Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager 2007
Reviews January 17th, 2008
By Roger Howorth

Launched last November, Virtual Machine Manager 2007 is part of Microsoft’s System Center suite of datacentre management tools. Although the current version can manage only virtual machines (VMs) running on Microsoft Virtual Server, a forthcoming update, due by the end of the year, will also manage VMs running on VMware ESX Server and XenSource systems, as well as those running on Microsoft’s forthcoming Hyper-V enterprise class hypervisor.

In The Hypervisor labs, we found many similarities between VMM 2007 and VMware’s VirtualCenter, such as the ability to start and stop VMs, and to clone VMs so duplicates can be deployed either on the same host server or on others distributed throughout the enterprise.

VMM 2007 cannot itself be run as a VM, instead it needs a physical host system running Windows Server 2003 SP1 or later. This server also needs to have a VMM agent and WRM installed, and VMM 2007 uses Microsoft SQL Server to store various parameters, so it needs access to a suitable database within the datacentre. The VMM 2007 installation disk contains SQL Server 2005, which can be installed on the VMM 2007 system and is licensed for use with VMM at no extra cost. The installation utility will also locate and download any Windows components that are required by VMM 2007 but missing from the system.

We were impressed by VMM 2007’s capacity planning module. This analyses the workload of physical servers and VMs and suggests which Virtual Server system is most suitable for hosting the workload. Clearly this tool could be of use while performing physical to virtual migrations, and VMM 2007 can be used to migrate physical servers running Windows and Linux into VMs that can be run on Virtual Server. Similarly, VMM 2007 can be used to convert VMs from VMware format so they run under Virtual Server. Unfortunately, having migrated a physical Windows system, it would then need to be reactivated unless it was licensed using one of Microsoft’s bulk license schemes that does not use the Product Activation wizard.

We were also impressed by VMM 2007’s support for Microsoft PowerShell, which can be used as an interface into VMM 2007 so that VMM 2007 tasks can be performed using scripts rather than from the GUI. Similarly, VMM 2007 can generate PowerShell scripts for tasks that have been performed from the GUI, so having done something once from the GUI, it is easy to automate the task using PowerShell and Windows Task Scheduler.

Another neat feature is the Delegated Provisioning user interface. This is a web based portal that can be configured so that people working in the enterprise can create and control their own VMs without needing help from Virtual Server administrators. For example, Virtual Server administrators could configure various parameters in Active Directory so that users in particular groups would be allowed to create a given number of VMs. Policies could also be used so that those VMs were allocated a limited amount of RAM and CPU resource on the host Virtual Server systems.

However, VMM 2007 is currently unable to adjust VM operational parameters such as the amount of CPU power allocated to a particular VM. Nor can VMM 2007 migrate a VM from one host to another while it is actually running, which is a particularly useful when significant changes to the available resources are needed, or when performing maintenance operations on host servers.