Why I Love Virtual Machines

Posted: December 19, 2015 in Backup, FAT32, Hyper-v, NTFS, SBS 2011, Virtual Machine, vm, Window Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012

 Virtual Machines Have Prevented Disasters More than Once

Let me tell you about the latest situation where I look like a hero instead of a fool.  How can you not love someone who does that for you?

I have a client who is still on SBS 2011 for a variety of reasons.  Let’s sum them up by saying it is unlikely to change for a while.

A few years back, I suggested making SBS a virtual machine and running on a Hyper-v host.  The OS for the host was Windows Server 2008 R2.  Earlier this year, both of the USB drives they were using for Windows Backup (one for the host, one for SBS) had to be replaced.  The new drives were formatted NTFS with 4096 byte sectors.  If you don’t know already, Windows Backup in 2008 R2 and earlier can’t create a backup on these targets.  So for a while, the system has been running without backups.

Why not Just Upgrade?

Duh, why didn’t I think of that?  I did, but an inplace upgrade to 2012 R2 kept failing.  Finally, we located a 2012 Standard .iso and license for sale and grabbed that.  The in place upgrade went well, very well.  Much to our chagrin, the product key would not activate even though it was valid, and the client got his money back.  But there we were with an OS that was about to die from lack of activation.

So I tried the upgrade from 2012 to 2012 R2, and it succeeded.  Problem solved, right?

You Probably Picked the Wrong Answer

When it finally rebooted after the upgrade, a colorful blue screen appeared with the message

MUI_NO_VALID_LANGUAGE

The scarce number of articles I found relating to this indicated that it was an invalid product key (I knew that) and re-installing would fix it.  So in goes the DVD and we boot from it.  Enter the correct 2012 R2 product key, select upgrade, and we are instructed to remove the disk and reboot.  When we do the same nasty error above appears.

So I Said…

Let’s just forget about the host system and create a new one.  I didn’t format any disks, just let the installation go.  It completed fine, booted into 2012 R2, and I added the Hyper-v role, reset the static IP address, and got down to setting up a new virtual machine.

I pointed to the existing .vhd for SBS and the virtual disks for Exchange, SharePoint, and data that were on physical drives on the host and attached them through ISCSI controllers, started the virtual machine and bingo!  There is was.  Almost.

I Nearly Cried when It First Started

Active directory showed NO users, NO joined computers, and SBS Console said the OS was not operative.  While I played around for a bit, then looked again after about 5-10 minutes, AD values were back!!  But there was no Internet connection and nothing looked right on the SBS Console network tab.

First I ran Connect to the Internet, and that restored the connection.  Then I ran Fix my network, and suddenly there was the trusted certificate and all the other goodies.  It has been running like a champ ever since.

One Last Thing

The 4096 sector drive for SBS still doesn’t work, so I am trying a WD drive that emulates 512 sectors,  I am going to create another post about this, although there is a lot of information on this topic out there already.

So, to sum it up, your Hyper-v host machine is disposable.  You can trash it and provided you don’t lose the date, you can reconstruct your workhorse servers.  I highly recommend this approach.

Even better, use an iSCSI device (like QNAP, which I love as well) and keep all your virtual information on the drives apart from your computer.  That means the entire platform is disposable.

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Comments
  1. Phil Usher says:

    The only upside to bare-metal is absence of the indirection layer imposed by the VM. The only possible case where that is an issue is where transactional performance is driver bound and unavailable for tuning via the VM configuration. However, in general the potential performance hit is almost always offset by moores law. (Stay well Larry).

    Like

  2. For small users who probably have less than three servers, I doubt if it would ever be an issue. They seldom have LOB apps that are transactional high-volume. and in that case, I would provision a server on Azure or Amazon to do the work. Let someone else worry about backup, fault tolerance and all the rest. How ya doing, Phil?

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