Microsoft’s Hyper-V Server 2012: too painful to use?

A user over on the technet forums says that the free standalone Hyper-V is too painful to use:

I was excited about the free stand-alone version and decided to try it out.  I downloaded the Hyper-V 2012 RC standalone version and installed it.  This thing is a trainwreck!  There is not a chance in hell that anyone will ever use this thing in scenarios like mine.  It obviously intended to be used by IT Geniuses in a domain only.  I would really like a version that I can up and running in less than half an hour like esxi.  How the heck is anyone going to evaluate it this in a reasonable manner? 

To be clear, this is about the free Hyper-V Server, which is essentially Server Core with only the Hyper-V role available. It is not about Hyper-V in general as a feature of Windows Server and Windows 8.

Personally I think the standalone Hyper-V Server is a fantastic offering; but at the same time I see this user’s point. If you join the Hyper-V server to a Windows domain and use the administration tools in Windows 8 everything is fine; but if you are, say, a Mac user and download Hyper-V Server to have a look, it is not obvious what to do next. As it turns out you can get started just by typing powershell at a command prompt and then New-VM, but how would you know that? Further, if Hyper-V is not joined to a domain you will have permission issues trying to manage it remotely.

Install Hyper-V Server, and the screen you see after logging on does not even mention virtualization.

image

By contrast, with VMWare’s free ESXi has a web UI that works from any machine on the network and lets you get started creating and managing VMs. It is less capable than Hyper-V Server; but for getting up and running quickly in a non-domain environment it wins easily.

I have been working with Hyper-V Server 2012 myself recently, upgrading two servers on my own network which run a bunch of servers for development and test. From my perspective the free Hyper-V Server, which is essentially Server Core with only the Hyper-V role available, is a great offer from Microsoft, though I am still scratching my head over how to interpret the information (or lack of it) on the new product page, which refers to the download as a trial. I am pretty sure it is still offered on similar terms to those outlined for Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 by Program Manager Jeff Woolsey, who is clear that it is a free offering:

  • Up to 8 processors
  • Up to 64 logical processors
  • Up to 1TB RAM
  • Up to 64GB RAM per VM

These specifications may have been improved for Hyper-V Server 2012; or perhaps reduced; or perhaps Microsoft really is making it a trial. It is all rather unclear, though I would guess we will get more details soon.

It is worth noting that if you do have a Windows domain and a Windows 8 client, Hyper-V Server is delightfully easy to use, especially with the newly released Remote Server Administration Tools that now work fine with Windows 8 RTM, even though at the time of writing the download page still says Release Preview. You can use Server Manager as well as Hyper-V Manager, giving immediate access to events, services and performance data, plus a bunch of useful features on a right-click menu:

image

In addition, File and Storage services are installed by default, which I presume means you can use Storage Spaces with Hyper-V Server, which could be handy for hosting VMs with dynamically expanding virtual hard drives. Technically you could also use it as a file server, but I presume that would breach the license.

For working with VMs themselves of course you have the Hyper-V Manager which is a great tool and not difficult to use.

image

The question then: with all the work that has gone into these nice GUI tools, why does Microsoft throw out Hyper-V Server with so little help that a potential customer calls it “too painful to use”?

Normally the idea of free editions is to entice customers into upgrading to a paid-for version. That is certainly VMWare’s strategy, but Hyper-V seems to be different. It is actually good enough on its own that for many users it will be a long time before there is any need to upgrade. Microsoft’s hope, presumably, is that you will run Windows Server instances in those Hyper-V VMs, and these of course do need licenses. If you buy Windows 8 to run the GUI tools, that is another sale for Microsoft. In fact, the paid-for Windows Server 2012 can easily work out cheaper than the free editions, if you need a lot of server licenses, since they come with an allowance of licenses for virtual instances of Windows Server. Hyper-V Server is only really free if you run free software, such as Linux, in the VMs.

Personally I like Hyper-V Server for another reason. Its restricted features mean that there is no temptation to run other stuff on the host, and that in itself is an advantage.

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33 comments to Microsoft’s Hyper-V Server 2012: too painful to use?

  • Niclas Lindgren

    For a standard windows 2012 Server you don’t need to join the server or you windows 8 machine to the domain. You can add the machine to the trustedHosts of winrm to use Remote admin too for win8. To use the Hyper-V manager in windows 8, all you need to do is add the hyper-v host to the credential manager for the account that has admin rights on the machine.

    Not tried that on a Hyper-V core installation, perhaps it works.

  • I have to say, if you don’t know how to use a GUI less server and you don’t have the nous to look up tutorials and learn PowerShell, you may not be the right person to be running server virtualization

  • tim

    @Mary agreed up to a point; the permissions issue when you don’t have a domain was really annoying though in 2008 R2. It may be better as Niclas says in Hyper-V Server 2012 though it is going to require some Googling or Binging even if it is. I have seen reports that say only the old HVRemote works but have not verified either way yet.

    Tim

  • I also struggle to understand why one would want a server and not a domain ;-) am I missing the sheer joy of banging ones head against a wall here? It’s possible to make anything difficult by insisting on using it in ‘well I wouldn’t start from here’ fashion…

  • Niclas Lindgren

    @Mary I could definitely understand why you wouldn’t want a domain just because you want to run a Hyper-V server. Also I definitely see the reason for being able to manage Hyper-V servers irrespectively of which domain they (and you) happen to be part of. Why not just ask for the credentials needed, setup a secure wimrm session or remote Powershell session behind the scenes and just make it work (there are probably a million technical reasons why this is hard though, but those are created impediments, not real, they can be fixed, but it likely effects the entire authentication idea of windows, which revolves around AD).

    Providing an easy to use free Hyper-V server with enough power to host enthusiast home servers or play ground company hosts or the like most likely has a very good return of investment, because what people know and can play with will effect whatever influence they have on their company’s choice of tools in the long run, and that’s where the money is, when the hosting/servers scale inside a company. Even better if your system is friendly enough that executives can play for themselves. It is trickery, but powerful trickery in the decision making process that I don’t think should be underestimated. Visual Studio’s power has for a long time sold Microsoft’s platform, because developers wanted to use the studio to do the development. Or Office’s VBA capabilities that made it easy for even executives to automate their daily tasks.

    This is one reason why I don’t understand why they killed the very cheap Window Home Server edition, it increases the barrier for entry into the ecosystem.

    I can see though why they might want to push you towards Azure VMs instead. Or that they believe small businesses should move to Office 365 instead of setting up their own shop. And I guess that is a larger future market than companies running their own servers in the future. It is really hard to tell though.

  • Carol Chisholm

    This is of also the default installation of Server 2012 – core with Hyper-V. Microsoft might also have an interest in having lots of people familiar with this greatly improved free Hypervisor.
    It would be interested to know how many sites capable of understanding virtualisation don’t have a domain somewhere around.
    Kerberos authentication for Live Migration is another reason to have a domain.

  • John Somebody

    What if you want to create a new domain controller as a VM? It’s a horse and cart scenario, because you can’t easily manage the Hyper-V server without a domain but you can’t create the domain until you can manage the Hyper-V server. This was frustrating.

  • tim

    Yes, a little awkward. With Windows 8, you could create the domain controller on a Windows 8 machine, join the Hyper-V Server to the domain, then move the DC later. Microsoft recommends that you also have a second domain controller which is on a different physical machine.

  • Stephane

    I am wondering why so many don’t like Hyper-V Core ? Yes, I struggled the first few times to configure the remote access, but now I have : hyper-v core in a workgroup, two child VM (sbs 2011 and 2008r2), and when necessary, I connect my laptop (part of the domain) on the 2nd Nics and I manage my hyper-v core. The only issue I have for now (but I haven’t yet spent the time to find a solution) is to access my hyper-v remotely, from the internet.

    Isn’t this a better solution than having a full Server OS (security issues, …) as the Hyper-V parent ? How do you connect to it remotely ?

  • As seasoned DataCenter user of VMware, I’ve given (the free) Hyper-V 24 hours. I feel pretty stupid as I was not able to get a VMguest@HyperV running. Why muist I crawl Google for getting it running ?

    Yes, I get the informationless awkward screen, managed to solve some silly connection issues, even got myself a full blown Win8 for GUI management. However, I stopped when I discovered, I even had to further in creating an AD for comfortably getting in touch to Hyper-V.

    Nope this HyperV is not what I will going to recommend to my customers. HyperV@2012 may have a free core better then ESXi but lacks totally on (any ?) tools for even being useful. I must admit, I hardly tried to learn PS commands as that was not my goal… I just want to quickly virtualise in minutes….

    In case, I missed something which could eases things.. let me know. Thanks for a great article.

  • Kirk

    Seriously? Once you get the free Hyper-V Core running, you can manage it with the FREE admin tools from a GUI workstation or server.
    It’s simple.

    The friendly manuals, implementation guides and Hyper-V training videos all explain this very clearly.

  • Dominic

    Stephane – “Yes, I struggled the first few times to configure the remote access, but now I have” How did you get it working? I have had two days of searching and trying without result.

    Kirk – “The friendly manuals, implementation guides and Hyper-V training videos all explain this very clearly.” Can you post links?

  • Vin

    Hi Tim,
    I installed Hyper V Server 2012 on my Windows 7 laptop thinking it was a kind of VMWare. After I installed it the system is just starting in hyper V mode and I am unable to go back to Windows 7. As you have mentioned in this article it is just opening with command prompt, I am not an expert at Powershell or using command prompt too. I previously installed VMWare many a time and thought it was same.

    I did some googling and found that there is Windows.Old file. I have all my important documents and all my personal things on this laptop. Is there a way that I can retrieve everything back and to Windows 7. Your help will go a long way in ending my misery of not knowing what to do with this software as well as helping me in getting back all my stuff.

    The biggest thing I hate about this software is it never gave any warning of wiping out OS or anything like that.

  • tim

    Copy the stuff in windows.old to a safe place (external drive) then do system recovery (see docs for your laptop).

    Tim

  • Vin

    Hi Tim,

    I tried to do that, when I plug in the external drive it is not being recognized and the only screen I see after I log on to the machine is Command Prompt. Could you please help me by providing some information or steps on how to copy the stuff in windows.old to an external hard drive.

    Thanks
    Vin

  • tim

    Look up xcopy/s

  • Vin

    Thank you very much Tim, it worked and I was able to copy the data into an external hard drive.

  • Van

    Hi All

    If we have a Windows Hyper-V 2012 server, how do we upgrade it to Windows Server 2012 standard GUI?
    Is this possible?

  • tim

    Export the VMs. Install Server 2012 standard. Import the VMs.

    Tim

  • Dashrender

    Thanks for a nice write up, though I really have to agree with the poster on Technet. Using Hyper-V either as a core install (completely free) or as a role inside a full install, managing Hyper-v remotely is a pain.

    After many hours of scowering Google I came with with a few good links.

    The first is MS’s directions on how to remote connect through all of the typical options (server on domain, client not, client on domain, server not, etc)
    http://archive.msdn.microsoft.com/HVRemote

    Because at first glance I didn’t know where to get the hvremote.wsf file from I ended up getting an error when trying to remote connect to Hyper-v from Windows 7, so I found this link that helped me solve that problem.
    http://blog.mpecsinc.ca/2009/06/hyper-v-error-access-denied-unable-to.html

    I think this might be the original post you wrote this article on.
    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/winserverhyperv/thread/e91635ce-0891-40ac-a186-21da60dfd494/

  • rick

    Thanks for the article!! Very helpful… there is so little information when it comes to using the standalone Hyper-V Server 2012. I have been digging through internet searches looking for anything.

  • Carl

    I fail to understand how when you mentioned it was hard to use Tim, that the first comments were from an obvious Microsoft-devout saying if you don’t know PowerShell, you might as well get out of the kitchen. I’m totally lost on that – isn’t the prior idea of MS that their product is easier to use than unicies or something?

    If VMWare is a breeze to manage over Hyper-V, I fail to see any reason for someone to use it over VMware unless you are poor company who has a lot of time, but little funds. Am I seeing a trend here? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source for more details…

    To note, both our DCs are on VMs on VSphere in a four unit cluster with SAN mirroring over a 1Gb link to a three unit DR cluster on a separate SAN – I’d like to see either one of those DCs go down versus bare metal installs. Yes, we’ll have some work to bring everything back up, but we’re talking minutes.

    I think the last thing Microsoft needs to do is make a hard-to-manage product whether it’s free or not.

  • tim

    @carl just to clarify, the article is about the standalone Hyper-V server, which is awkward to use unless you join it to a Windows domain and use remote GUI tools, not about Hyper-V in its entirety.

    Tim

  • Carl

    Well, I’ll agree on this… sorry I didn’t clarify – but I’ve just installed it and it’s already taken twice as long to simply even begin to use it in the standalone.

    Even the free version of ESXi is as simple as connect to the IP and download a client.

  • Adrien

    I also had a fairly bad experience with 2012 Hyper-V. I had to move from ESXi to Hyper-V because some hardware wasn’t supported by ESXi (try installing a LAN adapter driver and you’ll see what I mean).

    We have a domain, and I joined the Hyper-V server to it, but there’s no way in hades I want to install Windows 8 here at work until MS puts back in the start menu and gets rid of Metro (or at least allows me to turn it off). I run Windows 8 at home, and spend altogether far too much time trying to get away from Metro.

    Managing the server from windows 7 proved problematic. Firewall issues (bugs?) on the server still to this day prevent use of device manager remotely. The documented firewall scripts just produced errors.

    Why not just give us a tiny GUI on the Hyper-V core? I know it’s there, since there are still some apps that run with a GUI (e.g. not command line). Just give us server management would be great, then I can RDP to it to manage it.

    Using the VMs is a breeze though with the Hyper-V manager, and works great from Windows 7.

    Some more ESXi-like features would be good also, like being able to see guest image resource usage.

  • tim

    @Adrien fair point, though there is a command-line device manager you can use with RDP.

    Tim

  • I too read the TechNet post and yours as well, That was back in November 2012 and I have learned a lot since. I also have blogged a lot since. Check out how to get a GUI start menu on free core server 2012 and lots of other useful tools and apps. Not the least of which is VTutilities (free for 7 days) well worth the $120 US. I really feel that a GUI is the best way to go but I am learning the powershell. Checkout my all powershell script detailed VHost and VM’ reporting script, dumps out a text file of very good info to have. Stephanco.blogspot.com
    It works great with any stand alone 2012 server I have currently tested it on free core 2012 and datacenter 2012.

  • Ian Dodds

    Well I’m with Jonathan on this one. (The original poster on technet).

    I thought that I’d give Hyper-V core (free) a good go today for a couple of SME reasons.

    Smaller organisations are often based in suburban areas & suffer power issues beyond their UPS capacity. Windows recovers better from sudden outages than linux based systems. (I believe that’s a benefit of Command versus Script based). Secondly, I was hoping to use it for 2 processor servers that are beyond the free version of V-Sphere. (Still not sure if that’s supported on Hyper-V free).

    The end result is that I’ll just tell my clients to buy the essentials version from VMWare.

    Even though I have downloaded a copy of Server2012 standard, I insisted on trying to set up the free core today. There is a lot of misinformation out there & I might just have read most of it :-). I should be setting up Server 2012 for a few clients soon, so that will be the benefit of todays research with a new server on a new Hyper-V 2012 standard (I hope).

    There are several points that I differ from some of you on coming from the SME marketplace…

    1./ Connecting the hyper-v to a domain seems silly, when an amount of the population will want to run their domain controller on the virtual platform itself.

    2./ It was nice to go back to DOS for a little while, but too many hardware management features are more time consuming & mistake prone without the GUI’s. (Diskpart & I dis-agreed on which disk was which). We all cost too much per hour to not have clean & accurate tools at our disposal.

    3./ Powershell reminds me a lot of the Cisco routers with the CLI. It is definitely less resource intensive, but far too little confirmation of the effects. And another thing to learn that may well become superceded by a GUI. After all, Windows itself superceded DOS. Honestly, if I wanted to go through the needed education to learn how to drive powershell & half effective tools, then I’d be better going back to CentOS & virtualising from there. (That’s quirky too :-) )

    4./ I’m also not sure about matching Windows Domain/Workgroup credentials to connect from a management computer. If indeed you want to be able to manage the domain controller host from a workstation, then you need a separate user account & workgroup, or a separate computer if the domain controller VM has failed.

    For what it’s worth, I quite liked the 5nine Manager for Hyper-V 3.4. It is useful to have a file manager during the learning curve (even if I couldn’t see anything but drive c:). Corefig 1.1 is also a great example of the GUI confirmations that I find comforting for confirming states & effects of actions. 2Tware convert VHD was quite handy to go from VMDK to VHD to get a machine working.

    I reckon if Microsoft gave us back the Control panel & explorer, there’d be a lot more of us using Hyper-V 2012 free. That of course, then generates moves up the ladder to the paid products. VMWare isn’t under any real threat yet.

    cheers guys & girls.

  • John Doe

    For all you whiners: why don’t you try Corefig?

    http://bit.ly/13hORe3

  • Klaus

    @Ian Dodds I liked 5nine Manager for Hyper-V too, btw pressing Alt+F2 inside the file manager gives you drives selection far beyond the C: drive :)

    Microsoft’s Hyper-V Server 2012 can be painful to use, unless you add some GUI via 5nine. But it’s tiny footprint and decreased vulnerability makes a growing number of folks think it is a way to go, myself included.

  • micke

    well its a pain to get started.
    Hyper-V is porly documented and not intended as a quick fix, this is probably why it will not work out of the box.

    ESXI is a lovely product, but it has other limitations. Its a mutch faster way to get strated in a small company.

    I still wish microsoft to make a blue print on how to install hyper-v from immage + Win8 and how to configure it. As a workgroup ! just like the products installs.
    Its not easy to find this information on the net, on how to do this and to get it working. But when its working its fine, and can be administrated nicely. A great bonus would be to describe how RSAT can be installed to do extras @ the same time.

  • Dave

    I am currently battling Hyper-V 2012 in my home setup both for home use and as a lab case for learning… I am no stranger to Hyper-V, VMWare, Virtial box etc.

    Frankly I don’t get it, Hyper-V server is missing lots of things that Microsoft typically excels at.
    The argument “learn powershell” doesn’t change the fact that the powerShell equivalent to device manager is not as quick and easy to use for troubleshooting.. it is CLI and scripable wich is great, but why remove the GUI?

    While trying to setup a vswitch I got an error that my nic was already a member of a switch.. the MS KB did not have a command to fix this, it literally had two different programs for me down download to fix what amounts to a check box in the normal gui.

    As far as management goes, the reality is that it REQUIRES Windows 8, and you are still losing GUI functions in that scenario.

    For Enterprise, if you have a BUNCH of imaged machines in a cluster, I think Hyper-V 2012 is not bad..

    If you want to run a stand alone Hyper-V server, you should build it off of Windows server 2012 with the Hyper-V roll for business (you will get visualization instance licenses anyway) or at home Use Windows8 with the Hyper-V roll enabled… Ether way you get all the device management tools you need.

    If you want a bare metal Hyper Visor with grate management and ease of use, ESXi Clobbers Hyper-V 2012 standalone.. however check the hardware compatibility list closely.

    Speaking of compatibility, it appears that MS and Intel for example have started to diverge the Desktop and Server signed drivers for a lot of hardware. You can’t just use a Win8 driver in 2012 if the manufacturer didn’t put the flag in for the driver to also work with 2012.. You can get around this with editing the inf file and flipping driver signing off and on but this also destroys the other Microsoft advantage of driver support.

  • Kevin

    I’ll ask this here since I can’t find an answer anywhere else. I’m running Hyper-V 2012 Core R2 Preview. Will I be able to perform an in-place upgrade to the final version or am I screwed?