An Introduction to Hyper-V: How It Can Help Build and Manage Your Virtual Environment

Over the years, virtualization technology has undergone considerable development, leading it to become an indispensable tool of modern businesses. Apart from the multiple benefits that this technology presents, virtualization has enabled users to explore new options and opportunities that would not be possible within a physical infrastructure. Microsoft, being one of the dominant players in the market, saw the potential of virtualization and thus introduced its own virtualization platform – Hyper-V. This blog post will try to answer the question “What is Hyper-V?” and serve as a short guide to Microsoft Hyper-V technology and explain how your business can benefit from it.

What Is Hyper-V?

If asked a simple question “What is Hyper-V?”, one should start with a definition. Hyper-V is a server hypervisor developed by Microsoft that provides virtualization services. Essentially, hypervisor is a computer software that allows the physical server (host machine) to manage multiple virtual servers (guest machines). Through virtualization, all virtual machines (VMs) share the hardware resources of the host machine. Each VM acts like a complete computer, running an operating system and applications. Hyper-V runs each VM in its own isolated space. Thus, you can build a virtual environment consisting of multiple operating systems, which can easily be created and operated by one physical computer.

There are two generic operational modes for the server edition of Hyper-V: Hyper-V Server and Windows Server with Hyper-V:

  • Hyper-V Server is a standalone product with direct access to the physical machine’s hardware.
  • Windows Server with Hyper-V. Windows Server 2008 (and later) enable the implementation of Hyper-V as a role. In this case, Hyper-V acts as the additional component to the Windows Server OS.

Main Components of Hyper-V

Hyper-V is a virtualization platform that has components that work interdependently to enable virtualization services. Hyper-V has a complex architecture that consists of Windows hypervisor, Hyper-V Virtual Machine Management Service, the virtualization Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) provider, the Virtual Machine Bus (VMbus), the Virtualization Service Provider (VSP) and Virtual Infrastructure Driver (VID). These components are responsible for managing virtual machines, controlling running operations, and ensuring that the systems do not fail. Moreover, tools such as Hyper-V Manager, Hyper-V module for Windows PowerShell, Virtual Machine Connection (VMConnect), and Windows PowerShell Direct can be installed on the host server to improve VM connectivity and enable management optimization.

Hyper-V Architecture

As mentioned above, Hyper-V has a very complex structure that combines multiple components. To better understand the Hyper-V architecture, let’s discuss how Hyper-V works, what the requirements and limitations for Hyper-V are, and see how Hyper-V can be installed.

How Hyper-V Works

Hyper-V is a type 1 hypervisor (also called native hypervisor), meaning that this software runs directly on the host’s hardware and manages guest operating systems. Hyper-V technology is based on the isolation of VMs into separate logical units (partitions). Partitions are essentially the isolated containers in which VMs are run. The hypervisor should include at least one parent (root) partition running Windows OS. The parent partition has the virtualization stack and can directly access hardware devices as well as memory. Moreover, the parent partition creates and manages the child partitions, in which guest VMs are run. Partitions present a virtual view of the operations running in the physical processor. If any issues occur in the physical processor, the hypervisor detects the problem and redirects it to the corresponding partition for further actions to be taken.

The parent partition hosts Virtualization Service Providers (VSPs), while child partitions host Virtualization Service Consumers (VSCs). The communication between the Hyper-V components is enabled by VMBus. Thus, VMBus functions as the communications channel for redirecting requests between the parent and child partitions.

Moreover, the latest versions of Windows Server (starting from Windows Server 2008) include OS enlightenments, which are intended to enhance the OS functions. Thus, VMBus is an essential part of the Windows Server Virtualization feature, known by the name Enlightened I/O. This feature allows you to use VMBus directly, without including any device-emulation layers. Basically, enlightened I/O is a virtualization-aware implementation of high-level communication protocols (such as SCSI) to ensure seamless communication between Hyper-V partitions.

Requirements for Hyper-V

To ensure that your Hyper-V-based virtual environment will function as planned, make sure that your physical server complies with the following requirements:

  • Windows Server 2008 (or later for server OS).
  • Windows 8 (or later for client OS).
  • 4 GHz 64-bit processor with Second Level Address Translation. SLAT is specifically designed to decrease the overhead on the hypervisor.
  • A minimum of 4 GB of RAM, not including the memory assigned to each guest OS.
  • A minimum of 40 GB of virtual disk space.
  • CPU support for VM Monitor Mode Extension (Intel VT or AMD-V). These extensions make virtualization more reliable and faster.
  • Data Execution Prevention (DEP or NX bit). This technology protects the system from viruses and malicious attacks.
  • Hardware-assisted virtualization should be enabled. It implies the use of hardware resources to optimize virtual servers and achieve maximum efficiency.

Limitations of Hyper-V

When working with Hyper-V, there are some limitations that may be encountered, which might interfere with the virtualization process. Such limitations include:

  • No native graphical user interface (GUI); thus, all configurations are implemented through PowerShell. To overcome this problem, Hyper-V Manager can be manually installed for managing Hyper-V servers.
  • Virtualization of audio hardware is not enabled.
  • Virtualized optical disk drives in the guest VM operate in a read-only mode.
  • Poor graphic performance on CPUs without SLAT. The Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) graphics drivers installed on the primary OS can cause the memory to overload, which leads to buffer flushing.
  • Live migration of guest VMs is not supported in Hyper-V running on Windows Server 2008. Live migration implies transferring a VM from one physical server to another without interrupting the workflow. However, the feature of quick migration is available, whereby the workflow of a guest VM is suspended on one server for the period of the migration, and then resumed on another one, thus causing a brief interruption in services.
  • Hyper-V isn’t available for Windows 10 Home. However, you can upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro by entering the system settings.
  • Hyper-V (2012R2) provides limited support for Windows guest OS. Integration services are a built-in set of Hyper-V tools that can be used for better integration between the physical server and VMs. However, some OS do not have the integration services already installed in the system and, thus, require manual installation or upgrading. Moreover, Microsoft support is no longer provided for some OS, meaning that if any issues were to occur, you would not be able to fix them, and the integration services for such OS would not be updated. Here is the list of supported Windows guest OS.

How to Install Hyper-V on Windows 10

You can start enjoying the benefits of Microsoft Hyper-V by simply installing the product on your computer. A Hyper-V installation can be done by using either the Windows 10 Control Panel, PowerShell, or the Deployment Imaging Servicing and Management tool (DISM).

The simplest and quickest of way of enabling the Hyper-V role is through the Windows 10 Control Panel. In this case, you don’t have to download anything, as Hyper-V is an in-built feature of Windows and merely needs to be activated.

To install Hyper-V on Windows 10 through the settings, take the following steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel and click on Uninstall a program in the Programs section.

Microsoft Control Panel

2. In the left pane, click on Turn Windows features on or off.

‘Programs and Features’ Window

3. In the Windows Features dialog box, select the Hyper-V check box and click OK.

‘Windows Features’ Dialog Box

4. The Hyper-V installation will start. After that, click the option Restart now to implement all the required changes, or click Don’t restart to postpone the restart of your computer.

Finishing Installation

Another way of enabling Hyper-V is through PowerShell. PowerShell is a task framework used for running administration tasks with the help of a command line shell and a scripting language. In this case, the process of Hyper-V installation includes the following:

1. Open a PowerShell console as Administrator.

2. Run the following command:

Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName Microsoft-Hyper-V –All

3. The operation will start automatically.

4. Restart Windows to complete the installation.

Finally, you can enable Hyper-V on your computer using DISM. The Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) is a software tool that is used to mount and configure Windows image files or hard disks through a command-line interface or PowerShell. To install Hyper-V with DISM, follow the steps below:

1. Start the PowerShell or CMD session as Administrator.

2. Run the following command:

DISM /Online /Enable-Feature /All /FeatureName:Microsoft-Hyper-V

3. After that, the installation will be initiated automatically.

4. Restart Windows to complete the operation.

Useful Features of Hyper-V

Optimization

The operations running within the virtualization platform can be managed from a single pane using Hyper-V Manager. The single point of management allows you to optimize the running workloads and act promptly if any issues were to arise. Moreover, each VM has a set of services and drivers (also known as integration services), which allows a considerable improvement in the performance of the guest VMs.

Portability

Hyper-V ensures the portability of your VMs or applications between physical servers, and without affecting the system’s availability. If you need to move or distribute VMs, features like live migration, storage migration, and import/export of VMs are enabled.

Remote connectivity

Virtual Machine Connection (VMConnect) of Hyper-V is used to connect to remote VMs. The tool allows you to remotely manage and monitor the operations that are run in the guest OS, even if the OS is not powered on yet.

Disaster recovery and backup

To ensure that your virtual environment can be recovered, even after a disaster, Hyper-V allows you to create Hyper-V replicas and backups. Hyper-V replica is basically a point-in-time copy of a VM, which is then sent to another physical server for storage. If a disaster strikes, the VM can be restored from its replica. As for backups, Hyper-V applies two methods: the "Saved State" method, and the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS).

However, the capabilities of Hyper-V replication and backup jobs are limited. Thus, it is advisable to use a third-party backup application, which maximizes VM protection and ensures high availability in a case of a disaster.

Computing environment

Hyper-V also allows you to build a virtual environment on the basis of a physical infrastructure in just a few clicks. With a set of integration services, you can easily create a new computing environment of your own design, which would specifically comply with your business needs and opportunities.

Cost-efficiency

Hyper-V environments can easily be scaled up or down, requiring no extra expenses. If your business experiences grow, you can increase the number of available computing resources by creating more VMs. Installing Hyper-V is free, and requires minimal input on your part.

Security

Hyper-V ensures the protection of the host, the VMs, and the data that they contain, from any malicious attacks, viruses, or an unauthorized access.

Ease of use

An efficient virtualization platform can significantly improve the performance of your IT infrastructure. Furthermore, apart from being efficient, it is also required to be flexible and user-friendly, in order to make the user’s experience comfortable and engaging. Hyper-V provides users with the ability to test out various OS or applications to see the pros and cons for themselves, with the help of high-end management tools. Hyper-V allows you to run multiple VMs on a single desktop or laptop, and can be easily integrated with other Microsoft computing services, such as Microsoft Azure.

How to Protect Hyper-V Environment with NAKIVO Backup & Replication

Due the increase in Microsoft Hyper-V popularity over recent years, the NAKIVO team saw an opportunity in exploring the capabilities of a Hyper-V environment, and worked hard to introduce a high level of support and protection for Hyper-V users. For this purpose, the following data protection options were developed:

Hyper-V backup

NAKIVO Backup & Replication enables its users to run backup jobs and, as a result, create VM backups that can be stored locally, offsite, and in the cloud. The creation of VM backups is a snapshot-based procedure. Thus, to create backups, NAKIVO Backup & Replication takes a temporary snapshot of a VM, identifies the applied changes, adds the new data to the backup repository, and deletes the temporary snapshot. Backups in NAKIVO Backup & Replication are forever-incremental, meaning that the first backup is full, while the following backups identify and only save incremental changes in the backup repository.

Backup copy

This data protection method is slightly different from the previous one. In this case, you create copies of already existing backups that contain mission-critical data. NAKIVO Backup & Replication allows you to run backup copy jobs, which entails the copying backups from one backup repository to another, without touching the host VM. As a result, you can create a mirrored copy of the original backup, which can be sent to one or multiple locations.

Backup to cloud

Apart from keeping backups onsite, you should also move them to a remote location. This way you can ensure that your data is reliably protected, even if your primary site has been affected by a disaster. Therefore, it is advisable to send your backups or backup copies to the private or public clouds, such as AWS or Azure cloud. Cloud is a cost-effective and flexible storage, which can easily be scaled up or down, depending on your need. NAKIVO Backup & Replication allows you to promptly access VM backups stored in the cloud, at any time and from anywhere.

Hyper-V replication

Another data protection option provided by NAKIVO Backup & Replication is VM replication. By running  a replication job, a VM replica of the source VM is created. VM replicas are regular VMs kept in a powered-off state. They do not consume any resources and can easily be powered on if a disaster were to occur.

VM replication with NAKIVO Backup & Replication is incremental. Thus, only unique data is added to the VM replicas, and the latest version of the source VM is stored. Furthermore, VM replicas can be stored onsite or offsite, meaning that if your primary site has been damaged, you can fail over from the source VM to a VM replica. In comparison to VM backup, VM replication allows you to significantly reduce the recovery time.

Site recovery workflows

Due to the fact that businesses and their data grow exponentially, data protection and high availability of virtual environments have become the main priorities of modern organizations. For this purpose, NAKIVO Backup & Replication has introduced a feature called Site Recovery. Site recovery allows you to create an automated algorithm that consists of a set of actions and conditions, which can be arranged in a specific order of your choice. Thus, you can create site recovery jobs of varying complexity that can comply with your business needs and capabilities, as well as serve other purposes (planned failover, emergency failover, data center migration, failback, etc.). Site recovery jobs can easily be set up and run automatically in a case of disaster, thus requiring minimal input on your part.

Features of NAKIVO Backup & Replication

NAKIVO Backup & Replication has long proved itself as a fast and reliable solution, which provides a set of cutting-edge features. The solution enables users to securely protect data against any malicious attacks, and to near-instantly recover VMs and their components. The main features of our data-protection product include the following:

Storage optimization

NAKIVO Backup & Replication provides a set of techniques that enable space savings. The product can automatically exclude swap files or partitions from VM backups, deduplicate data at the block level across the entire repository, as well as compress the size of each data block. Moreover, NAKIVO Backup & Replication applies VMware CBT (Changed Block Tracking) or Hyper-V RCT (Resilient Change Tracking) to execute incremental VM backups. Thus, only unique data is saved, which leads to backup size optimization and reduced storage expenses.

Speed boosting

With NAKIVO Backup & Replication, the recovery process takes less time, without affecting the integrity of files and objects. This is due to the fact that the recovery is performed directly from compressed and deduplicated VM backups.

The new feature – Universal Application Object Recovery – presented in NAKIVO Backup & Replication 8.1 allows you to recover individual application objects without running a full VM recovery. By mounting VM disks from a backup, you can near-instantly recover the necessary objects and decrease the recovery time, which is a critical action during a disaster.

Moreover, NAKIVO Backup & Replication includes the network acceleration feature, which improves the data transfer speed.

Bandwidth throttling is another in-built feature of NAKIVO Backup & Replication that is used for regulating network load. It allows you to set data transfer limits for your backup jobs and thus decrease network overload.

DR automation and orchestration

As already mentioned above, NAKIVO Backup & Replication has recently introduced a Site Recovery functionality, which allows you to orchestrate the DR process from start to finish as well as to set up the recovery to run automatically. However, the NAKIVO team has gone even further in its determination to serve customers’ needs. The latest version of NAKIVO Backup & Replication includes the exclusive feature of Policy-Based Data Protection. This functionality allows setting up specific policies that regularly scan your virtual environment and protect VMs matching the policy rules.

Moreover, the DR process is made easier through cross-platform recovery. This feature allows you to move VM data across platforms by exporting it in the format that is compatible with the new virtual environment.

Cost-efficiency

When operating on the virtualization platform, businesses should be aware of the losses that they could incur if they were to be exposed to unexpected disasters, malicious attacks, or viruses. Thus, the executive team is interested in installing a data-protection solution, which is not only reliable but also affordable.

With NAKIVO Backup & Replication, you can be sure that your virtual environment, whether large or small, is protected while being managed from a single pane of glass. Due to various tools and features that are included in the product, NAKIVO Backup & Replication can be considered a full-scale VM backup and DR solution that takes care of all aspects of data protection. Unlike other data-protection software vendors, NAKIVO Backup & Replication provides flexible per-socket pricing, which allows you to drastically reduce the cost of data protection and site recovery.

Reliability

With NAKIVO Backup & Replication you can be sure that your backup and replication jobs run successfully. After job completion, the product can send you a screenshot of the recovered OS to verify its recoverability in case of a disaster. Furthermore, NAKIVO Backup & Replication provides the encryption functionality, which involves the encoding of information in order to prevent unauthorized readers from accessing it.

Furthermore, NAKIVO Backup & Replication can automatically remove transaction log files, created by Microsoft SQL and Microsoft Exchange, from the host VM after a successful VM backup or replication. This way the transaction log files don’t take up space, while the unique data is reliably protected.

Finally, another feature that boosts the reliability of the product is self-backup, during which the system configuration of NAKIVO Backup & Replication is copied and stored in the available backup repositories. Thus, the automated protection of the adopted system configuration is enabled.

Conclusion

It is not uncommon to hear the question “What is Hyper-V?” in the modern business environment, because the role that virtualization plays in the modern business world should not be underestimated. Most companies are now transitioning from traditional physical infrastructures, which can be resource-intensive and costly, to virtualization platforms, which are more cost-effective and manageable. Hyper-V is a multi-functional platform on which you can build a virtual environment of any size, while considerably extending your computing capabilities.

However, it is important to note that a virtual environment is a fragile system, and its integrity can be compromised. Therefore, by installing NAKIVO Backup & Replication, you can be sure that your virtual environment is reliably protected against all types of disaster. NAKIVO Backup & Replication is a full-fledged solution, which saves you time, effort, and money while requiring minimal involvement from you.

Request a live demo from one of our engineers or download a full-featured free trial and test the product in your virtual environment today!

An Introduction to Hyper-V: How It Can Help Build and Manage Your Virtual Environment
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