Microsoft OEM Windows Server 2012 R2 Roadshow - Week 2 Q&A

Now that week two is complete, and week three of the roadshow has commenced, it's time to start posting more of the common questions that are being received. Most of this week's questions have been Hyper-V related, but Essentials is still getting some attention.

Would I use DirSync or Azure Active Directory synchronisation in an Essentials environment?

It depends. If they add specific features and/or capabilities that you require, then yes, you should definitely use them. However, if all you really want is the username and password synchronisation, as well as the easier method of matching cloud to on-prem users as well as issuing licenses to users, I would stick with Essentials dashboard.

Do I need to do an in place upgrade on Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials to upgrade it to Standard?

No, you only need to run the DISM utility to convert it to a higher edition, including Standard or Datacenter. You will need to supply the new edition product key as well, and after the needed files are installed, the server will need a restart before the changes are implemented.

What are some of the hardware selection decisions I should be taking into account when buying servers with Hyper-V?

The obvious ones include things like the amount of memory the server supports, which shouldn't be too close to the amount of memory required by the VMs, but should still provide some room for growth. You should also be looking at what virtualisation acceleration capabilities the CPU and the network adapters provide.

Why would I have two Hyper-V servers plus a shared storage device instead of just having two Hyper-V servers?

Perhaps the main reason is to allow high speed Live Migrations, but having the external storage also means you can set up a cluster for workloads that support clustering and failover technologies. It also means you can invest in building out better storage capabilities for both servers to leverage, rather than having to replicate it across both servers. With Hyper-V now supporting SMB 3.0 file shares for VHD storage, you really should take a look at what Storage Spaces can provide in these scenarios.

Should I run Storage Spaces directly on my Hyper-V server?

No, you probably shouldn't. Even though this may be something that I am demonstrating during the events, I'm working with only two servers, and hence not able to implement the three server scenario in the above scenario. The reasons for this are really twofold. The first is that your Hyper-V servers should run Hyper-V, and not additional workloads. The second is that in order to perform striping, calculate parity, and perform data-deduplication duties, Storage Spaces is going to be using the same CPU resources that the virtual machines are using. With the throughput potential of the SSDs in a Tiered Storage scenario you could end up with some unexpected CPU demand, potentially when the VMs need them most.

If you don't suggest Storage Spaces directly on the Hyper-V server what do you recommend?

Work with your server supplier on their preferred and supported RAID controllers if you need to implement something more advanced than what the server provides natively.