.
- Price (many hypervisors have free versions available, compare features).
- Support (for a home lab probably not that important).
- Available documentation / study resources.
- How active the community behind it is.
- Supported VM / guest operating systems.
- Availabilty of downloadable virtual appliances (VMWare) or pre-prepped environments (Microsoft) without having to (try and) convert them.
Everyone needs to determine which hypervisor best meets their needs. Personally I mainly work with Microsoft software and decided to use Hyper-V 3.0 in Windows Server 2012. It’s convenient for me to be able to easily load pre-prepped environments that are provided by Microsoft (in Hyper-V format). I also run Client Hyper-V on my Windows 8 laptop, which makes it easier for me to take my VM’s with me. I do plan to keep up with VMWare developments as well though, so I will create a bootable USB flash drive to boot in VMWare from time to time.
- Before installing the hypervisor, make sure that virtualization related settings are enabled. The names of these settings may differ. Examples are Intel VT (Virtualization Technology), AMD-V and Hardware DEP (Data Execution Prevention), EM64T, Execute Disable Bit. During installation you will get prompted normally though if you have forgotten to enable these.
- There are often many options with regards to the installation. By example do a GUI install or a scripted/CLI install. Or install/run from normal harddisk or flash drive. With Server 2012 Hyper-V you can choose to run it in Windows Server 2012 core or in the GUI version. I chose to use the Server 2012 GUI Hyper-V installation because I’m not sure if my raid management software will work from within the core version.
- Installation of the hypervisor is normally pretty straight forward. But before you install, read the documentation.
- After you’re done installing, you still need to configure the settings to meet your requirements. Preferrably you’ve already created and documented your own design.
- Don’t forget to configure hardware monitoring if possible. In my case I’ve configured my raid controller management software to send e-mails when storage related issues are detected.
- Think about and implement a strategy for backing up and recovering your hypervisor. There are numerous programs for backing up and most are free for personal use. I have no personal experience with specific products, but VeeAm has a good reputation and I’ll be trying if for my lab. Also if you’re a Microsoft Certified Professional, you can get a free NFR license for Veeam Backup & Replication v6.5 for Hyper-V. The same is true if you’re a VMWare Certified Professional (VCP).
In the next post I will describe the VM guest preparations, installations and storage strategy.