A Week of Upgrades [1/4]: Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Upgrade

[sc:windows-category ]I recently spent some time (the better part of a week) upgrading my servers at home, what follows is a 4 part series (one part each day this week) of articles around those upgrades. The first part here is about upgrading my Hyper-V host servers to Windows Server 2012.

Having upgraded my desktops to Windows 8 it is now time to move to Hyper-V 2012 as well so I can manage the VM’s without having to RDP in to the servers.

Currently I have two Hyper-V servers running, each hosts several VM’s which are a mix of Linux and Windows.  I’m running OpenSUSE for Linux and mostly Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard for the Windows boxes.  The Hyper-V hosts themselves are 2008 R2 Enterprise.

With Windows 2012 some of the licensing for virtual machines has changed so I’m installing 2012 Data Center on the Hyper-V hosts.  And before anyone asks, yes I’m installing the GUI as well.  I understand from a logical perspective as to why Microsoft is moving to a GUI less server environment but for small IT shops it just doesn’t make sense.  I can only hope they realize this and continue to offer the GUI on server option in future versions.

I’ve chosen to do an in place upgrade on the Hyper-V hosts because I keep these boxes very clean.  They only thin on them is Hyper-V, all other services I run inside the VM’s.  This didn’t use to be the case when I was running VMware Server, as I had the host servers running the VM’s as well as being Windows Domain Controllers.  However Hyper-V doesn’t allow that so when I moved to the Hyper-V (which turned out to be a good idea as VMware has since stop development on their Server product) I made a conscious effort to keep the host servers as simple as possible.  This actually saved me once about a year ago when the OS drive on one of the host severs failed and I had to re-install, with so little on the physical box it was only a little over an hour before I had it up and running again.

Of course the first thing to do is to backup all the VM’s I’m running.  I really don’t have a good way to do this, between the mix of OS’s and not enough time to find a solution, I just shut down the OS’s and copy the VHD’s to an external disk.

This isn’t the fastest process and it takes a couple hours of manual work to do, but it does make a nice clean break point to go back to if I need to for some reason.

After searching the Net for anything I should look out for only one thing came up, which was to shutdown the VM’s before the upgrade.

Shutdown was easy and then I copied the 2012 install files to the local disk and ran setup.  Setup looks pretty much the same as always and getting through to the upgrade portion was easy enough.  When it checked for any issues three items came up:

  1. Incompatible Anti-virus
  2. Incompatible Intel Pro-Set
  3. Warning about a physical disk attached to a VM

I kind of expected my anti-virus to be incompatible, it looks like the vendor isn’t updating it for 2012 so I simply uninstalled it.  My gut feel is I won’t install another AV product since I’ve only every had false positives from the server side.  I may do some more research though and see if I can find a replacement.

The Intel Pro-Set software didn’t surprise me but did cause the most problems.  Uninstalling it broke the Hyper-V virtual networking.  First I had to go in to device manager and search for new devices (after install Windows only picked up one of the two network cards) and then re-assign the virtual network to the physical card again.  After that I had to re-enter the IP address for the server as that had been lost in one of the changes.

The warning about the physical disk is a little interesting.  My main file servers (one on each Hyper-V host) have direct attached physical 2tb disks to the VM’s.  I did this for two reasons:

  1. A virtual 2tb vhd seems kind of iffy…
  2. I moved the disks from physical servers to VM’s, so simply attaching them to the VM’s meant I didn’t have to copy all the data around.

The upgrade proceeded with a couple of reboots and a final restart, there were no issues and it only took about an hour to complete.  During one of the reboots Windows did stick on the “Getting Ready…” screen for about 10 minutes, but finally did progress.  Overall it was painless, but during the reboots you never knew what was going on, you just had that blank “Windows” screen with the twirling dots.

I’ll admit its a little weird seeing the Start screen when you logon, but other than that the upgrade worked without issue.

The physical disk did have to be reconnected to the VM before I restarted it, but that was simple enough.  All of the other VM’s came up without issue.

Of course I couldn’t just leave well enough alone and decided to do a firmware upgrade to the servers as well, which promptly eat both the networking and disk configuration 🙁

In Windows the network card had changed id’s, which meant the Hyper-V virtual adapter was no longer able to find what it was supposed to use for network access.  Loading up the Virtual Network configuration allowed me to re-assign the correct adapter but as Windows had assigned a DHCP address to the new adapter, Hyper-V wiped out my previous IP config and used DHCP instead.  Simply re-applying the correct IP address solved this problem.

The disk configuration was a little more strange as the physical disk that I had assigned to one of the VM’s had come back online and been assigned a drive letter on the Hyper-V server.  To be used inside a VM a disk must be offline.  Taking the disk offline and assigning it back to the VM solved this as well.

In an unrelated issue (which caused a bit of extra work) that I’ve had with my two servers is around the KVM I’ve been using.  Seemingly randomly on reboot the keyboard/mouse will stop working.  This has been an annoyance for quite a while but never significant enough of an issue for me to track it down.  However to upgrade to 2012 I do need the KVM to work well and it was being very uncooperative.  I decided to rip out the KVM and direct connect the keyboard and after that I still had issues.  This must be BIOS related and I’m hoping the upgrades will resolve it.

The second unrelated issue I had during the upgrade is that the motherboards I’m using have an option for a hardware remote management on them which I’ve installed.  The first server I connected to with IE 10 from my Windows 8 PC and IE simply refused to connect due to the security certificate.  I poked around a bit but didn’t find a resolution so I simply used Firefox instead.  The second server however was not responding on the management IP.  Reconfiguring the IP addresses didn’t work and I finally resorted to re-flashing the BIOS on the management board.  This resolved the issue and the rest of the Server 2012 proceeded without issue.

Now that both Hyper-V servers are updated I’ll be doing the rest of my servers in the following order:

  • Windows Domain Controllers
  • DFS servers
  • MySQL server (on Windows)
  • VPN servers (run OpenVPN appliances)
  • Mail Gateway (currently on OpenSUSE 12.1, but really need an upgrade to 12.2)
  • Exchange Server (both OS to 2012 and Exchange to 2013)

The Exchange upgrade will be the most challenging, I really should setup two new servers and configure them for redundancy but that seems like a lot of work and of course there’s the SSL certs to mess with 😉

Tomorrow I’ll post the domain controller, DFS and SQL upgrade entry, come back then to find out how it went.



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Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.

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Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.