The Soldier of Fortune

Musing on Microsoft Digital Transformation

Setting up your SharePoint 2013 environment At Work – Part 2

SharePoint Conference 2012 will be started in a few days so SharePoint folks will be having the great party ever. I have heard of there will be over 10,000 attendees at the conference. Look at the last conference, there were approximately 7.500 people so I’m pretty sure you will get most excited at the SPC12. If you are not coming to SPC12 like me, you should follow the hashtag #SPC12 in order to see what people are talking about, new changes or SharePoint statistics. Below are what Microsoft said at the SPC11:

  • There are over 700,000 developers who specialize in SharePoint world wide and 4,000+ trained partners.
  • More than 125 million SharePoint licenses sold to over 65, 000 customers.
  • SharePoint is now on of the biggest business at Microsoft, and if SharePoint is a company, it will be top 50 software companies in the world.
  • 80% of Fortune 500 Companies are running SharePoint.
  • 60% of SharePoint deployments include social networking solution.

SharePoint Business MVP Veronique Palmer, in Twitter, encouraged those who would totally miss out SPC12. By the way, I would like to thank her for the kind words.

One of the things I’m guessing is that many of you are looking forward to getting the final RTM version of SharePoint Server 2013 as well as its licensing model after the conference, and then start considering migrating/upgrading for your organization to SharePoint 2013. Regardless of that, make sure you are following up my series in order to facilitate SharePoint 2013 deployment and for you to obtain SharePoint 2013 certification. I would call that is killing two birds with one stone.

Before writing the second part of the series, I would like wrap up the considerable points you have learned in the previous post.

  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter and Standard edition have the same features. The only difference between both editions is the number of virtual machines each edition is able to run.
  • Supported SharePoint 2013 installation scenarios
  • Dynamic Memory doesn’t work with every SharePoint feature. Distributed Cache and Search don’t resize their caches when the allocated memory for a virtual machine is dynamically changed.
  • How to add Windows Server 2012 Roles and Features via Server Manager.

You have already installed Hyper-V role and probably started looking into it a little more. The second part will walk you through basic steps of creating the first virtual machine where Active Directory domain controller is virtualized, and then introduce to a few Hyper-V settings that are changed in Windows Server 2012. Assuming you already know how to install Windows Server 2012 so I’m not going to write such an installation.

A simple tip to make Hyper-V Manager displaying in the task bar is switch to modern style, and right-click on Hyper-V Manager icon and select Pin to taskbar. This probably saves your time.

In Hyper-V Manager administration interface, right-click on your physical host and select New > Virtual Machine.

In Specify Name and Location page, type name of the new virtual machine. Select Store the virtual machine in a different location and browse to the volume you want the virtual machine to be stored. As planned earlier, I use volume D to store virtual machine configuration and virtual hard disks. These settings can be changed in Hyper-V setting.

In Assign Memory page, allocate startup memory for the virtual machine. In my opinion, Active Directory server only needs 1.5 – 2 GB in my case. It’s because the AD server will be only provisioning user accounts and serves as an identity provider. It also runs DNS services. You should not worry about this setting because you will be able to re-allocate later via Hyper-V setting. Select Use Dynamic Memory for this virtual machine.

Dynamic Memory is not new to every experienced Microsoft virtualization system engineer. Dynamic Memory was introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1. We will cover cover a little more later in this article.

In Configure Networking page, select the network adapter you want to use for the virtual machine. You will be able to create new virtual network adapter in Hyper-V settings. The big change you would love is that Windows Sever 2012 offers the bandwidth management capability that allows you to specify the minimum and maximum bandwidth.

In Connect Virtual Hard Disk page, you will see the new format VHDX that is the new version of the VHD format.  VHDX format has benefits in supporting performance, capacity and reliability over your infrastructure virtualized in Hyper-V. Below are the new main features of the VHDX format.

  • Support for virtual hard disk storage capacity of up to 64 TB
  • Protection against data corruption during power failures by logging updates to the VHDX metadata structures.
  • Improved alignment of the virtual hard disk format to work well on large sector disks.

The VHDX format also provides the following features:

  • Larger block sizes for dynamic and differencing disks, which allows these disks to attune to the needs of the workload.
  • A 4-KB logical sector virtual disk that allows for increased performance when used by applications and workloads that are designed for 4-KB sectors.
  • The ability to store custom metadata about the file that the user might want to record, such as operating system version or patches applied.
  • Efficiency in representing data (also known as “trim”, which results in smaller file size and allows the underlying physical storage device to reclaim unused space. (Trim requires physical disks directly attached to a virtual machine or SCSI disks, and trim-compatible hardware.)

Because you are creating a new virtual machine so you must select the option “Create a virtual hard disk”. The name is automatically assigned with the virtual machine’s name. Browse to location where you want to store virtual hard disk. You only need to use an existing virtual hard disk in case you migrate a VHD that runs on a physical host to a virtualization environment.

In Installation Options page, select Install an operating system from a boot CD/DVD-ROM. Normally we install an operating system by using *.ISO format. Select Image file (.iso) and browse to the installation source of Windows Server 2012 you have downloaded. The last two options are only used for particular scenarios. For example, if you want to boot virtual machine over the network using PXE boot image from a remote server, select Install an operating system from a network-based installation server. In this case, you must use a legacy network adapter.

In Completing the New Virtual Machine Wizard page, review main configuration of the new virtual machine: Name, Memory, Network, Hard Disk, Operating System. Click Finish and wait a few minutes.

In Hyper-V Manager, under Virtual Machines section where a list of virtual machines displays, right-click on the new virtual machine and click Start in order for it to be started installing.

From now, you only need to complete Windows Server 2012 installation. You can read this post to get the installation complete quickly.

After completely installing the new virtual machine, you can create new ones by manually doing the same steps above or cloning new virtual machines. There are many articles that walk you through complex steps to clone a new virtual machine in Hyper-V but you shouldn’t do a cloning in your production environment. One of the common issues is that you will have to deal with SID (Security ID) duplication when creating a mirror of source virtual machine.  Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager does provide the ability to help quickly clone a new virtual machine and it’s, by the way, the best choice for cloning virtual machine in Hyper-V so far I have heard of from community. When you clone a virtual machine in SCVMM, consider the following things:

  • You cannot make changes to the operating system settings of source virtual machine, unless you must manually adjust after cloning.
  • You can make changes to the hardware configuration of the cloned virtual machine in Hyper-V setting.
  • The cloned virtual machine has the same computer name as the source virtual machine

The following articles you should refer to:

I assume you have already installed 4 virtual machines, each of them has Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition installed.

Dynamic Memory

As mentioned earlier in this article, Dynamic Memory was introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 with two settings: Startup RAM and Maximum RAM. Startup RAM setting is used to set amount of memory needed for starting the virtual machine, and Maximum RAM is the maximum amount of memory that the virtual machine can be allocated to run. Below is the captured image of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1.

One of the new things added in Dynamic Memory feature in Windows Server 2012 is “Minimum Memory” setting. It allows you to allocate the minimum amount of memory that the virtual machine can use when it is running. The reason Microsoft wants to offer Minimum Memory is that when a virtual machine starts, it requires more memory than the memory it is allocated to be running. Another advantage is that you can switch from Static to Dynamic when the virtual machine is running. This couldn’t be done in Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1. In other words, the virtual machine must be stopped before you configure Dynamic Memory setting for a virtual machine.

There are many other features in Hyper-V 3 you should learn about, such as Processor compatibility, NUMA, Hyper-V high availability features. Some of the following articles cover those features.

In this article, I have written very basic steps for creating a new virtual machine and introduced a few features Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 offers. The next article will cover *a little bit* about setting and configuring Active Directory Domain Services in Windows Server 2012. As a developer, you often use workgroup deployment for your development environment in conjunction with using the Local administrator account used to run all services,  so you would have some ambiguous issues relative to authentication and other things. You will gain many new things in building Active Directory environment because SharePoint 2013 doesn’t support workgroup installation scenario. If you don’t know much about Active Directory, why don’t you patiently wait for the next article?

Stay turned!

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