Hyper-V has many features. Some are new in the Windows Server 2016; some are already old from the Windows Server 2012. However, some are very important for Hyper-V users between both versions.
The focus of this article is about the 7 important (in my view) Hyper-V features. I will go through the top seven features in Hyper-V that are more useful and favorite features of admins to manage Hyper-V Virtual Infrastructures.
Now let’s plunge into the list of all the top Hyper-V features.
The feature was introduced in Windows Server 2016. With nested virtualization, admins can now create Virtual Machines with a hypervisor host (Hyper-V, ESXi even KVM).
Nested Virtualization enables you to run, example; Hyper-V in a Virtual Machine. This Nested Hyper-V then work as a regular Hyper-V Host (with some restriction regarding using Nested virtualization, like using Dynamic Memory, LACP, some applications that relay in hardware). Nested Hyper-V Hosts can also be deployed to implement for testing purposes or use, the new feature Hyper-V Containers.
You can use this feature for testing purposes, but not only. R&D departments can also use some Nested Infrastructures to create test environments before deploying in production. Creating an internal Cloud environment is also something that admins can do using Nested Virtualization.
Host Resources Protection
Host Resources Protection is a feature to protect Hyper-V resources (like CPU, Ram, etc.) from being 100% taken by one VM. This feature protects Hyper-V resources from VMs using more resources than was allocated. When Hyper-V while monitoring its activity detects that a VM is using abnormal resources, automatically reduce allocated resources on that particularly VM so that not affect other VMs performance.
Note: This feature is disabled by default. You can enable host resource protection on the host (is enabled on the host) with Windows PowerShell Set-VMProcessor command.
Production VM checkpoints using VSS
From the previous snapshot feature, Microsoft now changed to the name VM Checkpoints. Previous features did not use Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), so now when admins create a Snapshot (Checkpoint) also include VSS. Using VSS admins have a more “Backup” data-consistent. In Linux VMs there is no VSS, so Checkpoints use a Linux File System Freeze to create a data-consistent backup.
Note: Checkpoints are useful for testing, for R&D purposes or any updates or software installation and we can always rollback, but should not be considered as a Backup and used in production environment particularly for long retention periods.
PowerShell Direct is an advantageous feature for admins. This feature saves time for admins when managing VMs Guest OS. It is now possible to send PowerShell commands directly to the Guest OS without any extra configurations.
Managing Hyper-V Virtual Machines with Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10 is now easier. No need to change firewall rules, domain security policies or Network settings, to execute PowerShell commands against local virtual machines.
Using PowerShell -VM* parameter, admins, now send PowerShell commands directly into the local Virtual Machines. The only rule is that Virtual Machine needs to be on the Hyper-V and to use Windows Server 2016 or Windows 10.
Cluster Rolling Upgrade
Anyone who works with Windows Servers knows that upgrading is always a challenge and many times painful. Particularly in the Hyper-V, and if you have a Cluster then it is a real nightmare because you need to shut down the cluster to be able to upgrade them. Putting a Cluster offline has a significant impact on companies that need to have their systems running 24/7.
With the new Rolling Cluster upgrade feature, Microsoft has fixed this issue by upgrading the Windows Server (consequently the Hyper-V) in a back-end while the actual version is online until is fully upgraded and then uses the new version. While the upgrade process is running, VMs will still be running. The Hyper-V Cluster doesn’t need to be stopped or restarted. Before admins need to create a new Cluster to do the upgrade.
Using this feature and upgrading live saves time (and time is money) and effort in the upgrade progress and admin tasks of their Virtual Infrastructure. During the upgrading process is also possible to revert the Hyper-V Cluster to the previous Hyper-V Cluster version.
Note: Hyper-V Cluster continues online during the upgrade, as long admins don’t raise the functional level. Hyper-V Cluster hosts will continue to run in the previous version until an admin manually raise the functional level using PowerShell command: Update-ClusterFunctionalLevel.
After running PowerShell command, Hyper-V as reach “point-of-no-return” from the upgrade and to the previous version. This is without a doubt one of the best new features for admins.
Storage Replica is precisely what it stands for; Storage Replication is a Volume replication (at the block level) and synchronous between Servers or Clusters. Adding this disaster recovery feature, Microsoft again went further to provide a more High Availability to Hyper-V.
Storage Replica feature will be used for local, but also synchronous replication between sites. With site-to-site sync with different location, Microsoft added a quick failover in case of disaster recovery. By synchronizing server-to-server but also Cluster-to-Cluster between sites and creating failover clusters.
Shielded Virtual Machines
Shield VM feature (Virtual Trusted Platform Module) was one of the features that Microsoft created to provide more VMs security using BitLocker technology and to protect against ransomware and other attacks. Including any inspection, theft, and tampering of company data from admins.
This feature uses a Virtual TPM to encrypt VMs virtual disks using BitLocker. Will protect VMs from any attack on the Hyper-V host.
With the ransomware attacks in the past years and some critical criminal actions from datacenters admins, this a fundamental feature to protect Virtual Infrastructures and company data protection.
Even this is not a feature; I would like to add this to the list. Hyper-V Manager is one of the essential tools inside Hyper-V GUI. No admin can discard this management tool to manage their Hyper-V environment except if admins use Nano Server or manage their Hyper-V using PowerShell management commands.
Microsoft and their engineering team have put much effort in the latest Hyper-V versions. Some were to improve Hyper-V stability and security, others to provide admins with more options to do their daily work on their Hyper-V Virtual Infrastructures.
Many of this features are very important in today’s Virtualization. Similar features are already used by their biggest competitor in the Hypervisor world, VMware.
Every new Hyper-V versions, Microsoft is trying to reduce the gap between their Hypervisor and the most known Hypervisor competitor, vSphere. In my opinion with the latest Hyper-V 2016 and also with the new Hyper-V 2019, Microsoft is getting very close to VMware in this Hypervisor “competition” and removing Windows Server out of the Hypervisor and creating a Nano Server was an excellent direction of that technology gap between both Hypervisor.
Not only in performance, but also in the security area Microsoft has made great improvements. Even Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS v4) is also a significant improvement for Hyper-V vs. Microsoft Servers for SSO between Active Directory and Cloud environments.
Storage with Storage Spaces Direct (SSD) and Storage Replica. ReFS file system is also an area where Microsoft is making great progress.
Besides above features, there also some other features that we could including in this list, like Nano Server, Discrete Device Assignment (DDA), Containers, ReFS, Hyper-V Hot-Add Virtual Hardware, ADFS v4, and many others new and old features.