System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (VMM 2008) is a comprehensive management solution for managing virtualized infrastructure running on Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V, Virtual Server 2005 R2 and VMware ESX through Virtual Center. With the release of Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, significant feature improvements were made to Hyper-V—the underlying hypervisor platform. VMM 2008 R2 SP1 – the next version of VMM – has been released. VMM 2008 R2 SP1 leverages the new platform enhancements and extends the feature set of VMM 2008 R2. This overview highlights the most important new and significantly enhanced features in VMM 2008 R2 SP1:

Support for new features of Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1

  • Dynamic Memory: Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Hyper-V supports Dynamic Memory enabling customers to better utilize the memory resources of a Hyper-V host. VMM 2008 R2 SP1 allows administrators to create and deploy Virtual Machines onto Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Hyper-V hosts and will report on the memory currently in use for these VMs where Dynamic Memory is enabled. Using Dynamic Memory for supported VMs allows for more efficient utilization of memory, with consistent performance, and higher consolidation ratios.
  • Microsoft RemoteFX: Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 introduces a new set of end user experience enhancements with Microsoft RemoteFX. VMM 2008 R2 SP1 allows administrators to create and deploy Virtual Machines with RemoteFX enabled to qualified Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Hyper-V hosts. This enables a rich, local-like desktop environment over the network
  • Support for new features of Windows Server 2008 R2

    • Live Migration: Seen through the VMM console, this enables administrators to move a virtual machine between clustered hosts in a way that is completely transparent to the users connected to the virtual machine. This allows administrators greater flexibility in responding to planned downtime and provides higher machine availability. The basic requirements for Live Migration are that all hosts must be part of a Windows Server 2008 R2 failover cluster and host processors must be from the same manufacturer. Additionally all hosts in the cluster must have access to shared storage. No changes are required to existing virtual machines, network, or storage devices in moving from Quick Migration to Live Migration other than upgrading to  Windows Server 2008 R2 and VMM 2008 R2.
    • Hot addition/removal of Storage: Allows the addition and removal of storage to virtualized infrastructure without interruption. Additionally, “live” management of virtual hard disk (VHDs) or iSCSI pass through disks, allows administrators to take advantage of additional backup scenarios and readily use mission critical and storage-intensive applications.
    • New optimized networking technologies: VMM 2008 R2 supports two new networking technologies – Virtual Machine Queue (VMQ) and TCP Chimney – providing increased network performance while creating less of a CPU burden. NICs that support VMQ, create a unique virtual network queue for each virtual machine on a host that can pass network packets directly from the hypervisor to the virtual machine. This increases throughput as it bypasses much of the processing normally required by the virtualization stack. With TCP Chimney, TCP/IP traffic can be offloaded to a physical NIC on the host computer reducing CPU load and improving network performance.
    • Enhanced storage and cluster support

      • Clustered Shared Volumes (CSV): Provides a single, consistent storage space that allows hosts in a cluster to concurrently access virtual machine files on a single shared logical unit number (LUN). CSV eliminates the previous one virtual machine per LUN restriction and coordinates the use of storage with much greater efficiency and higher performance. CSV enables the Live Migration of virtual machines without impacting other virtual machines sharing the same LUN. Enabling CSV on failover clusters is straightforward; many storage configuration complexities prior to CSV have now been eliminated.
      • SAN migration into and out of clustered hosts: This allows virtual machines to migrate into and out of clusters using a SAN transfer, which saves the time required for copying the virtual machine file over the network.
      • Expanded Support for iSCSI SANs: Previously, only one LUN could be bound to a single iSCSI target whereas now – with support now built into VMM 2008 R2 – multiple LUNS can be mapped to a single iSCSI target. This provides broader industry support for iSCSI SANs allowing customers more flexibility in choosing storage providers and iSCSI SAN options.
      • Storage Migration: Quick Storage Migration enables migration of a VM’s storage both within the same host and across hosts while the VM is running with a minimum of downtime, typically less than 2 minutes. VMM 2008 R2 also supports VMware storage vMotion which allows the storage of a VMware VM to be transferred while the VM remains on the same host with no downtime.
      • Rapid Provisioning: Allows administrators to take advantage of SAN provider technologies to clone a LUN containing a VHD and present it to the host while still utilizing the VMM template so the OS customization and IC installation can be applied.
      • Support for third party CFS: For users requiring a true clustered file system, VMM 2008 R2 supports third party file systems by detecting CFS disks and allows for deploying multiple VMs per LUN.
      • Support for Veritas Volume Manager: VMM 2008 R2 recognizes Veritas Volume Manager disks as a cluster disk resource.
      • Streamlined process for managing host upgrades

        • Maintenance Mode: Allows administrators to apply updates or perform maintenance on a host server by safely evacuating all virtual machines to other hosts on a cluster. Maintenance mode can be configured to use Live Migration to move the virtual machines or can put the workloads into a saved state to be safely reactivated when maintenance or upgrades are complete. Maintenance mode is enabled for all supported hypervisor platforms on Windows Server 2008 R2.
        • Other VMM 2008 R2 enhancements

          • Support of disjoint domains: Reduces the complexity of reconciling host servers with differing domain names in Active Directory and DNS. In these situations, VMM 2008 R2 automatically creates a custom service principal name (SPN) configured in both AD and DNS allowing for successful authentication.
          • Use of defined port groups with VMware Virtual Center: On installation, VMM 2008 R2 will present available port groups for VMM’s use with VMware vCenter thus allowing administrators to maintain control over which port groups are used.
          • Queuing of Live migrations: This feature enables users to do multiple Live Migrations without needing to keep track of other Live Migrations that are happening within the cluster. Detects when a Live Migration will fail due to another Live Migration already in progress and queues the request for later.
          • Host compatibility checks: VM migration requires host hardware to be compatible; this feature provides a deep check for compatibility using Hyper-V and VMware compatibility check APIs. Administrators can check if the source host is compatible with the destination host before performing a migration and finding out the VM cannot start on the new host.  A related feature makes a VM compatible by turning off certain CPU features which makes the VM compatible with the hosts in the cluster.
          • Top Benefits of Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 SP1

            • Dynamic Memory: With this feature, administrators can use Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) to easily create and deploy Virtual Machines on Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 hosts that support Dynamic Memory. This allows customers to better utilize the memory resources of a Hyper-V host. VMM 2008 R2 SP1 will report on the memory currently in use for these VMs where Dynamic Memory is enabled. Using Dynamic Memory for supported VMs allows for more efficient utilization of memory, with consistent performance, and higher consolidation ratios.
            • RemoteFX: By leveraging the power of advanced codecs and virtualized graphics resources on the data center host, RemoteFX adds support for any application, including 3D, and rich media to a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. RemoteFX also adds broad USB peripheral support for virtual desktops. VMM 2008 R2 SP1 allows administrators to create and deploy Virtual Machines with RemoteFX enabled.
            • Live Migration: With this feature, administrators can use VMM to easily migrate virtual machines between clustered hosts without affecting the connected users. This allows more flexibility for administrators undertaking host maintenance or upgrades as the running virtual workloads can be moved from host to host without interruption to end users. Coupled with the high availability capabilities of Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V, customers now have a robust virtual machine solution for elegantly handling planned and unplanned downtime.
            • Clustered Shared Volumes: Enables administrators to place multiple virtual machines on a single LUN and manage them individually. The key benefit that CSV delivers here is greatly simplified LUN configuration for the administrator: through the VMM console, the administrator now sees one LUN containing all virtual machines which eliminates the need to create, configure and modify LUNs for individual VMs. Furthermore, as a layer that simply rides on top of existing NTFS file structure, CSV avoids the need for a completely new or customized file system that can introduce additional complexities and potential incompatibilities with existing services such as security, backup and disaster recovery solutions – to name just a few.
            • Hot addition/removal of storage: With this capability, administrators can quickly and efficiently respond to changing storage requirements of virtual machines. This ability to hot-add additional storage eliminates the previous need to take the host down to upgrade storage thus increasing business continuity for end users and reducing complexity for administrators. Additionally it allows administrators to confidently deploy mission critical applications (in which up-time is of paramount importance) that may have rapidly changing storage requirements such as web, database or other business applications.
            • Maintenance Mode: Designed to simplify the process of initiating maintenance or upgrades to virtual hosts, VMM 2008 R2 provides maintenance mode – a one-step process whereby active virtual machines are safely evacuated to other hosts within the cluster before maintenance begins. Enabling the administrator with control, Maintenance Mode can be configured to utilize Live Migration if the virtual machines must not be interrupted or can be configured to put the VMs in a saved state if a service pause is acceptable.
            • SAN migrations in and out of clustered hosts: Another time and labor saving feature of VMM 2008 R2 is its ability to automatically migrate VMs in and out of clustered hosts using SAN transfers. Unlike before, VMM 2008 R2 automatically configures the cluster nodes to recognize new VMs coming in and exiting VMs migrating off, saving administrators the additional burden of manual modification.
            • Automatic resolution of disjoint domains: To configure VMM 2008 previously, administrators would have to manually reconcile host server names from disjoint domains that would appear differently in Active Directory (AD) and Domain Name Service (DNS) and cause authentication failure. With VMM 2008 R2, this process is automated by the creation of a custom Service Principal Name (SPN) in both AD and DNS. This eases management oversight for administrators and speeds along a successful authentication process.
            • Expanded support for iSCSI SANs: With expanded support now covering the majority of available iSCSI SANs, VMM 2008 R2 enables administrators to choose from a much wider range of options when selecting a new SAN solution. For those with SAN infrastructure in place, VMM 2008 R2 features greater SAN compatibility enabling administrators to leverage their storage investments.
            • Support for optimized networking: VMM 2008 R2 supports two new networking services – Virtual Machine Queue (VMQ) and TCP Chimney – built into Windows Server 2008 R2. Key benefits to both of these technologies are more efficient processing of network traffic (through the creation of virtual network queues in the former and offloading of TCP/IP workloads to a physical NIC, in the latter) and thus freeing up CPU cycles on the host machine. As a result, administrators will appreciate faster network performance and smaller network-related workloads on their host machines.
            • Admin control of port groups used by VMM: During its initial configuration with VMware vCenter Server, VMM 2008 R2 enables administrators to select which port groups the console will use. Previously, this process was automated and port groups were automatically configured. Now, VMM 2008 R2 enables administrators to maintain control in selecting the preferred port groups for VMM’s use. This enables customized settings for VMM 2008 R2 that accommodates the administrator’s chosen configuration and minimizes any conflicts or disruption resulting from VMM’s introduction.
            • Support for Quick Storage Migration: VMM 2008 R2 now allows for the migration of a VM’s storage both within the same host and across hosts with minimum downtime. VMM 2008 R2 also supports VMware storage vMotion so the storage for a VMware VM can be transferred on the same hosts no downtime.
            • Queuing of Live migrations: Administrators can perform multiple Live Migrations without having to keep track of other Live Migrations within the cluster. When a Live Migration is in jeopardy of  failing due to another migration already in progress VMM 2008 R2 queues the request for later.
            • Rapid Provisioning: VMM 2008 R2 leverages advanced storage provider technologies to clone LUNs containing a VHD while still taking advantage of VMM templates.
            • Host compatibility checks: Provides deep compatibility checks so administrators can determine if a Source host is compatible with the destination host before performing a migration. In the event of incompatibility, the administrator can choose to turn off certain CPU features to make the VM compatible with the host.
            • Support for third party CFS: For users requiring a true clustered file system, VMM 2008 R2 supports third party file systems by detecting CFS disks and allows for deploying multiple VMs per LUN.
            • Support for Veritas Volume Manager: VMM 2008 R2 recognizes Veritas Volume Manager disks as a cluster disk resource.
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