Running Windows 8 on server hardware

I would like to setup a Dell T320 server as a Hyper-V host to run an instance of Windows Server 2012 Essentials and possibly 1 or 2 additional windows 7 VM's. To keep the cost down I am wondering about the viability of running Windows 8 as the hosting OS rather than Server 2012. Would I have any problems getting Windows 8 to run on Dell server hardware? Driver issues? (will have a Perc H710 card in it). Any other drawbacks?

Difference in cost is something like $550 dollars and the only thing I know I won't get is Windows Server backup. I would be installing a third party backup that supports Hyper-V anyway so don't know that I care that Windows won't have a full native backup capability.

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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
If you're running Windows 7 in VMs you need VDI licenses.  

I'm not sure the licensing issues that may arise with running Windows 8 as your everyday server, however, provided the drivers exist for 2012, then you can use them in Win8.  (It's based on the same code).  

That said, you the wise move would be to use the Free Hyper-V server as johan_strange suggested.
Hi In addition to this I was wondering if you are planning on running this in a production environment ? The fact that you have an H710 is great but you need to consider CPU, memory and disk I/O. The latter is often overlooked, and you are talking about keeping costs down which often brings about poor performance, reducing hardware costs is not the only reason to use virtulisation as you know. You also said you are looking at the Essentials Edition which suggests you have a small environment. Sometimes, as untechnical and boring as it sounds, having the OS on the metal is not a bad option and you effectively spread your processing across multiple physical resources which can often yield better results.

I am sure of course that you have already considered all of this , so its just an additional comment to your "Any drawbacks ?" question.
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pmckenna11Author Commented:
This is a small environment so performance is not an issue give the hardware I am considering. My main concern would be just getting Windows 8 OS running on the hardware. I have had issues when trying to install a server OS on non-server hardware. Never tried the reverse.

I have not used Hyper-V server 2012 and from what I understand it is best managed from another machine (kind of like VMware's ESXi). I am not crazy about that. Seems to add a layer of complexity that I don't really want. I prefer to be able to log into and manage the hosting OS in a familiar manner.

It has been pointed out to me the purchasing Server 2012 R2 gives me the right to install an additional instance of Server 2012 as a virtual machine would could be used to run RDS as opposed to installing separate Windows 7 VM's. Not sure this is needed however since we are only looking at 1 or 2 Windows 7 virtual machines for remote users. Also adding RDS adds some licensing issues.

Anyway feedback on the viability of installing Windows 8 on the Dell T320 hardware would be appreciated. Also any additional thoughts on the whole process would be great. Thanks
pmckenna11Author Commented:
Probably should add that the main reasons for running server 2012 Essentials in a VM are for portability/rapid recovery to new hardware. This particular client has had 2 servers fail on them. This last time I was able to extract an image of the current server from one of the server drives. I then used the image to create a VM on  my bench machine which was already had Hyper-v installed. I took my bench machine to their location and have been using it now for a couple of weeks. Had them up and running the same day. Could have done it faster had this been a planned recovery process.

Anyway started me thinking that maybe installing the server OS in a VM made sense on the new server hardware and got me investigating options.
Usually when you deploy Hyper-V its often done on a Core install, which makes management from another workstation desirable unless your into PS. That said with Server 2012 you can switch between Core and the full Gui unlike 2008 which required a reinstall of Windows. The Core reduces the footprint and the attack surface. I think you want the GUI and I think you have already decided you want to use Windows 8 so in answer to your question I would say it all depends if the drivers are available for Win 8, if you go to you will see that Windows 8 is not listed as a supported OS. If it was me I would not do this, its unlikely its officially supported by Dell and if you have any issues it could effect the support you get from them. You might find for example a support technician wants you to update your H710 firmware and driver, which could introduce issues if you run Windows 8.

I have installed Windows 8.1. on an HP Proliant, it worked a treat but its just a PC I use for user tasks so if I have any issues I don't get a broken domain.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Probably should add that the main reasons for running server 2012 Essentials in a VM are for portability/rapid recovery to new hardware.

Then you REALLY don't want to use Win8 Hyper-V.  That doesn't include replica.  Setup Replica with another Hyper-V server and recoverability is EASY by comparison and data loss is minimal.

Yes, Hyper-V Server requires a third party tool like VTUtilities or 5Nine or the use of Windows 8 to manage remotely.
Mike TLeading EngineerCommented:

Sorry but I think this is a terrible idea. Dell won't support you as already said, and worse than that, Hyper-v is NOT a backup solution. What happens if the disk fails? You lose the VHD. Yes, you can have RAID, but that's not a backup solution either.
I would go with Hyper-V 2012 R2 free flavour, and install the remote admin tools (RSAT) on a workstation. This gives you the full GUI that you want, is supportable by MS and Dell and will give extra functionality like de-duplication saving them money. Add Hyper-v backup (free 2 node software is available) and you're done and all free/no extra cost.

PS: running Dell OpenManage software will monitor the hardware for you and can avoid nasty surprises so I suggest you install that.
pmckenna11Author Commented:
I don't think I follow you Mike,

What is a terrible idea?
I don't think I ever said that I was using Hyper-V as a backup solution and I know I never suggested RAID as an alternative to regular backup. I always have at least 2 and usually 3 independent means of data backup. Where possible one of the backups would be some kind of imaging solution. In this case I would have a 3rd party solution which would be used for backing up the actual VM machines along with seperate backup solution(s) for doing more traditional data backup.

Of course I would be installing Open Manage but normally I would install that on the server I am interested in monitoring. I don't believe that is an option if I go with Hyper-V Server 2012 since it lacks the GUI.

Really the discussion thus far has shown that I just need to make a decision between Hyper-V Server 2012 (free) and Server 2012 R2 Standard. I have no experience with Hyper-V server (free stand alone version) and am hesitant to go there. The idea of having to administer the machine remotely is troubling to me. Really I just need to take some time and try it.

I need to get this thing ordered so most likely I am going to just spec it with Server 2012 R2 standard to keep it easy. I am quite intrigued with Replica mentioned by Lee. I was not aware of this functionality.
Mike TLeading EngineerCommented:

Let me explain what I meant. You have said the following:
I want run to a Hyper-V host for Windows Server 2012 Essentials...using Windows 8 as the host rather than Server 2012
I understand 2012 best managed from another machine.... I am not crazy about that. Seems to add a layer of complexity that I don't really want.

the main reasons for running server 2012 Essentials in a VM are for portability/rapid recovery to new hardware.
This particular client has had 2 servers fail on them. This last time I was able to extract an image of the current server from one of the server drives.

So, working backwards, your client has had two servers die on them and you saved the day by imaging (P2V) the server HDD and sticking it into a VM. I get that.
You want to protect them because they are nervous now. I get that too.
Where I was coming from is if the server disk dies, it's dead. Whether it's a normal disk or a VM it's dead. It came across that your idea was to make the server portable and abstracted from the hardware so you could move it around; in effect you have a backup of the original machine.
Clearly the previous hardware troubles was not the disk so if your server died the disk is useless, so I am seeing the light :).
(The RAID comment was just an aside - it's simply people get the wrong idea about VMs and RAID and think their data is safe without backup and find out the hard way when hardware fails they are stuck.)

Virtualising an OS is adding a layer of complexity. You have said you want to avoid complexity so you will want to go with the easiest virtualisation solution. The "terrible" part was using Windows8. It won't gain anything. As you've said the choice is full server 2012 R2 standard vs 2012 R2 Hyper-V (free).
I've yet to play with the free version yet, and yes it is command-line only but if you know PowerShell you can do whatever you need. If you don't know PowerShell install RSAT on a workstation and you get all the tools you need: DNS, DHCP, AD etc.

I hope that helps and explains what I meant. Apologies if I came across as overly negative.


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pmckenna11Author Commented:
Comments helped a lot. Thanks
Ended up using Server 2012 Std as the host environment but will look into the Free standalone version of Hyper-V server for future use. Going to look into Replica as well. Was not aware that Microsoft included such a functionality.
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