Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Using VMware Workstation for learning Hyper-V

I'm working towards my MCITP, and have the MS 70-643 [Configuring Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure] test scheduled for the end of the month. I've got the self-paced study guide, and ran into an immediate problem when I read the introduction: Hyper-V is needed to complete the guide, and using VMware (Workstation or ESX Free) won't help because Hyper-V itself is a topic covered on the exam.

So the first thing I did was hunt around for a machine that would run Hyper-V, and the closest I came to finding one (that wasn't already in production for some other purpose) was my laptop (HP Elitebook 8460p): it had the full Core i5 CPU and chipset, along with 8GB RAM. Instead of messing with dual-boot, I pulled the system drive and installed an older HD I had lying around, and got to work on installing the OS.

While Windows Server 2008 R2 will run on the laptop, the network hardware wasn't on the base image, nor were a slew of other devices. No surprise, either, that there were no Server versions of the drivers from HP.

So I looked into using a spare server at the office; unfortunately, that was a bust, too: the spare servers wouldn't run Hyper-V because of hardware limitations.

A little help from Google, however, showed me that it's not just possible, but easy to go Inception and run Hyper-V as a guest on top of VMware Workstation 8.
Inception: Server 2008 R2 on a Hyper-V VM running on a Workstation VM
There is one gotcha, however: in addition to selecting the "Virtualize Intel VT-x/EPT" option for the Workstation guest vCPU config, you need to add a line to the guest's VMX file: hypervisor.cpuid.v0 = "FALSE"
Pass-thru hardware virtualization
Once you have that added to the guest config (which must be done when the VM is powered-down), Hyper-V will support its own nested guests.

One other thing you'll want to do: because Hyper-V uses the [CTRL]+[ALT] in all its mouse-release options, updating the VMware default hotkey sequence to include an additional (or different) sequence is necessary if you ever think you'll need the Hyper-V sequence.

If you leave the sequence alone in Workstation, then there's no way to send [CTRL]+[ALT]+[LEFT] down into the Hyper-V guest: Workstation captures the sequence before it can be sent.

UPDATE: There must be a bug in Workstation, both 5.02 and 5.04. In both environments, I've trashed my host system partition when booting one of the Hyper-V-hosted VMs. The first time it happened, I figured it was a fluke with the host's drive; luckily, I had a backup, although it was over 60 days old and I had to get some help from the company Domain Admins to get it back on the domain. The second time, I had a backup from that morning to restore, and the third time, I simply gave up on the whole thing after restoring from that morning's backup.

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