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It's really lame that the default Hyper-V manager doesn't include an automated clone process. So I got all excited when I found that System Center Virtual Machine Manager does and it's free through my MSDN subscription. I downloaded it, got ready to install it, only to have it error out and say I need to be joined to a domain. This seems to be an epic fail that I would need Active Directory to use it. Is there a way around this or are there other tools that integrate with Hyper-V that are just as good (or better) and free?

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Are you running hyper-v core or full blown os with hyper-v role added. if its core then yes scvmm is an epic fail in this case. but if its the full os with the hyper-v role installed then built in hyper-v manager will do 70% of what you need. Have you tried this and if so whats missing? –  tony roth Dec 7 '10 at 17:52
Running full server 2008, using the built-in hyper-v manager. Cloning is a bit of a manual process (exprorting, moving, renaming, importing, etc). No built-in cloning. –  Micah Dec 7 '10 at 18:19
yep that would be one of the missing components! Also p2v but I've always used disk2vhd from sysinternals. Its much faster then scvmm's p2v. If your good at powershell you can overcome most of these missing components. Or use the following pshyperv.codeplex.com –  tony roth Dec 7 '10 at 18:22
You're not supposed to use your mdsn software for production - only training, testing, and development. –  Joel Coel Dec 7 '10 at 19:35
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3 Answers

I too tried System Centre VMM and was underwhelmed, but that was more to do with it being disproportinate to my needs rather than because it is lacking as software. I run a cluster with 2 nodes, and an additional couple of servers, and to be honest I feel that VMM is overkill in this scenario. There's one thing I really do like about it though, the quick storage migration is fantastic and worked every time, and for that reason alone, using VMM saved me a lot of sweat when I reconfigured my storage.

I'm not sure what exactly you mean by cloning. If it is physical to virtual then I've no experience, but if it's virtual to virtual i.e. fast deployment and building multipile versions of the same VM for testing, customer provision, ans so on, then I have just started using a product that I am totally blown away by, it's name is Virsto and it is sold primarily as a storage optimizer, but it has a brilliant cloning and snapshot feature. After you've got it set up, it's literally a couple of clicks to clone a disk and create a new VM. It is beyond words, honestly, it is that good.

The other nice thing about Virsto is that you can add clones without carving chunks out of your storage capacity. 10 VMs take up as much room as 1 VM + any variations between them at bit level. I'm in early stages of testing this, and it still costs (it is not 'free' like VMM on MSDN) but my initial impression is that it just works. But I think Virsto's' biggest challenge is going to be marketing, because Enterprises are only just waking up to Hyper V, and smaller concerns are going to be looking for cheap fixes. But for virtual cloning it saves bags of time. Otherwise, before Virsto I just used sysprep and copied the files, but this takes time and is fiddly.

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Virsto sounds a whole heck of a lot like differencing disks, which is already built into Hyper-V. –  Chris S Dec 7 '10 at 19:35
@chris at these level it does sound like its just diff disks, but virsto and sanbolic do add value to hyper-v in other areas. If you've not check out sanbolic do, it's awesome. Virsto's product like Mark stated is more about performance things like the virtual io blender thats created with adding vms to a host.. –  tony roth Dec 7 '10 at 19:45
The question asks for a good way of managing hyper-v and the point I made was that Virsto is really very good for this. It is much faster at cloning and deploying than VMM. But as a relatively new product, I don't think the Virsto team have got their marketing act together yet, because they don't emphasise the manageability that their product brings. Instead, they go on about IO, which is good but unless you can test it yourself on your own system, a software 'performance enhancer' always sounds like a snake oil cure. –  Mark Lawrence Dec 8 '10 at 10:18
BTW I just checked out differencing disks (I've no experience of using them) and the MS official line is to avoid using them in a production environment technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee941134(WS.10).aspx –  Mark Lawrence Dec 8 '10 at 10:24
there is a beformance penalty with diff disks but its pretty insignificant if you use on volumes that don't change much, as in boot partitions. –  tony roth Dec 8 '10 at 15:16
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SCVMM is a bit overkill for a 2 node cluster, but requiring AD for security make perfect sense. It's pretty quick to "clone" a VM by shutting it down, copying the VHD, and creating a new VM pointing to the copied VHD. It does require configuring all the VM hardware, but after you do it a could times you'll be able to configure a VM in less than a minute.

On a side note, I'd never run a cluster on a full server install. There's a lot of overhead needlessly added and Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 is both free and supports clusters.

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requiring AD makes sense in a microsoft world but its a show stopper for some people! –  tony roth Dec 7 '10 at 19:42
People running Hyper-V are usually living in the MS world already. If you're not living in MS world, you're usually running EXSi, KVM, or Xen... –  Chris S Dec 7 '10 at 22:23
yep but some people like the isolation between the hv hosts running core or not and the ability to limit the patches being applied and the possible impact of said hosts being domain joined! –  tony roth Dec 8 '10 at 18:19
People have a large enough deployment where SCVMM fits and want to run independent security on every host are either masochists or don't understand security and how to implement it properly. I can see the fringe case you're pulling strings from, but it's far from normal and I wouldn't put the time into supporting such a case and understand why MS wouldn't either. Just because you can think up a exception where XYZ would be true doesn't make it the rule. –  Chris S Dec 8 '10 at 18:27
Yes you are 100% correct I'd never do this personally! Just playing devils advocate. –  tony roth Dec 9 '10 at 6:22
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Chris, Virsto is (much) more than just differencing disks. One of its features is in fact can be interpreted as a differencing VHD but the devil is in the details. Differencing disks are Ok for a quick prototype, however with any kind of a meaningful IO load diff disks fell pretty quickly. In a cluster environment (CSV) diff disks are basically unusable. Virsto provides scalable cluster virtual disks, thinly provisioned, with an ability to do instant snapshotting and cloning with no performance penalty. You can out 3 times as many VMs on the same set of storage devices and still have a better performance compared to either fixed VHDs.

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