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Notes on HELIOS Server Virtualization

Introduction
Supported virtualization solutions
Virtualization products and HELIOS machine ID USB dongle
Tested virtualization products
What we tested
Tested hardware
Server hardware requirements
Virtualization installation notes
Virtualization administration notes
Guest OS support
Guest OS installation
Microsoft Hyper-V exporting / importing VMs notes
HELIOS machine ID (x86 VMs)
Performance notes
Q & A


Introduction
Server virtualization is the technology that enables one or more “virtual machines” to run on a single physical host server. A virtual machine (VM) encapsulates an operating system, together with any desired applications, and generally has all unnecessary services turned off. This allows easier maintenance, and greater security. Virtual machines can also make backup, restoring, load balancing, and failover of systems easier. Another advantage of VMs is that multiple virtual machines can be run on the same host system, while preserving the isolation of services. For example, several instances of Linux, Windows, and Solaris can run simultaneously on the same server hardware. This allows consolidation of hardware systems, for better utilization, and lower maintenance and energy costs.

Virtualization has become a critical technology. Systems such as VMware ESX Server, Microsoft Hyper-V, IBM PowerVM and Citrix XenServer allow running multiple virtual machine guest systems on a server. HELIOS has added support to ensure that HELIOS Server Solution products can run in virtual machines. The high availability and load balancing options of the virtualization vendors are supported, allowing for the most flexible usage of hardware resources. Exporting and importing entire VMs allows quickly moving an entire server configuration to new hardware.

Product page: HELIOS Virtual Server Appliance

The following sections explain how HELIOS supports various virtualization products.

Supported virtualization solutions
HELIOS tested virtualization solutions from IBM, Microsoft, VMware and Citrix for inclusion in the official HELIOS supported platform list:

 Host OS

Guest OS

IBM PowerVM (IVM)

IBM AIX 5.3 ML4 and newer, AIX 6, AIX 7

Microsoft Hyper-V Server

Windows Server 2008 / 2012, Linux, Solaris

VMware ESX Server

Windows Server 2008 / 2012, Linux, Solaris

Citrix XenServer Windows Server 2008 / 2012, Linux, Solaris

Tested native host OS and guest OS

IBM PowerVM represents a virtualization platform powered by a proprietary AIX-based OS. Easy administration is provided by a web-based administration interface.

Microsoft Hyper-V Server represents a virtualization platform powered by a Windows Server 2008 Standard OS. Hyper-V runs as a service on top of Windows.
VMware ESX Server represents a virtualization platform powered by a proprietary Linux-based OS. Administration is provided by a Windows client application.

Citrix XenServer represents a virtualization platform based on a Xen enabled Linux system. Administration is provided by a Windows client application.

Virtualization products and HELIOS machine ID USB dongle
Depending on the virtualization solution, product version and hardware environment USB devices may not be supported within virtual machines. Thus, a HELIOS machine ID USB dongle is also not visible inside these VMs. Starting with CD024, HELIOS products can be licensed for these VM-based OS installations.

Tested virtualization products
IBM PowerVM IVM (Integrated Virtualization Manager) 1.3

  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Standard (x64 full install) with enabled Hyper-V role
  • VMware ESXi 3.5, 4, 5 Installable
  • Citrix XenServer 6
Time-limited evaluation versions are available from the vendor.

Freely available virtualization products are:

  • Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008
  • VMware ESXi 3.5, 4, 5 Installable
  • Citrix XenServer (limited/free edition)
For a comparison between Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 see:
http://www.microsoft.com/servers/hyper-v-server/default.mspx
For a comparison between VMware ESX and ESXi see:
http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere/esxi-and-esx/compare.html

For a comparison between the different XenServer editions see:
http://www.citrix.com/English/ps2/products/subfeature.asp?contentID=2300456

What we tested
General installation and operation of HELIOS UB+ (since CD024) products were tested.

As long as the OS in the VM is properly set up and running, e.g. disk and network devices are working properly, HELIOS installation and startup is the same as installing on a physical computer.
The guest OS inside each VM should be up-to-date with all current updates installed and activated.

Tested hardware

  • PowerVM on IBM POWER5 Server
  • Hyper-V Server, ESX Server and XenServer on Intel- and AMD-based servers

Server hardware requirements

PowerVM
  • POWER5 or POWER6
Hyper-V
  • 64-bit system with Intel VT or AMD Virtualization, Intel XD or AMD NX bit enabled (may need to be enabled in BIOS first)
  • Can be installed in an already existing disk partition
ESX
  • Basic ESX can also be installed on 32-bit system without direct virtualization support. Advanced features and add-on products of the VMware Infrastructure product line can have more specific requirements
  • Installation requires and overwrites complete disk
XenServer
  • XenServer can be installed on a 64-bit Intel or AMD system. Intel VT or AMD Virtualization is required for support of Windows guests
  • Installation requires and overwrites complete disk
Note: Hyper-V and ESX work with certain network adapters only. Please check compatibilty first. Also verify that the guest OS supports the virtual Hyper-V / ESX network interface.

Virtualization installation notes
Windows Server 2008 (x64; full installation) with Hyper-V is a regular server installation with the role of Hyper-V enabled

  • Hyper-V Server 2008 is a regular x64 core installation with only the Hyper-V role available

    A “core” installation does omit all GUI tools and makes use of shell commands. A shell command based tool will guide you through the computer configuration, e.g. setting computer name, network configuration etc.

    Installing and enabling the Hyper-V role is documented by Microsoft. For details see: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc753802.aspx
  • Make sure to apply all available Microsoft updates after installation. Apply even optional ones, as Hyper-V related updates may be optional
  • ESX as well as XenServer installation and configuration is straightforward

Virtualization administration notes

Hyper-V
  • A Windows GUI administration tool is used to manage VMs on a Windows Server 2008
  • On a Hyper-V Server 2008 (which is a core installation without GUI tools) Hyper-V configuration is not possible directly on the server. A separate Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista workstation is required to run the GUI administration program remotely
VMware
  • After ESX is installed and started, an administration program must be downloaded from the server's IP address using a web browser and installed on a Windows XP (or newer) client

    This program can be used for basic VM administration tasks

    Additional features like VM migration accross ESX Servers require the VMware Infrastructure Client administration tool which is part of the VMware Infrastructure products
XenServer
  • After XenServer is installed and started, an administration program must be downloaded from the server's IP address using a web browser and installed on a Windows XP (or newer) client

    This program can be used for basic VM administration tasks

Guest OS support
IBM, Microsoft, VMware and Citrix provide a list of supported guest operating systems for their virtualization solutions, as well as available features such as the number of CPUs for the guest OS.

For an OS not on the supported list, Microsoft and VMware recommend to check their discussion forums for other customer success stories with installing that OS.
HELIOS tested the guest OSs listed in the table above. Check with the virtualization product vendor for OS support.

Guest OS installation 

IBM
Installed guest OS from standard distribution CDs
  • AIX 5.3
  • AIX 6.1
Hyper-V
Installed guest OS from standard distribution CDs
  • Windows Server 2003 / 2008, XP
  • Solaris
  • SUSE / Red Hat Linux
VMware
Converted already available VM images with “VMware-converter” from an AMD PC running VMware Workstation 6 to the ESXi server
  • SUSE / Red Hat Linux
  • Windows Server 2003 / 2008, XP
  • Solaris
XenServer
Installed guest OS from standard distribution CDs
  • Windows Server 2003 / 2008, XP
  • Solaris
  • SUSE / Red Hat Linux
When available for the installed guest OS, so called “integration services” should be installed to smooth keyboard and mouse user experience as well as gain a performance increase.

Using regular Linux Xen instead of Citrix XenServer

  • Citrix XenServer is a boxed solution based on a Xen-enabled Linux operating system, providing advanced features and an easy-to-use management software.

    Instead of XenServer, you can also use a regular Linux system with a Xen-enabled kernel to use Xen virtualization. Support options and management tools depend on the used Linux distribution.

    In addition to more extensive XenServer tests, we did basic tests with openSUSE 11.4 and the Xen kernel and management tools provided by SUSE in this release.

Microsoft Hyper-V exporting / importing VMs notes

  • VMs have to be stored on an NTFS file system in order to be activated
  • Exporting VMs will generate a directory tree with the necessary files
  • Importing VMs requires the same directory structure as was exported. During import, the directory tree will become the store location of the new VM. After the import, the directory tree can not be copied and imported again. If a backup is required, first make a copy and then import the VM
  • Exporting VMs will only work when the destination directory is on NTFS, not FAT or CIFS
  • Importing VMs will only work when the source directory is on NTFS, not FAT or CIFS

HELIOS machine ID (x86 VMs)

  • The HELIOS machine ID is based on VM specific information as well as the network hardware MAC address of the VM
  • Exporting a VM and importing (migrate) it again will keep the same machine ID as long as the imported machine keeps the same network hardware MAC address and VM specific information
  • When installing the same OS a second time into a new VM, then the new VM receives a different HELIOS machine ID
  • Depending on settings for the VMs, when starting a VM it may get a new unique MAC address assigned in case there is already a VM with that MAC address active

Performance notes 

For production environments it is required to conduct representative tests to determine whether the chosen virtualization solution and guest OS meet the needs in feature set and performance.
For some first tests you can use HELIOS tools and sample data, for example:

CPU performance:

“imageconv”
The HELIOS CD-ROM contains the “imageconv” script which converts sample images into many formats

Network performance:

LanTest
HELIOS LanTest is a free professional tool to test and measure performance of Mac networks

Disk performace:  

“dd” on UNIX and HELIOS “dd” on Windows with 10 GB data, e.g.:

dd if=/dev/zero of=/outfile bs=128k count=81920

dd if=/outfile of=/dev/null bs=128k count=8192

Q & A

  • Does Mac OS X for Intel run in one of the supported VMs? Not supported by Apple nor HELIOS.
  • Is VMware Server / Workstation / Fusion supported? The HELIOS USB machine ID dongle works.
    These solutions may be good for testing.
    However they are not supported by HELIOS for production environments.
  • Is Parallels Mac Server or Workstation supported? The HELIOS USB machine ID dongle works.
    These solutions may be good for testing.
    However they are not supported by HELIOS for production environments.
  • Is Microsoft Virtual Server 2003 supported? Not tested nor supported by HELIOS.
  • Is Oracle VirtualBox supported? Not tested nor supported by HELIOS.
  • Is Solaris Zones supported? This is not hardware virtualization.
    HELIOS products installed in the root zone will work.
    Using HELIOS products in other zones is not supported.
  • Can I run EtherShare 3 times on the same virtualization server? Yes. However, each instance of a guest OS needs its own EtherShare license / serial number.
  • Whom to contact with support problems? If you have encountered a problem with the:
    • Native OS running the VMs contact the VM vendor
    • Guest OS running in the VMs contact the guest OS vendor
    • HELIOS products contact your HELIOS partner
  • You may need to verify whether the problem encountered is due to a guest OS issue or the native OS running the VM. For verification conduct a cross test with the guest OS installed on native hardware. If the problem persists, it is likely due to the guest OS, otherwise the virtualization product.
  • Is Linux PPC on IBM PowerVM supported? HELIOS only supports AIX 5.3 or newer on the PowerVM architecture.
  • Can I deploy a 400 user virtualized server? For heavy-load, native hardware will perform much better and the OS will be supported by the hardware vendor directly. We recommend to test server virtualization before deployment.
  • Will virtualization high availability work? HELIOS software is prepared to work in such environments. Consult your VM vendor for advice and additional information.
  • How much will the HELIOS virtualization support cost? No additional costs for existing customers with a Software Upgrade Service agreement. They will receive CD024 as part of their subscription. New customers receive this automatically with their purchase. Customers with older product versions, or without Software Upgrade Service agreements should contact their HELIOS partner for pricing details.