When software attacks!

Thoughts and musings on anything that comes to mind

Generation 2 Virtual Machines on Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2 plus other nice new features

DDD North 2013 was a fantastic community conference but sadly I didn’t get chance to deliver my grok talk on Generation 2 virtual machines. A few people came up to me beforehand to say they were interested in the topic, and a few more spoke to me afterwards to ask if I would blog. I had planned to write a post anyway, but when you know it’s something people want to read you get a bit more of a push.

This post will cover two areas of Hyper-V in Windows 8.1 and Server 2012: Generation 2 virtual machines which are completely new and a number of changes that should apply to all VMs, be they gen 1 or gen 2. What I not going to cover, as it’s a post all of it’s own, is the new and improved software-defined-networking in hyper-v.

Generation Next

As you can see in the screenshot below, when creating a virtual machine in the Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 you are asked which generation of VM you want. The screen gives a brief and reasonable summary of what the differences are… to a point.

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Generation 1 virtual machines are a mix of synthetic and emulated hardware. This goes all the way back to previous virtualisation solutions where the virtual machine was usually a software emulation of the good old faithful Intel 440BX motherboard.

  • The emulated hardware delivered a high level of compatibility across a range of operating systems. Old versions of DOS, Windows NT, Netware etc would all fairly happily boot and run on the 440BX hardware. You didn’t get all the cleverness of a guest that knew it was inside a VM but it worked.
  • PXE (network) boot was not possible on the implementation of the synthetic network adapter in Hyper-V. That meant that you had to use the emulated NIC if you wanted to do this.
  • Virtual hard disks could be added to the virtual SCSI adapter whilst the machine was running, but not the IDE adapter. You couldn’t boot from a SCSI device, however, so many machines had to have drives on both devices.
  • Emulated keyboard controllers and other system devices were also implemented for compatibility.

Generation 2 virtual machines get rid of all that legacy, emulated hardware. From what I’ve read and heard, all the devices in a generation 2 VM are synthetic, software generated. This makes the VM leaner and more efficient in how it uses resources, and potentially faster as gen 2 VMs are much closer to the kind of hardware found in a modern PC.

There are three key changes in Gen as far as most users are concerned:

  • SCSI disks are not bootable. There is no IDE channel at all; all drives (VHD or virtual optical drive) are now on the SCSI channel. This is far simpler than before.
  • Synthetic network adapters support PXE boot. Gone is the old legacy network adapter.
  • The system uses UEFI rather than BIOS. That means you can implement secure boot on a VM. Whilst this might sound unnecessary it could be of great interest to organisations where security is key.

The drawback of gen 2 is that, right now, only Windows 8, Server 2012 and their respective new updated versions can be run as a guest in a gen 2 VM. I’m not sure that this will change in terms of Microsoft operating systems, but I do expect a number of Linux systems to be able to join the club eventually. I have done a good deal of experimentation here, with a large range of Linux distributions. Pretty much across the board I could get the installation media to boot but install failed because the hardware was unknown. What this means is that when Microsoft release new versions of the hyper-v kernel additions for Linux we should see support expand in this regard.

The screenshot below shows the new hardware configuration screen for a generation 2 virtual machine. Note the much shorted list of devices in the left hand column:

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Useful changes across generations

There have been some other changes that, in theory, span generations. More on that in a bit.

Drives

When Server 2012/Windows 8 arrived, Microsoft added bandwidth management for VMs. That useful for IT pros who want to manage what resources servers can consume but it’s also jolly handy for developers who would like to try low bandwidth connections during testing. We can’t do anything about latency with this approach, but it’s nice to be able to dial a connection down to 1Mb to see what the impact is.

Server 2012 R2/Windows 8.1 add a similar option for the virtual hard drive. We can now specify QoS for the virtual hard disks, in IoPs. The system allows you to set a minimum and maximum. It’s important to remember here that this does depend on the physical tin beneath your VM. I run two SSDs in my laptops now, but before that my VMs ran on a 5400rpm drive. Trying to set a high value for minimum IoPs wouldn’t get me very far here. What is more useful, however, is being able to set the maximum value so we can start to simulate slow drives for testing.

As with network bandwidth management, I think this is also a great feature for IT pros who need to manage contention between VMs and focus resource on key machines.

The screenshot below shows the disk options screen with QoS and more.

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Also new is the ability to resize a VHD that is attached to a running machine. This is only possible with disks attached to SCSI channels, so gen 2 VMs may get more benefit here. Additionally, VHDs can now be shared between VMS. Again, this is SCSI only but this is a really useful change because it means we can build clusters with shared storage hosted on VHDs rather than direct attached iSCSI or fibrechannel. The end result is to make more options available to the little guys who don’t have the resources for expensive tin. It’s also great for building test environments that need to mirror those of a customer – we do that all the time and it’s going to give us lots of options.

Networks

I already said that I’m not going to dive into the new software-defined-networking here. If terms like NVGRE get you excited then there are people with more knowledge of comms than I have writing on the subject. Suffice to say it looks really useful for IT pros but not really for developers, I don’t think.

Also not much use for developers but incredibly useful for developers is the new Protected Network functionality. The concept of this is really simple and so, so useful:

Imagine you have a two node cluster. Each node has a network connection for VMs, not shared by the host OS, and one for the OS itself that the cluster uses. Node 1 suddenly loses connectivity on the VM connection. What happens? Absolutely nothing with Server 2012 because the VMs are still running and nothing knows that the VMs no longer have connectivity. With Server 2012 R2/Windows 8.1 you can enable protect network for the virtual adapter. Now, the systems are checking connectivity to the VM and in our scenario all the VMs on node 1 will fail merrily over to node 2, which still has a connection.

I know we will find this new feature useful on our clustered, production VM hosts. Again, this really helps smaller organisations get better resilience from simpler hardware solutions.

The screenshot below shows the advanced options for a network adapter with network protection enabled.

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Enhanced session mode

I said that, in theory, many of the new changes are pan-generation (and pan-guest OS). According to the documentation, enhanced session mode should work on more than just Windows 8.1 or Server 2012 FR2 guest operating systems. In practice, I have not found this to be the case, even after updating the VM additions on my machines to the latest version.

It is useful, however. When you enable enhanced session mode then, providing you have enabled remote desktop on the guest, this will be used to connect to the VM. Even if the guest has no network connection to the host OS, or even a network adapter!).

The screenshot below shows the option for enhanced session mode. This is enabled by default in Windows 8.1 and disabled by default in Server 2012 R2.

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When you have the option enabled you will see a new button on the right of the toolbar, as shown in the image below.

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That little PC with a plus symbol toggles the VM connection between old-style and the new, RDP-based connection. The end result is that you get more screen resolution choices, you can copy and paste properly between your host and the VM (no more paste keystrokes and you can copy files and documents!) and all the USB device pass-through from the host works too.

For developers working inside a VM this is is great – no more needing network connections to be able to RDP into a box. That means that you can run sensitive VMs, or multiple copies of a VM on multiple machines much more easily than before. If you enable the new connection mode on a VM, and restart it, when the VM begins to boot it connects in the old way, but as soon as it detects the RDP service on the guest you get a dialog asking you for the new resolution and it swtiches to the RDP style connection. It’s great.

I’m hoping that there will either be updates for older Microsoft OS versions, or updated VM additions that will give a consistent result that I have no so far experienced. In theory, updates to the Linux kernel additions could also add this new connection type, but again, so far my experience is that it doesn’t work right now.

Summary

To sum up then:

  • Generation 2 VMs – leaner, meaner and simpler all round but limited to the latest Microsoft desktop and server OS’. I can’t see a reason not to use them for the latest OS version.
  • Disk QoS – should be really useful for dev/test when you need to simulate a slow drive. Great for IT pros to manage environments with a mix of critical and non-critical VMs.
  • Online VHD resizing. There are so many times I’ve needed this on dev/test in the last few months alone. Shame it’s SCSI only so you can’t grow the OS disk on a gen 1 VM but you can’t have everything.
  • Shared VHD. Another useful new option that will help building dev/test environments and will also be useful for smaller organisations who want to build things like virtualised clustered file servers using a cluster shared volume (CSV).
  • Network protection. Great for IT pros running host clusters. Can’t see a use for devs.
  • Enhanced session mode. Useful all round, especially for devs who want to easily work on a VM. Useful for IT pros who need to copy stuff on to running VMs, but so far my experience is mixed as it only works on Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 guests.

Windows 8.1 is already on MSDN and TechNet so if you’re a dev or IT Pro with the right subscriptions, why aren’t you trying this stuff already? For everybody else, the 18th of this month sees general availability and I expect evaluation media will be available for you to play with.

Fixing Lab Manager environments with brute force

As you’ve probably seen, our Lab Manager/SCVMM 2008 R2 upgrade to SCVMM 2012 SP1 was not the smoothest in the world. The end result was a clean lab manager and SCVMM install, but a raft of virtual machines that had previously been part of environments.

In tidying up, Richard and I learned a few things about picking apart VMs that were once part of an environment such that a new environment could be built form the wreckage.

There are two approaches to getting what you need: Firstly, you could simply compose the existing virtual machines into a new environment without storing in, and deploying from SCVMM. Secondly, you could pull the VMs back into SCVMM such that you could build a new environment.

Don’t forget to fix the networks

If you want to use the running VMs you will need to make sure that you have recreated any private network generated by Lab Manager. These are all helpfully listed in the XML configuration file of the VMs. They are normally named Lab_<GUID>_NI so are easy to find in the file. On the hyper-v host, using hyper-v manager you will need to create a new private virtual network with the name you just found. You should then attach the synthetic network adapter of your VMs (not the legacy network adapter) to this private network. If you have a DC, and you told Lab Manager it was a DC, then you are likely to need to hook its legacy adapter to the private network as well.

Scenario 1: Pull existing machines into an environment

The big problem you are likely to find here is that whilst you have imported the VMs onto your hyper-v server and SCVMM can see the machines just fine, Lab Manager refuses to show them to you.

The reason for this is that Lab Manager believes the VMs are currently part of an environment, just not one it currently has. It therefore hides the VMs from you. It turns out that this is pretty straightforward to fix. In the notes field of the running VM settings you will see a block of XML. That is read by Lab Manager to identify the VMs in environments. Simply delete that xml and the machine will now show up in Lab Manager as being available to compose into an enviroment.

Scenario 2: Get the VMs back into SCVMM to build a new environment and deploy it.

This is a trickier situation and one which needs to follow the steps I talked about in my previous post about building VMs for Lab Manager.

The problem here is not just the XML, but that Lab Manager has probably mangled the hardware settings of the VM as well. You will need to tidy each VM before storing it in SCVMM ready for Lab Manager:

  • Remove the XML from the notes field.
  • Remove the legacy network adapter.
  • Configure the network adapter within windows to use an IP address and DNS handed to it from DHCP.
  • Delete any snapshots.
  • Make sure you cleanly shut down the VM – don’t save it!

If you follow those steps you can store the VMs back into SCVMM then build a new environment from the stored VMs. If this still gives you trouble then you should export the VMs from hyper-v, reimport them as a copy to get a new unique ID and then push those into SCVMM.

So far this has worked just fine for us with Richard working his magic in Lab Manager whilst I fix up VMs in hyper-v and SCVMM.

Things to remember when building virtual machines for a lab manager environment

As you will have read on both mine and Richard’s blogs, we have recently upgraded our Lab environment and it wasn’t the smoothest of processes.

However, as always it has been a learning experience and this post is all about building VM environments that can be sucked into Lab and turned into a Lab environment that can be pushed out multiple times.

Note:  This article is all about virtual machines running on Windows Server 2012 that may have been built on Windows 8 and are managed by SCVMM 2012 SP1 and Lab Manager/TFS 2012 CU1. Whilst the things I have found in terms of prepping VMs for Lab Manager are likely to be common to older versions, your mileage may vary.

Approaches to building environments

There are a number of approaches to building multi-machine environments that developers can effectively self-serve as required:

  • The ALM Rangers have a VM Factory project on Codeplex which aims to deliver scripted build-from-scratch on demand.
  • SCVMM has templates for machines that are part-built and stored after running sysprep. Orchestrator can then be used to deploy templates and run scripts to wire them together.
  • Lab Manager allows you to take running VMs and group them together into an environment. It stores all the VMs in SCVMM and when requested, generates new VMs by copying the ones from the library.

Trouble at ‘mill

There are also a number of problems in this space that must balance the needs of IT pros with the needs of developers:

  • Developers are an impatient bunch. They will request the environment at the last minute and need it deployed as quickly as possible. This doesn’t necessarily work well with complete bare-metal scripted approaches.
  • Developers would also prefer some consistency – if they have to remember one set of credentials it’s probably too much. Use different accounts and passwords and machine names for all your environments and it can get trick.
  • Developers love to use the Lab Manager and Test Manager tooling. This delivers great integration with the Team Project in Team Foundation Server.
  • IT Pros need to deal with issues caused by multiple machines with the same identities sharing a network. This is especially true of domain controllers.
  • IT pros would like to keep the number of snapshots (SCVMM checkpoints) to a minimum, especially when memory images are in play as well.
  • IT pros would prefer the environments used by the developers to match the way things are installed in the real world. This is less critical for the actual development environment but really important when it comes to testing. This tends to lead to requirements for additional DNS entries and multiple user accounts. This is especially true if you are building SharePoint farms properly.

How IT pros would do it…

Let’s use one of our environments as an example. We have a four server set:

  1. The Domain Controller is acting as DNS and also runs SQL Server. It doesn’t have to do the latter, but we were trying to avoid an additional machine. Reporting services and analysis services are installed and reporting services is listening on a host header with a DNS CNAME entry for it.
  2. An IIS server allows for deployment of custom web apps.
  3. A CRM 2011 server is using the SQL instance on the DC for its database and reporting services functions. The CRM system itself is published on another host header.
  4. A SharePoint 2010 server is using the SQL instance as well. It has separate web applications for intranet and mysites and each is published on a separate host header.

If we were building this without lab manager then we would give the machines two NICs. One would be on our network and the other on a private network. On the DC we unbind the nasty windows protocols from our network. Remote desktop is enabled on all machines for the devs to access it.

Lab Manager complicates matters however. It is clever enough to understand that we might need to keep DC traffic away from our network and has a mechanism to deliver this, called Network Isolation. How it actually goes about that is somewhat problematic, however.

Basically, Lab Manager wants to control all the networking in the new environment. To do that it adds new network adapters to the VMs and it uses those new adapters to connect to the main network. It expects a single adapter to be in the original VM, which it connects to a new private network that it creates.

Did I mention that IT pros hate GUIDs? Lab Manager loves them. Whilst I can appreciate that it’s the best way to generate unique names for networks and VMs it’s a complete pain to manage.

Anyway, it’s really, really easy to confuse Lab Manager. Sadly, if the IT pro builds what they consider to be a sensible rig, that will confuse Lab Manager right away. The answer is that we need to build our environment the right way and then trim it in readiness for the Lab Manager bit.

Building carefully

I would build my environment on my Windows 8 box. I create a private network and use that as a backbone for the environment. I assign fixed IP addresses to each server on that network. Each server uses the DC as its DNS. That way I can ensure everything works during build. I also add a second NIC to each box that is connected to my main network. I carefully set the protocols that are bound to that NIC. Both of those network adapters are what lab manager calls ‘synthetic’ – they are the native virtualised adapter hyper-v uses, not the emulated legacy adapter.

I carefully make sure that all host header-required DNS entries are created as CNAMEs that point to the host record for the server I need. This is important because all the IP addresses will change when Lab Manager takes over.

I may make snapshots as I build so I can move back in time if something goes wrong.

When built, I will probably store my working rig so I can come back to it later. I will then change the rig, effectively breaking it, in order to work with Lab Manager.

The Lab Manager readiness checklist

  • Lab Manager will fail if there is more than a single network adapter. It must be a synthetic adapter, not a legacy one. The adapter should be set to use DHCP for all its configuration – address and DNS.
  • Install, but do not configure the Visual Studio Test Agent before you shut the machines down. We’ve seen Lab fail to install this many times, but if it’s already there it normally configures it just fine.
  • Delete all the snapshots for the virtual machine. Whilst Lab Manager can cope with snapshots, both it and SCVMM get confused when machines are imported with different configurations in the snapshots from the final configuration. It will stop Lab Manager in its tracks.
  • Make sure there is nothing in the notes field of the VM settings. Both Lab Manager and SCVMM shove crap in there to track the VM. If anybody from either team is listening, this is really annoying and gets in the way of putting notes about the rigs in there. Lab Manager shoves XML in there to describe the environment.
  • Make sure there are no saved states. Your machines need to be shut down properly when you finish, before importing into SCVMM. The machines need to boot clean or they will get very confused and Lab Manager may struggle to make the hardware changes.
  • Make sure you export the machines – don’t just copy the folder structure, even though its much easier to do.

Next, get it into SCVMM

There is a good reason to export the VMs. It turns out that SCVMM latches on to the unique identifier of the VM (logical, if you think about it). The snag with this is that you can end up with VMs ‘hiding’. If I copy my set of four VMs to an SCVMM library share I can’t have a copy running as well. Unless you do everything through SCVMM (and for many, many reasons I’m just not going to!) you can end up with confusion. This gets really irritating when you have multiple library shares because if you have copies of a VM in more than one library, one will not appear in the lists in SCVMM. There are good reasons why I might want to store those multiple copies.

Back to the plot. SCVMM won’t let us import a VM. We can construct a new one from a VHD but I have yet to find a way to import a VM (why on earth not? If I’ve missed something please tell me!). So, we need to import our VMs onto a server managed by SCVMM. We have a small box for just this purpose – it’s not managed by Lab Manager but is managed by our SCVMM so I can pull machines from it into the library.

Import the VMs onto your host using Hyper-V manager. Make sure you create sensible folder structures and names for them all. Once they are imported make sure you close hyper-v manager. I have seen SCVMM fail to delete VM folders correctly because hyper-v manager seems to have the VHD open for some reason.

In SCVMM, refresh the host you’ve just imported the VMs to. You should see them in the VM list. I tend to refresh the VMs too, but that’s just me. Start the VMs and let SCVMM get all the information from them like host name etc. I usually leave them for a few minutes, then shut them down cleanly from the SCVMM console.

Now we know SCVMM is happy with them, we can store the VMs in the SCVMM library that Lab Manager uses. You should see them wink out existence on the VM host once the store is complete.

Create the Lab environment

At this point the IT guys can hand over to the people managing labs. In our case that’s Richard. He can now compose a new environment within Lab Manager and pull the VMs I have just stored into his lab. He tells the lab that it needs to run with network isolation and identifies the DC.

What Lab Manager will then do is deploy a new VM through SCVMM using the ones I built as a source. It will then modify the hardware configuration of the VMs, adding a legacy network adapter. It also configures the MAC address of the existing synthetic adapter to be static.

A new private virtual network is created on the target VM host. It’s really hard to manage these through SCVMM so if Lab ever leaves them hanging around I delete them using hyper-v manager. The synthetic adapters in the VMs are connected to the private network while the legacy adapters are connected to the main network.

Exactly why they do it this way I’m not sure. Other than needing legacy adapters for PXE boot (which this isn’t doing) I can’t see why we’re using legacy adapters. I am assuming the visual studio team selected them for a good reason, probably around issuing commands to the VMs, but I don’t know why.

When the environment is started, Lab will assign static IP addresses to the NICs attached to the private network. All ours seem to be 192.168.23.x addresses. It will also set the DNS address to be that which has been assigned to the DC in the lab. The legacy adapters will be set to DHCP for all settings. The end result is a DC that is only connected to the private network and all other machines connected to both private and main networks.

Once the environment is up, Lab Manager should configure the test agent and you’re off. The new lab environment can then be stored in such a way as to allow multiple copies to be deployed as required by the devs.

Notes from the field on our SCVMM/Lab Manager environment upgrade

Richard has posted a group effort article on his blog about our System Center 2008 R2/Lab Manager upgrade to System Center 2012 SP1/Lab Manager. All did not go swimmingly…

I have more helpful notes that I am writing up myself and will post over the next few days around the steps to fix virtual machines that are part of an environment and tips on building complex multi-machine rigs for lab manager.

A Virtual Ice Cream Sandwich: Android 4 x86 in a Hyper-V VM

More and more of our projects include a stipulation from the client that any web sites must work on the tablet devices of senior management. Up until recently that was exclusively iPads, but we are now seeing more Android devices out there. I wanted to find a straightforward way for us to test on such devices, preferably without needing to build up a collection of expensive physical kit.

I read with interest Ben Armstrong’s post about running Android 2.2 (Froyo) in a VM using a build from the Android x86 project. I started my journey by replicating his steps, so I won’t document any of that here, other than to note that the generic x86 build you need is now a deprecated one, so I had to hunt a little to find what I needed.

Creating the VM was a doddle. However, once I’d got things up and running I hit a snag: The sites I needed to test were hosted on SharePoint and required authentication. The web browser on the Android 2.2 build steadfastly refused to present a logon dialog for any sites. I could rework my test sites with anonymous access or forms-authentication but that didn’t fill me with enthusiasm. I wondered, then, if a later Android version might be my salvation.

That in itself led to a long time spent digging around the corners of the internet: The Android x86 project has a number of Ice Cream Sandwich builds but all are targetted at various types of hardware device and whilst all had support for wifi, none had support for ethernet. Since I can’t present a wifi device within the Hyper-V VM I had to look elsewhere.

The build I finally used was one I found at tabletsx86.org – an Android 4 build with experimental ethernet support.

I ran through a number of installations as I edged my way through the different options each time I found that a choice I’d made prevented me from making some essential tweak. To save you all the effort, I’ve documented the steps here. Since I was a complete Android novice I’ve taken the approach of showing screenshots of every step for other novices like myself.

Step 1: Getting things installed

The Virtual Machine we need to create doesn’t have to be powerful. However, we are running an OS that is not Hyper-V aware, so we can’t just go with the defaults.

I created a machine with 512Mb of RAM and a single processor. I started with a 16Gb virtual disk as the hard drive but after a few passes I increased that to 32 to give me some headroom should I want to install apps later. The important step, however, is that you need to add a Legacy Network Adapter and remove the standard virtual adapter that Hyper-V will add.

hyper-v settings

Once you’ve got your VM built, insert the ISO for the Android 4 build into the DVD drive and boot the machine.

Select the option to install Android to the hard disk of the machine.

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On the next screen choose Create/Modify partitions

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In the partition editor, left and right cursor keys will move between the menu items; enter will select. Choose New to create a new partition.

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You want to create a new primary partition

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The utility defaults to the full size of the disk. Simply hit enter to confirm that.

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Now we have our partition we need to mark it as bootable.

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And finally we need to write the changes out to disk.

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Now we have our partition we can exit the utility to continue the installation.

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The installer will now show our new partition and allow us to select it as the target for the installation.

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We then need to choose what format to use for the installation. I used ext3. I did try NTFS once, thinking that I could easily transfer files onto the system, but when I attached the VHD windows failed to recognise the file system, so I went back to Ext3, figuring I’d simply transfer stuff over the network.

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Unsurprisingly, the installer asks for confirmation of the format.

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Then it shows progress as it formats.

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Next you need to install the Grub bootloader. Honestly, I’ve not tried without this, but I modify the bootloader options later so unless you want to plough your own furrow, install Grub.

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The default option at the next step is to install the system directory as read only. I discovered very quickly that some of the things I might need to fiddle with are in that system directory so I’ve chosen to make it writable.

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Now the installation occurs.

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Once the installation is complete you should choose to create a fake SD card. I learned the hard way that if you don’t, saving stuff in your Android web browser won’t work.

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Sadly the largest size we can create is 2Gb, which conveniently is the default.

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Once again we get a progress bar whilst the SD card image is created.

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Now we’re all done and we get the option to reboot. Note that you can’t eject the installation media yet – it’s locked, so you’ll have to reboot.

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When the VM reboots you’ll be back at the first screen, allowing to choose to install or run the live CD. Turn the VM off so you can eject the media.

At this point the installation is done. You have a shiny new Android VM running Ice Cream Sandwich.

Step 2: The Android wizard

This isn’t difficult at all, other then you need to remember that when you click on the VM to capture the mouse, it’s really emulating your finger. That means that you need to click and drag in drop down menus. I also discovered that the right mouse button seems to act as the hardware back button. Clicking the mouse is equivalent to tapping with your finger.

I set the language to UK English as my first step.

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Then the wizard will burble for a little while.

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I chose to automatically set the time. Think grey outlines of check boxes are hard to see when they are on a black background!

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The next step allows you to use your Google account to keep settings an stuff. I’m building a VM that will be generic and used by lots of people so I skip this one.

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I am happy to use location services though – we want to use this thing for testing, after all.

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Again, because this is a build for lots of users I’ve put the company in as the owner name. Note that even though we chose United Kingdom as the location, the keyboard setting is for a US keyboard.

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Next we get an obligatory screen where we agree to stuff…

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…and we’re done.

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The system helps you through how to use it. The import bits are the icons at the bottom. The upward pointing outline of an arrow in the middle brings you back to the home screen.

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A handy tip

This thing feels a lot like Linux to me. Conveniently, pressing alt+f1 will switch to a console screen. Alt+left arrow and alt+right arrow will switch between consoles and the graphical UI.

Inside the console you can use familiar tools like ping and nslookup. It’s not a full-fat linux box, mind you. The two commands I find myself using most in the console are reboot and halt. Odd that there’s no way to cleanly shutdown – no shutdown command or even an old school init 0!

A couple of minor hiccups

Having got my VM up and running and gone through the startup wizard in Android there were a few things not quite right. First of all the screen resolution was too low at only 800x600. Step forward my very rusty Linux experience and my much less rusty internet research expertise!

More worryingly, when I boot the machine it doesn’t always pick up the correct DNS settings.  Research showed that to be much more interesting. Strangely, things worked at home but not in the office. Research showed that it was to do with the DHCP responses being different on the two networks: The office network was not responding to the request for DHCP option 119 – domain suffix search order. Fixing that solved the problem (but that’s another can of worms and I’ll write up a separate post about that one!).

Step 3: Setting the screen resolution

This one turned out to be quite easy, although it involves using Vi, which is a text editor whose arcane commands I have very limited knowledge of.

The first thing we need to do is find information about what display modes are available. To do this we boot the VM and use the options available to modify the boot parameters. Be aware that when you boot the VM the Grub screen only shows for a few seconds before the first option is booted automatically. When you see the screen below, hit the ‘a’ key to easily append options to the boot command.

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When you hit ‘a’ you will be presented with the boot command to edit. Options on the command line are separated by spaces. Add a new one: vga=screen31

Hit the enter key and the OS will boot. You will see a black screen with a number of options on it. Hit enter again at this screen in order to view the display modes available to us.

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From the list of available modes, choose the one you want to use. The system is waiting for you to type in the three character hex code for the mode you wish to use. For 1024x768 at 32 bit, for example, enter 318

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Assuming all works correctly  you will see Android running in your chosen resolution. Sadly, it’s not permanent yet. I’ve also become paranoid enough that before I edit the bootloader options permanently I like to try what I’m going to do first.

Reboot the system and hit ‘a’ to append boot options. This time we want to specify the display option we want to use. Just to bend your head a little, the boot option needs the decimal equivalent of the hex value that the display modes screen showed us. For Our 1024x768x32, the hex was 318. The decimal is 792, so we append vga=792 to the boot options.

screen34

When Android boots, you should see it in 1024x768 once more:

screen35

Now we need to make the change permanent. To do that we need to edit the configuration file that the Grub bootloader uses.

To do that we need to reboot the system in debug mode.

Boot the system and use the cursor keys to select the second option on the boot menu.

screen36

The system will boot to a command shell:

screen37

Once you’re in the command prompt, typing clear will clear the screen and get rid of the boot messages. Then you need to enter the following commands:

cd /

mount –o remount,rw /mnt

cd /mnt/grub

vi menu.lst

What does that lot do? The part of the filesystem that stores the bootloader is attached as read-only. The mount command effectively detaches and reattaches that part of the filesystem so we can modify it. The files we want are in the grub folder within mnt. Finally, we open the text editor Vi to change the file.

Vi is a bit arcane, although extremely powerful. For help with the commands look at online tutorials, like the one hosted by Washington University.

Once we’re in the config file we are going to add the vga=792 option to the end of the default boot command. I’ll tell you what Vi commands I use to get the job done – note that they are not necessarily the best ones, they just work for me. I know about half a dozen Vi commands and they allow me to get by. If I want to do something clever I have to look it up!

screen38

In Vi, the cursor keys allow you to move around the file. Pressing escape tells Vi to listen for commands. Move down to the start of the first line of the first boot section (the first occurrence of ‘kernel’). Press Esc then ‘o’. That should give you a new line after kernel.

screen39

Now use the cursor keys to navigate to the end of that first ‘kernel…’ line and you should be able to type ‘ vga=792’

screen40

Now we want to get rid of that extra line. Move the cursor to the start of it and hit Esc then dd (escape then hit ‘d’ twice).

Finally we save the file. Esc+:wq is the command to write out the file and quit.

screen41

You should now find yourself back at the command prompt. Type reboot –f to reboot the system.

You should now find that by default your Android VM boots into your chosen resolution.

A quick side note

If you don’t have control over your own DHCP server you can use the following command to poke the dns into life:

setprop net.dns1 x.x.x.x where x.x.x.x is the IP address of your DNS. You can also add a second with net.dns2.

You can also give the VM more memory with no issues – mine now runs with 1024Mb. I’ve also added a second CPU core as an experiment which works but I’m not sure it’s any quicker.

IT Camp Leeds Roundup

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Yesterday was great fun and I was really pleased to see so many Black Marble event regulars at the IT Camp. It was great to hear so many requests for more events like it in Leeds. We’re all keen to run more, but we need people to attend and give us feedback in order to be able to do that.

I hope those of you who were there took away useful knowledge from the event. Andy and Simon were very keen that it should not be a day of PowerPoint and canned demos and we certainly delivered that. Did we have technical issues that meant we had to change plans on the fly? Sure! Certainly nobody we spoke to seemed to mind. All of us from Black Marble thought the concept for the day – one of interaction, audience participation and trying to build systems on the fly – should be fun and we thought it was.

I believe that the TechNet UK folks were tweeting and posting links to some of the things we talked about yesterday but I thought it would do no harm to round some of them up here.

  • When we were talking about configuring remote management of hyper-v servers I mentioned HVRemote. This is a script written by John Howard that has been really useful for Andy and myself in the past. John’s blog has lots of really useful information about hyper-v and management, although he’s not posted for a while now.
  • Also a great source of information on hyper-v and virtualisation is Ben Armstrong (VPC-Guy).
  • The Virtualisation Team Blog is a good place for product info, announcements and knowledge.
  • Richard Fennell posts regularly on Lab Manager, which builds on Hyper-V and SCVMM to deliver great things for your dev and test teams. I thought either he or Andy had blogged about how we got Lab Manager 2010 working with a hyper-v cluster but it appears not. We’ll see if we can get something written up in that space.
  • Core Configurator  (currently at version 2.0) was something that was shown as a handy tool to control some of the settings on your Hyper-V server.
  • The Microsoft iSCSI Target is a free download. The Virtualisation Team blogged on it’s release.
  • For those of you who played with the Surface, we have some videos on YouTube of the Retail, Concierge and O7 game that were filmed at NRF 2012.

I’m really looking forward to other camps. Andy and Simon want to keep the hands-on approach so you can look forward to playing with an installed SCVMM solution in the follow-up virtualisation camp, and the consumerisation of IT camp should be wild as we try to cover how IT pros can deal with the variety of devices that our staff (and our bosses) want to use!

As always, the page of details about the events is here!

Server Core, Hyper-V and VLANs: An Odyssey

A sensible plan

This is a torrid tale of frustration and annoyance, tempered by the fun of digging through system commands and registry entries to try and get things working.

We’ve been restructuring our network at Black Marble. The old single subnet was creaking and we were short of addresses so we decided to subnet with network subnets for physical, virtual internal and virtual development servers, desktops, wifi etc. We don’t have a huge amount of network equipment, and we needed to put virtual servers hosted on hyper-v on separate networks so we decided to use VLANs.

Our new infrastructure has one clever switch that can generate all the VLANs we need, link those VLANs to IP subnets and provide all the routing between them. By doing it this way we can present any subnet to any port on any switch with careful configuration and use of the 802.1Q VLAN standard. Hyper-V servers can have a single physical interface with traffic from multiple VLANs flowing across it to the virtual switch, with individual VMs assigned to specific VLANs.

We did the heavy lifting of the network move without touching our Hyper-V cluster, placing all the NICs of all the servers on the VLAN corresponding to our old IP subnet. We then tested VLANs over the virtual switch in Hyper-V using a separate server and made sure we knew how to configure the switch and Hyper-V to make it all work.

Then we came to the cluster. Running Windows 2008 R2 Server Core.

Since we built the cluster Andy and I have come to decide that if we ever rebuild it, server core will not be used. It’s just too darn hard to configure when you really need to, and this is one of those times.

A tricky situation

Before we began to muck around with the VLAN settings, we needed to change the default gateway that the servers used. The old default gateway was the address of our ISA (now a shiny TMG) server. That box is still there, but now we have the router at the heart of the network, whose address is the new default gateway.

To change the default gateway on server core we need a command line tool. Enter Netsh, stage left.

We first need to list the interfaces so we know what we’re doing. IPConfig will list the interfaces and their IP settings. Old lags will no doubt abbreviate the netsh commands that we need next but I’ll write them out in full so they make sense.

Give me a list of the physical network adapters and their connection status: netsh interface show interface

Show me the IPV4 interfaces: netsh interface ipv4 show interface

To change the default gateway we must issue a set command with all the IP settings – just entering the gateway will not work as all the current settings get wiped first:
netsh interface ipv4 set address name="<name>" source=static address=x.x.x.x mask=255.255.255.0 gateway=x.x.x.x
Where <name> is the name shown in the IPV4 interface list, which will match the one shown in the ipconfig output that you want to change the gateway for. We’re using a class C subnet structure – your network mask may vary.

It’s worth pointing out that we stopped the cluster service on the server whilst we did this (changing servers one by one so we kept our services runnning).

We had two interfaces to change. Once corresponded to the NIC used to manage the server and the other corresponded to the one used by the virtual switch for Hyper-V. That accounted for two of the four NICs on our Sun X2200-M2’s, with the SAN iSCSI network taking a third. The SAN used a Broadcom, the spare was the other Broadcom and the others used each of the two nVidia NICs on the Sun (that will become important shortly).

A sudden problem

Having sorted the IP networking our next step was to sort out the VLAN configuration. To do that we changed the switch port that the NIC hosting the hyper-V virtual switch was connected to from being an untagged member of only our server subnet VLAN to being a tagged member of that VLAN and a tagged member of the new VLAN corresponding to our subnet for virtual internal servers.

The next step was to set the VLAN id for a test VM (we could ignore the host as it doesn’t share the virtual switch – it has it’s own dedicated NIC).

The snag was, the checkbox to enable VLAN ids was disabled when we looking in Hyper-V manager, both for the virtual switch and for the NIC in the VM.

Some investigation and checking of our test server showed that the physical network driver had a setting, Priority and VLAN, that needed to be set to enable priority and VLAN tagging of traffic, and that the default state was priority only. On full server that’s a checkbox in the driver setting. On server core…?

So, first of all we tried to find the device itself. Sadly, the server decided that remove management of devices from another server wasn’t going to be allowed, despite reporting that it should be. So we searched for command line tools.

To query the machine so it lists visible hardware devices: sc query type= driver (note the space before 'driver')

That will give you a list, allowing you to find the network device name.

For our server, that came back with nvenetfd – the nVidia NIC.

To use that name and find the file responsible: sc qc <device name> (in our case nvenetfd )

That returned the nvm62x64.sys driver file. Nothing about settings, but it allowed us to check the driver versions. Hold that thought, I’ll come back to it shortly.

Meanwhile

We’d also been poking at the test server, looking at the NIC settings. Logic suggested that the settings should be in the registry – all we have to do was find them.

I’ll save you the hunt:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{4D36E972-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}

That key holds all the Network Adapters. There are keys beneath that are numbered (0000, 0001, etc). The contents of those keys enabled us to figure out which key matched which adapter. Looking at the test server and comparing it to the server- core hyper-v box we found a string value call *PriorityVlanTag which had a value of 3 on the test server (priority and vlan enabled) and 1 on the hyper-v box. We set the hyper-v box to 3. Nothing. No change. We rebooted. Still nothing.

Then we noticed that in the key for the NIC there was a subkey: \Ndi\params. In there was a key called *PriorityVlanTag. In that key were settings listing the options that were displayed in the GUI settings dialog, along with the value that got set. For the nVidia the value was 2, not 3. We duly changed the value and tried again. Nothing.

So we decided to update the drivers. This brings us back to where I left us earlier with the sc command.

To update a driver on server core, you need to unpack the driver files into a folder and then run the following:
pnputil –i –a <explicit path to driver inf file>

After failing to get any other drivers to install it looked like we had the latest version and the system was not letting go. So we did some more research on the internet (what did we ever do before the internet?).

It transpires, for those of you with Sun servers, that the nVidia cards appear not to support VLAN ids on traffic, despite having all the settings to suggest that they do.

Darn.

A way forward

Fortunately we have a spare broadcom on each of our hyper-v host servers. We are now switching the virtual switch binding from the nVidia to the broadcom on each of our servers. We didn’t even have to hack around with registry settings once we did that the VLAN id settings in Hyper-V simply sprang into life.

The moral of this story is that if you want to use VLAN id’s with Hyper-V and your server has nVidia network adapters (and certainly if it’s a Sun X2200-M2) then stop now before you lose your hair. You need to use another NIC, if you have one, or install one if you don’t. Hopefully, however, the command line tools and registry keys above will help other travellers who find themselves in a similar situation to ourselves.

Unable to remote control Hyper-V VM after installing SharePoint 2010 on Windows 7

True to form, you only discover something isn’t working when you’re in a desperate hurry. We use lots of Hyper-V VMs here at Black Marble and they are mostly running on our four node cluster. I use Failover Cluster Manager and this morning I couldn’t connect remotely to any of the Hyper-V VMs. I kept getting an error:

Virtual Machine Connection:
A connection will not be made because credentials may not be sent to the remote computer. For assistance, contact your system administrator.
Would you like to try connecting again?

A quick search suggested that the credssp settings on the host servers were broken. A quick test showed that they weren’t – the problem was local to my machine.

The only thing I had changed recently (try yesterday!) was to install SharePoint 2010 on my workstation. OK, I’ll be fair – that means a whole load of pre-requisites, so it’s not that simple!

I decided to check my machine and look at the settings which had been suggested as being wrong on the hyper-v servers. Sure enough, my workstation now had the credssp elements and sure enough, they didn’t match the example I’d found.

So if you get the same problem, copy the text below into a .reg file and import it into your registry. It should fix the problem.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\Credssp\PolicyDefaults]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\Credssp\PolicyDefaults\AllowDefaultCredentials]
"Hyper-V"="Microsoft Virtual Console Service/*"
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\Credssp\PolicyDefaults\AllowDefaultCredentialsDomain]
"Hyper-V"="Microsoft Virtual Console Service/*"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\Credssp\PolicyDefaults\AllowFreshCredentials]
"Hyper-V"="Microsoft Virtual Console Service/*"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\Credssp\PolicyDefaults\AllowFreshCredentialsDomain]
"Hyper-V"="Microsoft Virtual Console Service/*"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\Credssp\PolicyDefaults\AllowFreshCredentialsWhenNTLMOnly]
"Hyper-V"="Microsoft Virtual Console Service/*"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\Credssp\PolicyDefaults\AllowFreshCredentialsWhenNTLMOnlyDomain]
"Hyper-V"="Microsoft Virtual Console Service/*"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\Credssp\PolicyDefaults\AllowSavedCredentials]
"Hyper-V"="Microsoft Virtual Console Service/*"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\Credssp\PolicyDefaults\AllowSavedCredentialsDomain]
"Hyper-V"="Microsoft Virtual Console Service/*"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\Credssp\PolicyDefaults\AllowSavedCredentialsWhenNTLMOnly]
"Hyper-V"="Microsoft Virtual Console Service/*"

Managing Remote Hyper-V Servers From Windows 7

I'm using the Mini9 quite a lot lately, at least in part to fiddle with Windows 7. I decided it would be nice to be able to access our Hyper-V servers so I went looking for the management tools...

It turns out that Windows 7 ships with the Hyper-V management snap-ins. No real surprise there as my understanding is that it also includes Hyper-V (although I've not managed to run it up on an x64 machine yet so I can't verify that - it certainly isn't available in x86). To get at them, you need to install the relevant bits of Windows through the 'Turn Windows Features on or off' UI:

Windows 7 Control Panel, Programs and Feature section

Make sure the third item down is checked:

Windows Features dialog

Once that's installed, you can find the Hyper-V Management Console in Administrative Tools via Control Panel.

But it doesn't work!

John Howard wrote a very useful series of posts about solving this issue with Vista and Server 2008. It turns out that there is one bit which is still relevant in Windows 7. Setting COM Security via dcomcnfg still needs to be done:

You need to run dcomcnfg as an administrator to do this. Once in, browse through Component Services, Computers to see 'My Computer'. Right-click and pull up Properties. In the COM Security tab you need to select Edit Limits in the Access Permissions section. Make sure that ANONYMUOS LOGON has Remote Access rights enabled.

image

Once that's done, the Hyper-V management console will happily connect to remote servers.

It's quite frustrating that the management tool installation does not do this, or if security is an issue, that there isn't a more user friendly way (like an option in the snapin to help) to set the rights correctly.

Netware 6.5 on Hyper-V

As part of a customer project I needed to create a Netware environment for testing. It's been a little while since I did any netware management and I quite enjoyed it. I did, however, encounter a couple of gotchas which I thought I'd write up for the greater good.

Netware OS

Installing the Netware OS was actually pretty straightforward. There are no integration services offered for Netware so from the outset I knew that I would need to use legacy hardware options in the virtual machine.

I created a nice big dynamic virtual hard disk for the server because I will need to install GroupWise and a whole bunch of other services later. I attached this to the virtual IDE controller, gave the machine a single processor core as anything more needs integration services, and (critically!) added a legacy network adapter. Netware isn't a huge memory hog, so I added 1Gb of RAM and off we went.

I hit a snag at the point where the server tried to identify network drivers - it couldn't find any, and I couldn't see any in the list to load manually which matched the emulated hardware.

The solution turned out to be really simple: as you step through the installation screens there is an option to allow unsupported drivers. By default that is set to no. If you change it to yes, the installation recognises the network adapter as an old DEC and loads a driver which works.

Apart from that, I have experienced no difficulties with the server whatsoever, other than I have to run the machine connection window full screen to be able to switch between console screens.

Windows Client

I will admit, this one drove me crazy for a while before my final epiphany. There is a Novell client for Windows Vista now available, but why build a Vista VPC when an XP one would need less horsepower?

I dutifully grabbed an old Virtual PC VHD of our XP base install and fired it up.

Problem number one: In order to install the integration services I need to first uninstall Virtual Server Additions. No sweat, thinks I, clicking the uninstall button. Nope - you get a nice message saying that setup can only run inside a virtual machine!
Slightly surreal, I must say. I had to fire up the machine under Virtual PC and remove the additions, then copy the VHD back on the hyper-v server and start the system so I could install the integration services.

Problem number two: Once I'd installed the Novell client I couldn't get it to see the Netware server. Nothing I did would work - I strapped down every setting I could on the client to point it at the Netware machine but it refused to connect, although I could ping between the two quite happily.
The solution, when I finally figured it out (and I must admit it was pure chance that I thought to try it) was to remove the shiny new virtual network adapter and replace it with a legacy adapter. As soon as I did that, the Novell client could communicate quite happily with the server!

The situation would appear to be that the Novell client stack can't communicate properly through the new virtualised driver provided by Hyper-V. Exactly why this should be, I have no idea, but it drove me wild for a good couple of hours today.