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How should I partition my hard drive for a small office Hyper-V installation?

Posted on 2008-10-25
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I have a single server with dual quad core processors and 8 gigs of RAM.  I plan to install Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V on the box.  I plan to make the host OS a Domain Controller and host Exchange Server for a small number of people.  I plan to put a web presence on a Virtual Gues and any other applications on a second guest.

My question is, with only 150 gigs mirrored hard drive space (on 15,000 RPM SAS drives) how much of that space should be dedicated to the host OS (running Exchange and doing DC Authentication for 10-15 people) and how much should be dedicated for a web presense (IIS, OWA, and Sharepoint) and how much for other apps (Backups, Print Server, etc)?

I know this scenario might not be ideal, but it's what I have to work with.  Any suggestions would be great.

Thanks!
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Question by:Taylor Huckstep
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tigermatt earned 350 total points
ID: 22802384

I wouldn't recommend you install any role in the Host OS other than Hyper-V. If you install other roles, you will drastically reduce the performance of your Virtualised Guests.

What I would suggest you do is as follows:

1. Install Server 2008 onto the host and install the Hyper-V role. GIve the host OS 20 - 30GB of storage, it doesn't need to be a large amount.
2. Now, you have 120 - 130GBs of space remaining on your array to allocate to the Hyper-V guest Operating Systems. While it isn't ideal to run Sharepoint, a DC and Exchange off one partition, for a small office the performance impact will be negligible.

For backups, I would definitely not store these on the server. Get a NAS box of some description and backup everything to there. And remember, Windows Server 2008's Windows Server Backup cannot backup Exchange; you have to invest in a third-party solution.

If you will be having 2 - 3 Virtual Machines (which that box could probably quite easily handle), you might want to look at saving a bit on licensing by purchasing Server 2008 Enterprise Edition. This enables you to install one edition in the Host OS, and then virtualise another 3 - 4 2008 Enterprise Servers using the same license.

-tigermatt
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Author Comment

by:Taylor Huckstep
ID: 22802671
Great suggestions.  Thank you.  Here are a few more questions for you if you don't mind:

1. What about Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008?  No OS Overhead at all there, and I read it can work beautifully in 10-12 gigs.  If I do deploy Hyper-V Server in a baremetal configuration should I join this to the domain (considering the DC is a guest, that seems like a bad idea)?  One of the drawbacks I read to Hyper-V Server at the link below, is no support for 4+ processors.  i have 2 processors, but they are quadcores, would that mean I have 8 processors?  
http://www.microsoft.com/servers/hyper-v-server/default.mspx

2. Can a DC, Sharepoint, and Exchange run ok in a virtual environment?  This was my original desire, but I read some precausions about running a DC and Exchange virtually.  This would be my preference though, because of the performance impact on all guests if the host is bloated.

3. When I said backups, I actually meant Backup Software, which I would of course back up to an external device.  This begs the question...can you plug in USB Drives and make them available on the guest OS's?  I have read that's not possible at least in VMWare's ESX.  Why you wouldn't be able to pass USB Devices to a guest OS is so bizarre to me, but I'm looking for confirmation.  I could always back it up to another PC's share, but would rather keep it all local to the server.  What about Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager as a backup solution?  Or should we invest in Symantec Backup Exec (which I'm very familiar with).

4. Excellent recommendation on licensing, I did not know this.  Thank you.
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by:tigermatt
ID: 22802711

1. Yes, with regards to Hyper-V Server, you could theoretically install that, and then virtualise as many virtual machines as you are licensed for (and your hardware can feasibly run) on top of that.

Placing a Domain Controller as a Virtual Machine is not a bad idea - people do it all the time. What you obviously don't want to do is to put the Hyper-V Server on the domain because it isn't necessary, and if you did, every time you restarted it, the DC VM would not have booted at that stage and you would have issues since the host could not contact its Domain Controller. That is the only precaution I can think of myself.

With regards to CPUs, this is always a grey area with Microsoft. The usual is that the quoted number of maximum CPUs is per CPU socket, and not logical CPUs (cores within one physical unit), so you should be alright. If in doubt, give MS a call just to check and be sure.

2. Yes, they can all be virtualised. If you have the licenses, I'd put them all on separate VMs. The advantage to using a Virtual Machine rather than installing them on the host is that you can allocate the maximum RAM and HDD and possibly CPU (don't quote me on that last one!) usage to each VM, whereas running them on the host would end up with them using as much RAM as they could (which is the main performance issue with putting services on the Host OS in a Virtualised Environment).

3. With regards to Backup Software, it could probably safely run on one of your other Virtual Machines. The Domain Controller would probably the best one to put it on, because running Active Directory Domain Services really would have little load on that VM's allocated CPU and RAM. Passing USB devices to a Guest OS does have issues, mainly because you have to have some form of supported interface between the Host and Guest, something many virtualisation products do not support. It looks like if you want access to USB Devices in a VM you might need to use something like http://blogs.technet.com/mattmcspirit/archive/2008/02/29/hyper-v-and-usb.aspx on your network.

My preference for backup software would be Symantec Backup Exec. It is a robust product and the ability to deploy Remote Agents to the other servers is the main advantage to it.

4. There should be clarification of this point at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/enterprise-high-end.aspx.

-tigermatt
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Author Comment

by:Taylor Huckstep
ID: 22804153
One final question.  Are there any general guidelines for how much hard drive space I should allocate for the VMs (depending on usage)?

And thanks again for all the guidance.
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Author Closing Comment

by:Taylor Huckstep
ID: 31509906
Thank you!
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Expert Comment

by:tigermatt
ID: 22806685

If you are installing Server 2008 on them then you need at least 5 - 10GB per VM for the installation of the server. Then perhaps another 5 - 10GB for software applications, and obviously then whatever disk space the applications running on it will need.

I'd probably say no less than 30GB for a single VM, but that will be bigger in some cases - the Exchange Server databases for example could expand to require more disk space.

Thanks for the points and the grade!

-tigermatt
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