Archive for the ‘Hyper-V’ Category

Virsto One, Hyper-V and the I/O Blender effect

February 24th, 2010

One of the things I’ve come to love about blogging is the fact that I occasionally get contacted by the odd tech start-up. Keen to demonstrate their latest market leading idea that is going to revolutionise the industry as we know it.  Earlier this month I was contacted by Mindy Anderson who is the Product director at tech start-up Virsto (short for Virtual Storage). Virsto had a new product for Microsoft Hyper-V that they wanted to demonstrate to me in advance of their big product launch. Having looked at Mindy’s background in the storage industry I was very keen to hear more about their new product.

The product is called Virsto One and is aimed solely at Windows 2008 R2 Hyper-V. The product introduces some new features like thin provisioned clones & snapshots, that expand the functionality of the standard Hyper-V product. The most interesting feature in my opinion though is the attempt to tackle the virtualisation / storage problem commonly known as the I/O blender effect.

So what does Virsto One look like?

The software itself installs in the parent partition of each Hyper-V host and consists of the filter driver, a system service and a VSS provider.  The filter driver sits above the raw storage (any block storage) and presents a VHD object to the parent partition.  This setup allows users to configure physical storage once and then use Virsto One to carry out all future provisioning tasks. This includes full support for creating  thin provisioned, high performing, cluster aware snapshots and clones from either the Virsto One Hyper-V MMC snap-in or Powershell.


So what about the I/O blender effect?

Most storage technologies are not designed for the virtual data centre, most are still designed around the one to one physical server to storage model. Think of a number of virtual machines all with predictable I/O behaviour (if you think of them as physical).  What tends to come out of the physical hypervisor host is a large amount of completely random I/O.  Random I/O has an obvious performance impact when compared with sequential I/O so as you increase the number of VM’s you increase the random I/O from your Hyper-V host.  So as VM density increases performance drops, as we all know low VM density is not your objective when you embark on a virtualisation project.

So Virsto One has an interesting way of dealing with this. Although the “secret sauce” has never been divulged in-depth in its basic form they journal the random I/O that comes down from the Hyper-V host to staging disk.  A staging area is required per physical Hyper-V host and about 20GB / 30GB of disk should support multi-terabyte write downs through use of de-dupe technology. Periodically the data in the staging disks will be flushed / written down to the primary storage location, at this point the Random I/O is laid down sequentially on primary storage to improve read performance. Virsto indicated that in time they would look to support multiple de-stages so that data could be de-staged to another array for business continuity purposes or to the cloud for disaster recovery purposes.

Are there any performance figures to back this up?

Performance figures from the Virsto test lab show the I/O Blender effect in full effect as VM density increases in the standard Microsoft setup.  With the Virsto software sitting in the middle, staging the data and de-staging it sequentially, there is an obvious improvement in performance.  These test results were from Virsto’s own lab and I stressed the importance of having these independently benchmarked by customers or an external consultancy.  Wendy indicated to me that this was something they were looking into,  I look forward to reading and sharing the whitepaper when it is eventually produced.


So who would be interested in a product like this?

Well ideally the product would benefit Hyper-V customers who require high density, high performing virtual environments.  Hosting companies making use of Hyper-V for selling virtual server instances may well see Virsto as a good way of increasing performance and reducing costs through the use of golden images, snapshots, etc.  Who knows though,  individual companies with an investment in Hyper-V may well see the benefit in this kind of product.  In a way I see it’s not to dissimilar to a company buying PowerPath/VE to increase I/O performance in a vSphere environment.

It is important to note that although this product has been initially built for Microsoft Hyper-V the principals behind it are hypervisor agnostic.  I asked the question “why Hyper-V?” at the start of my chat with Virsto,  the answer was that Hyper-V had functionality gaps and was easier to integrate into.  VMware on the other hand is a more mature product where VMFS has gone some way to deal with the traditional virtualisation storage problems.  Citrix virtualisation customers will be happy to hear that testing has already begun in the lab with a version of Virsto one for XenServer, ETA unknown at this stage.

So how much does all this cost?

At the time of the interview,  which was a good few weeks back the per socket price being talked about was $1,000 – $2,000 USD per socket, again not to dissimilar to the pricing for EMC PowerPath/VE.


My impression at the time of the demo and interview was that this was an interesting product and very clever idea. The main selling point for me was the increase in performance, if it can be independently verified you would think the product will simply sell itself.  I look forward to hearing more about Virsto in the future and I am particularly interested to see what they can do for other hypervisors especially VMware vSphere with it’s new storage API’s.

Hyper-V, New Products, Storage , ,

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Release Candidate

May 6th, 2009

I read today on Microsoft’s virtualisation team blog site that the free version of Hyper-V 2008 R2 has now reached release candidate and can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Release Candidate

The interesting news is that Live Migration, Clustered Shared Volumes and High Availability will be available as part of this free version when it reaches RTM. What isn’t clear is whether these features are included in this release candidate.

So what strings are attached I hear you ask?  Well according to Microsoft absolutely none,  they genuinley appear to be giving away these features for nothing.  I myself thought that the management for Live migration and HA would require a cost as you’d need an implemetnation of System Centre Operations Manager (SCOM) and System Centre Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).  However this is not the case,  I actually verified this today with a Microsoft Employee at an event I was at this morning.

The following extract from the Microsoft Virtualisation team blog tells you how you can manage these features.  The first requires a Windows 2008 box so there is a licence cost,  the second requires SCVMM which will obviously cost you money.  The third option however is free,  as long as you have Windows 7.

Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Live Migration and High Availability can be managed in a few different ways:

  1. Failover Cluster/Hyper-V Manager from a Windows Server 2008 R2 Server OR,
  2. System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 OR,
  3. Using the FREELY (there’s that word again) available Failover Cluster Manager/Hyper-V Manager for Windows 7.


So, as you can see, there are a few different options depending on your needs and option three gives you Live Migration and High Availability at zero cost.

Will this be serious competition for ESXi?  well I’d say in the home lab and SMB Sector it probably will.  VMware have come in for some criticism following the launch of their new vSphere product and licensing.  A lot of people feel SMB’s are not well covered for some of the more advanced features such as vMotion in the vSphere essentials offering.  Microsoft have probably picked up on this fact, after all they’re not daft.  They probably see this as the perfect oppurtunity to win some of that SMB market and get a stronger foothold in the virtualisation market, from there they can start up-selling SCOM and SCVMM.

Hyper-V, Microsoft, New Products ,

Bare Metal Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Beta

January 14th, 2009

You may have already read in numerous places about the release of the new Windows Server 2008 R2 beta.  Well on a quieter note a week after that release, Microsoft have now released the R2 version of their bare metal Hyper-V server.  Now as you probably already know,  Hyper-V Server 2008 is free and is comparable to VMware’s free hypervisor ESXi (well in that it’s free)

You can grab your copy by clicking the following link Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Beta and there is an accompanying overview document which you can also download.

Now the good news is that Hyper-V server 2008 R2 matches the features of the Enterprise edition of Windows Server 2008.  This means support for 8 CPU sockets (32 core count with quad core) and 1TB of memory, it also supports clustering and both quick and live migration features.  Thanks to the guys at for the information in the following table which demonstrates perfectly, the feature synergy between the bare metal and the full fat windows offerings.

Capabilities Hyper-V Server 2008 Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V
Number of Sockets Up to 4 Up to 8 Up to 8 (EE) / Up to 64 (DE)
Number of Cores Up to 24 Up to 32 Up to 32
Maximum Memory Up to 32GB Up to 1TB Up to 1TB
VM Migration None Quick and Live Migration Quick and Live Migration
Number of VMs Up to 192 Up to 256 Up to 256
SCVMM supported 2008 2008 SP1 2008 SP1

You will note that SVCMM 2008 SP1 is being mentioned in this table. The overview document details the fact that at present Hyper-V server 2008 cannot be managed using the SCVMM as it is not supported.  Microsoft are however working on update, likely to be called SCVMM 2008 SP1 to allow for management of Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 using the virtual machine manager.

Hyper-V, Microsoft, New Products

Free Hyper-V training and exam discount

December 20th, 2008

Mark Wilson over at has posted a great post on free Microsoft virtualisation training and a discount for the exam.

Go to the following page on the eLearning website and enter the code 9350-Y2W6-3676. This will give you access to 10 hours of free training worth approximately £100. 

I used this as part of my studying for the 70-652 exam,  what I didn’t get though was a discount when i booked the exam.  When booking the 70-652 exam you can use the promotional code USHYPERV to recieve a discount (apologies I don’t know what the discount percentage rate actually is)

See my previous post on 70-652 study tips,  which will give you some other pointers and resources to look at when studying for the exam. 

  • Course 6320: Introducing the Hyper-V technology.
  • Course 6321: Configuring a virtual environment.
  • Course 6322: Deploying systems in a virtual environment.
  • Course 6323: Optimising a virtual environment.
  • Course 6324: Managing a virtual environment by using SCVMM.

    Certifications, Hyper-V, Microsoft ,

    Hyper-V vs ESXi installation video

    October 10th, 2008

    I came across the following video a few days ago when I was looking at some Hyper-V content. It’s a video by VMware and It shows a side by side install of the new Hyper-V role in Windows Server 2008 and ESX 3.5i.  Now the idea here is to show how long it takes to install both, it should be noted though that this video was done before the release of the bare metal Hyper-V server 2008. Having installed both I’d have to say that the ESX 3.5i install was still by far the easiest and quickest to complete.  Though Hyper-V Server 2008 (bare metal version) is a lot quicker than the windows representation in the video it is still fiddly and involved amending / shutting down the windows firewall from the command line Urrrghhh!!!

    ESX3i Vs Hyper-V Installation – Battle of the Hypervisors

    ESXi, Hyper-V, Microsoft, VMware , , ,

    Hyper-V MMC for Windows Vista

    October 9th, 2008

    I booked myself the MCTS exam 70-652 for Windows 2008 virtualisation configuration and have been looking around for some decent training material.  There’s some good stuff on Microsoft’s website which is free and can be found here. Some other e-learning that’s not to expensive but nothing beats actually using the software and playing with it to understand what’s going on.

    So I built myself a Windows Hyper-V Server (The bare metal version) and then went looking for the Management Console add-in.  Now you think it would be quite easy to find,  I followed the link in the getting started guide for it and it lead me back to downloading Hyper-V Server.  After about 10 minutes of searching and a number of broken links from various Microsoft blogs I eventually found what I was looking for.  You can download it from the link below,  I hope that saved someone else 10 minutes of their life.

    Hyper-V, Microsoft , , ,

    Microsoft Bare Metal Hyper-V Server released

    October 2nd, 2008

    Microsoft have announced the release of their free bare metal hypervisor called “Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008″.  I thought they might have marketed it with a different name as I can see some confusion arising there.

    On first look at the features table it looks a little limited but to be honest it’s no more so than ESX 3i is on it’s own, Hoping to get a look at this sometime today at which point I should be in a better position to comment.

    It’s available for download at the following location 

    To compliment the flurry of release activity at  Microsoft they have announced their virtualisation exams which you can find out about at the following address.

    Hyper-V, Microsoft , , ,