Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V

As we are upgrading one of our servers at present, we are also buying a new Windows Server 2008 64 bit license for it. This allows us to have 8 GB of RAM in the server, and it will also have a RAID-5 disk array. The use of a 64 bit operating system is a first for our school and for my personal experience, and it is an obvious move, yet one that has some definite challenges to it.

One of the nice things that you can get with Server 2008 64-bit on a new box, provided the CPU supports Intel’s hardware based virtualisation technology, is Microsoft Hyper-V, their industrial grade virtualisation solution for Windows. It is definitely a step up from the previous offerings of Virtual PC and Virtual Server, and is intended to compete with VMWare Infrastructure rather than desktop based offerings like VMWare Workstation. A Hyper-V server can support a number of virtualised servers, allowing users to create multiple servers for different purposes and isolate them from one another.

In our case, we have the prospect of compatibility issues with Windows Server 2008 especially 64 bit. An obvious example is printer drivers, which must be 64 bit to work on WS2008/64. We have one or two older printers that have had drivers released for Vista, but only 32 bit versions. To be able to make use of these drivers in a server context, the server will have to be running a 32 bit OS. The obvious solution is to virtualise a Windows Server 2003 server and use that to deploy and manage the print queue for that printer(s), and that is what I will be doing in our setup. Hyper-V has some nice features in that it can automatically start up and shut down the virtualised server instance(s) when the host server is started up or shut down. There is also a Hyper-V MMC snapin available for Windows Vista that can be used just like a remote desktop connection to access the virtualised server instance from another PC.