Virtualization and Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials

Hi, this is Yang and Mike, PMs from the Windows Server Essentials team. In this blog, we would like to share some of our thoughts about virtualizing Windows Server Essentials.

Today, more and more businesses have begun to virtualize their IT infrastructure. While there are a lot of articles talking about the benefits of virtualization, we would like to highlight a few in the context of small to mid-size business (SMB) IT:

  • Consolidation of your workloads. Most of us started our IT infrastructure with workloads on physical servers. Over time, we added more and more servers for different workloads, which have become difficult to maintain. One obvious benefit of virtualization is to consolidate workloads onto fewer more powerful servers. By taking advantage of virtualization, when you want to deploy new workloads, you can add a virtual server that runs on your existing hardware.
  • Cost-effective business continuity and disaster recovery solutions. One of the top questions that IT administrators are asked is how they plan for unexpected downtime. Virtualization has certainly expanded the options available in this area. Depending on your business requirements, you can use Hyper-V server clusters to configure failover for your critical workloads, and you can use Hyper-V Replica to have standby instances of your virtual servers in case of failure or disaster. These options are not possible if your workloads are deployed on physical servers.
  • Mobility. Many SMB IT admins recognize the value of applications and services running in the public cloud, but are unsure of how these would work together with their traditional IT environments. Virtualization is the first step to help you prepare to leverage public cloud hosting and other services where it makes sense for your business needs. With virtualization, individual virtual machines (VMs) and the workloads that run on them can easily be moved to the cloud so that you can evaluate and start to take advantage of the flexibility and scalability that virtualization offers.

Windows Server Essentials enjoys all the same capabilities and benefits of virtualization as the Standard and Datacenter editions of Windows Server. In addition, there are some capabilities that are specific to Windows Server Essentials:

  • Select OEMs offer Windows Server Essentials together with their hardware solutions, which enable partners and customers to easily deploy Essentials as a Hyper-V host with Windows Server Essentials running as a guest VM using a single comprehensive wizard. For more information, see Jason’s blog post.
  • It is recommended that you back up your Essentials VM with Windows Server Backup on the Hyper-V host, which can back up all the VMs running on the same host. When you need to restore, you can restore the VM, or you can restore the virtual hard disk (VHD), and then mount the VHD and restore the individual file or folder. If you only want to back up important files or folders on the VM, you can use Windows Azure Backup. We’ll publish another post in the future to talk about these various options and their pros and cons.
  • When taking advantage of Storage Spaces in a virtualized environment, you can create your storage pools and virtual disks on the Hyper-V host, not on the guest VMs. To learn more about the best practices for Storage Spaces, see Storage Spaces Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
  • When running an Essentials VM in Windows Azure (either by migrating an existing on-premises Essentials VM to Azure or by creating a new virtual machine directly in Azure), note the following requirements:
    • You must have an existing virtual network and create the Essentials VM in the virtual network.
    • It is recommended that you have a VM size of Medium (2 cores, 3.5 GB memory) or larger.
    • Port 443 needs to be open for the Anywhere Access feature to work.
    • When running the Anywhere Access Wizard, you should select the “Skip router setup” check box, because there is no physical router in the Windows Azure environment.

Stay tuned for future posts with even more information about running an Essentials VM in Windows Azure!