Virtual Machine Manager: Overview

This is start of a series of articles about System Center Virtual Machine Manager. VMM is Microsoft’s virtual machine management system. It can control Hyper-V, Citrix, and VMware ESX environments. This series will focus primarily on Hyper-V management.

VMM expands Hyper-V capabilities, and adds a bunch of features that makes it comparable to ESX. Some of the main features are templates, snapshot (or checkpoint) automation, advanced switching, and the ability to tie into storage arrays. It can also integrate with Configuration Manager 2012 R2, allowing for the deployment of task sequences directly to virtual disks, making the system more flexible. Also, as with the rest of the System Center suite, there is extensive integration with System Center Orchestrator, which provides integration with other System Center products.

Planning for and Installing VMM

You don’t need much to run VMM itself. For specific requirements, see this TechNet article: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg610562.aspx. It needs a Microsoft SQL database, which can be installed on the same server as the Management Server, or on a central database server. You will need the Windows 8.1 ADK installed on the server before installing VMM. You need the “Deployment Tools” and “Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE)” features of the ADK. VMM can be installed in VM.

The rest of the requirements are on your hosts. They need to be beefy enough to run VMs. If you are using Hyper-V, I would definitely recommend the Hyper-V edition of Server 2012 R2. This is a special edition of Server 2012 R2 that only includes the hypervisor. This is the only role that can be installed on this server, and it is managed similar to the Server Core OS.

If you aren’t using Hyper-V, then make sure you read up on integrating VMM with Citrix or VMware ESX. For detailed information on ESX, see this TechNet article: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg610683.aspx. For Citrix, see this article: https://blogs.citrix.com/2011/06/16/managing-xenserver-with-system-center-virtual-machine-manager-scvmm-2012/. One thing to remember is to make sure you have a service account that is both an administrator of VMM and an administrator in ESX or Citrix. This series is going focus primarily on Hyper-V, so I will not go into much detail about actually managing ESX or Citrix from VMM.

VMM comes with the ability to migrate ESX or Citrix VMs to the Hyper-V format. This may something to consider in your environment.

Console

When you open the console, there are 5 nodes that control the system. The “VMs and Services” node is where you find all of your hosts, services, storage, and networks. You can view and modify them from here. When a host is selected, you can view the VMs that are on that host and configure them. You can also connect to the VMs by using the console connection or RDP.

The Fabric node is where you can add new hosts, networks, and storage. You come here to add Hyper-V, Citrix, or ESX hosts to your environment. You can also deploy bare-metal operating systems to physical machines for VM hosting.

The Library node is where you can define templates for your VMs. It also defines profiles for certain types of servers, whether they be application servers, SQL servers, etc. These define pre-built settings for your VMs, such as how much memory and hard drive capacity is allocated to new VMs. It allows for administrators to have consistency across their environment.

The Jobs node contains a tab for running jobs and a history. Administrators can look at running jobs here, such as adding a new host or building a new VM, and check their progress. Administrators can also look at the history to see when something was done, and whether or not it was successful.

Finally, the Settings node contains permissions and provider information. You come here to set rights for other users, and tie in other System Center products to VMM.

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Add Hyper-V Host

To get started using VMM, we need to add a Hyper-V host. This is for hosts that are already in place and providing VM services. To do this, go to the Fabric tab. Select the “Servers” tab, then click “Add Resources” in the ribbon. Select “Hyper-V Hosts or Clusters” from the drop-down. Keep “Windows Server computers in a trusted Active Directory domain” selected, and click Next.

Now we need an account that is an administrator of the Hyper-V host. The best practice here is to create a service account in AD and assign it as an administrator in VMM, and make it an administrator of all of your Hyper-V hosts. Click “Browse” and then “Create Run As Account”. Add the information for your account here. You will only have to do this once. Add this account, and then select it.

On the next page of the wizard, type in the computer name or IP address of your Hyper-V host. You can add multiple hosts at one time. Click Next, and the system queries AD for the computers you typed in. Select them, and click Next again. On the Summary page, execute the process. This will install the VMM agent on the machine and add it to your console.

Once the process completes, the host will show up under “All Hosts” in the “VMs and Services” node. Select it, and you will see the current VM’s running on that host and their relevant settings.

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I hope this introduces you to VMM. There will be more articles to follow on some of features of VMM.

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