Posts Tagged Virtualisation

Microsoft’s Virtualisation Announcement & XP Mode

After today’s Virtualisation Hour there was a lot of buzz surrounding the announcements Microsoft made about memory and naturally XP Mode.  I wanted to take a minute though and look more closely at the XP Mode story and hope to help you more clearly understand it.

xp mode

XP Mode…First off, what exactly is it?  Well, it’s virtualisation functionality that allows your Windows 7 machine to run legacy Windows XP applications.  Subjectively looking at it, what it does is allows you to migrate to Windows 7 while still having “backwards compatibility” with older, potentially legacy XP apps.  Maybe you’ve got an app that was developed a long time ago and the developer left…Maybe you’ve got an app that is being developed for Windows 7 but in the interim you need to support it on XP…Maybe you’ve got an app that is part of a merger or set of existing apps that needs deprecated.  XP Mode serves the needs of all of the aforementioned.

XP Mode, however, when it first came out, required what is known as HAV or Hardware Assisted Virtualisation.  In the Intel world it’s Intel VT, in the AMD world it’s called AMD-V.  Essentially it was a BIOS switch you needed to flip in order to ensure that your hardware could run the virtualisation stack more seamlessly.  If you’ve done any 64 bit virtualisation before, surely you’ll have seen this setting.  However, the draw back of this meant that the value sell proposition of Windows 7 was less attractive.  One of the main benefits of Windows 7 was that it didn’t require all of the resources previous operating systems did and hence you could easily upgrade your older hardware to Windows 7.

However, if you were to upgrade legacy hardware, what did this mean?  You guessed it, no Intel VT or AMD-V in most cases, which also now meant no XP mode.  With today’s announcement however, you can now virtualise XP without needing HAV.

This gives you a seamless experience and supportability for those legacy XP apps on any piece of hardware.  That’s the good news.  Here’s the IT spin on it though and where most people go wrong or don’t think of the consequences…

Windows XP mode is a STOP GAP.  It is not an enterprise solution.  Just because you know certain apps work fine on XP and they don’t pass the acidity test to run on Windows 7 DOES NOT mean simply roll out XP mode.  XP mode in a sense is a stand alone machine that is isolated from everything.  Now you ask, wait, it’s part of the domain surely?  Well, yes, however it only gets fired up by the end user when it is needed, therefore the manageability factor of this workstation is VERY difficult to handle.  Let us also not forget that XP SP2 is going End of Life on July 13, 2010.

Also, as an IT admin, ask yourself (if you know about .vhd technology), do you really want .vhd’s floating around in your environment with potentially lucrative company data and applications?  Also, each time you rebuild a workstation, now not only is it one rebuild, it’s two – per workstation!

Sure there are times in an enterprise when you need “XP Mode” but there are much nicer enterprise tools available…Take for example MED-V.  Alternatively, you could always try to run the app in App-V which would centralise it and make updating much easier and put less overhead and burden on your network.  There is further, the option of RDS, but that’s a lot of infrastructure to just support one app. 

My point is that while, yes, it is nice to see the XP Mode caveat of HAV taken away, take it with a grain of salt.  Play your legacy Flight Sim games at home in XP Mode…Use Microsoft BOB in XP Mode, but please don’t take this announcement to mean that now you have a get-out-of-jail-free card to go deploying XP Mode in your corporate environment.

So, without further adieu, here are the distributables you need to make this happen should you wish to remove the requirement for HAV, making XP Mode work in Windows 7.

32 bit MSU Package

64 bit MSU Package

and, should you want some more bedtime reading, here is the KB article which corresponds to the announcement and the MSU’s above.


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How Microsoft Does IT – Deploying Virtual Machines using Hyper-V

Microsoft IT virtually deploys more than 80% of new servers using Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. To ensure optimal performance, Microsoft IT has developed configuration best practices, based on the application workloads or services being provided by the virtual machines.

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Want Microsoft to build your Hyper-V VM for you?

Recently released is a new set of VHD’s for your arsenal, created by Microsoft, for you.  Sure they come with 60 day evals on them, but they’re pre-built Windows Server 2008 images.  x86 and x64 flavours.  REMEMBER though – if you plan to go to Server 2008 R2, it will only be 64 bit…

Hyper-V based Windows Server 2008 virtual machines with an evaluation period of 60 days are available here:

  1. Windows Server 2008 Standard x86 (full install)
  2. Windows Server 2008 Standard x86 (core install)
  3. Windows Server 2008 Standard x64 (full install)
  4. Windows Server 2008 Standard x64 (core install)
  5. Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x86 (full install)
  6. Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x86 (core install)
  7. Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64 (full install)
  8. Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64 (core install)

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Testing OCS in a Hyper-V Setup

An MCT friend of mine Desmond Lee has written an excellent article on setting up OCS to test in a Hyper-V virtualised environment. If you’re at all interested in the stuff you can do with OCS (it’s pretty cool), you ought to go over and read his article and try it for yourself. Good stuff Desmond!

PS Have you seen the new OCS Website?

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ESXi meet Hyper-V Server

Just when VMware decided to make ESX free in the form of ESXi, Microsoft have come along with Hyper-V Server – the free edition.  Obviously based on Windows Server 2008, slimmed down version – none the less, you can get Hyper-V server for free and only have to subsequently pay for the licenses of the servers you run on it – similar to ESXi.  Similar to ESXi, there are “limitations” but to get you out of the starting blocks, this baby surely will do the trick.  Pop over to Microsoft and check it out for yourself!

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