The server in your home

A few days ago a friend of mine gave me a fantastic deal on a PowerEdge server coming out of his datacenter. A deal that was so low it could not be missed so after checking the bank account I sprang on it. I walked away with 3 PE 2950s for less than price of a point-and-shoot camera. So after a week of figuring out how to get 3 30kg servers home I finally got them into my apartment and wired up.

I manage our datacenter ESX servers at the office but I wanted to see what else is out there and compare to the VMWare solution. I’ve had limited exposure to Microsoft’s Hyper-V. Some with KVM. And little of Xen. The Hyper-V experience in the past has never been all that great. Disk space, memory, CPU, when you are virtualizing these things are important. KVM didn’t have good Windows server performance. Xen I hear is better and some of our clients use it.

After getting the servers plugged in and powered up the first thing that you notice is the noise. These beasts are built for the datacenter and the fans spin fast through a very small, metallic enclosure. Lots of noise. Also, they put out a good amount of heat. The passwords were unknown to me so I couldn’t login to ESX. I created a Linux boot CD and booted each server from a USB key.

mount /mnt/Hypervisor1
cp state.tgz /tmp/
tar -xzf state.tgz
tar -xzf local.tgz
vi etc/shadow

In vi completely delete the root password. Don’t change any other setting and don’t try and enter a new password since it would need to be encrypted. Save the file and copy it back to the mounted Hypervisor partition

:wq
rm local.tgz
tar -czf local.tgz etc
rm state.tgz
tar -czf state.tgz local.tgz
mv /mnt/Hypervisor1/state.tgz /mnt/Hypervisor1/state.tgz.bak
cp state.tgz /mnt/Hypervisor1/state.tgz

Reboot the server and remove the USB key. At the ESX console hit F2 to change the settings. Login as root and leave the password field blank. You’ll now be able to update the password and network settings. I downloaded the vSphere client using the browser and logged in. These machines have old ESX 4.1 Standard licenses. Fairly expensive but not what I planned to use anytime soon. So after recording the keys I formatted the top one.

The first server has 6x 146GB 10k SAS HDs with a Perc5i controller that has seen better days. The battery is kaput so I won’t be getting the performance I’d expect since Writeback caching is disabled. On this machine I decided to install Windows Hyper-V Server 2012 Core. This is the closest approximation that Microsoft has to ESXi. They do include a lot of functionality in the free version that VMware requires in their more expensive options.

The out of box experience was not nearly as nice as ESXi 5.0. ESXi only requires a 512MB USB key to install and then can install the hypervisor back onto that same VM. Hyper-V can technically do this but the instructions state that you need to download a lot of files and create a VHD. So I formatted the disk array to RAID 5 and installed the server to the local disk.

Hyper-V Server restarts a few times during the install. This was surprising to me since I had stepped out to grab some tea and come back to the USB menu. So, remember to remove the USB key after the initial file install. The first time you connect you’ll be asked to enter a password. Make it a good one because the local policy by default won’t accept “password” as the password. Once you’re in you’ll be presented with the text-based menu. Here you can configure networking, enable remote desktop, and run system updates. You should do all three in that order.
Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 4.57.12 PM
Once the updates have completed and the server rebooted you can disconnect from the server and resume the session through Remote Desktop.

I’m trying to bring a server instance up using only Powershell. Hyper-V Management tools for Server 2012 require Windows 8 and I only have Windows 7. My plan is to install Server 2012 as a bootstrap server than try the different aspects of Hyper-V and see how it really stacks up. So far the experience hasn’t been enjoyable but I’m willing to slog through it and see this as minor stumbling blocks. Microsoft has invested a lot of time improving Hyper-V so I’ll do my part likewise.