Running VMware Server on top of Hyper-V… or not

A few days ago, I came across a couple of blog posts about how VMware Server won’t run on top of Hyper-V. Frankly, I’m amazed that any hosted virtualisation product (like VMware Server) will run on top of any hypervisor – I always understood that hosted virtualisation required so many hacks to work at all that if it saw something that wasn’t the real CPU (i.e. a hypervisor handling access to the processor’s hardware virtualisation support) then it might be expected to fall over in a heap – and it seems that VMware even coded VMware Server 2.0 to check for the existence of Hyper-V and fail gracefully. Quite what happens with VMware Server on top of ESX or XenServer, I don’t know – but I wouldn’t expect it to work any better.

Bizarrely, Virtual PC and Virtual Server will run on Hyper-V (I have even installed Hyper-V on top of Hyper-V whilst recording the installation process for a Microsoft TechNet video!) and, for the record, ESX will run in VMware Workstation too (i.e. hypervisor on top of hosted virtualisation). As for Hyper-V in VMware Workstation VM – I’ve not got around to trying it yet but Microsoft’s Matt McSpirit is not hopeful.

Regardless of the above, Steve Graegart did come up with a neat solution for those instances when you really must run a hosted virtualisation solution and Hyper-V on the same box. It involves dual-booting, which is a pain in the proverbial but, according to Steve, it works:

  1. Open a command prompt and create a new [boot loader] entry by copying the default one bcdedit /copy {default} /d "Boot without Hypervisor"
  2. After successful execution copy the GUID (ID of the new boot loader entry) including the curly braces to the clipboard.
  3. Set the HyperVisorLaunchType property to off bcdedit /set {guid} hypervisorlaunchtype off [using] the GUID you’ve previously copied to the clipboard.

After this, you should now have a boot time selection of whether or not to start Hyper-V (and hence whether or not an alternative virtualisation solution will run as expected).

Problems copying files from a backup… restored by thinking laterally

I don’t generally talk about my work (at least not directly) on this blog but, a couple of weeks back, I moved into a new role, which is going to involve working very closely with a certain software company from Redmond (and no, it won’t have any effect on the editorial content here – nothing on this site should be interpreted as representing the views of my employer or their partners). Clearly running Red Hat Enterprise Linux on my laptop wasn’t politically correct (I might have got away with Novell Enterprise Linux) so I needed to rebuild on Windows Vista.

As many of my corporate applications still require Windows XP and IE 6, I run a domain-joined (Windows XP) virtual machine to access them. I had been using VMware Server as the host but as VMware recently sent me a license for VMware Workstation 6.0 (as a VCP benefit) I decided to use that instead following the Vista rebuild. I backed up the virtual machine files to an external disk, rebuilt on Windows (including reformatting the internal disk) got 94% of the way through the restoration of the VM and then I was presented with this message:

Error 0x80070079: The semaphore period has expired.

Not good. I was in the middle of a restore – those files were my backup and the three problem files represented 30% of the virtual disk that makes up my D: drive (i.e. my data).

I’d written the files without errors but clearly something was wrong when reading them. I thought of buying a copy of SpinRite to check that the disk was fine but, before parting with any cash, I tried reading them on another machine and thankfully they restored without any difficulty. I don’t know if the issue was with my Vista machine’s USB device drivers (the successful restore was on my wife’s Windows XP machine), a timing issue (my wife’s machine is older and the external disk was USB 1.1) or something else (like that this is a 60GB FAT32 volume and Windows has a limit of 32GB for FAT32 volume creation – as the virtual machine files totalled 36.5GB in size, maybe the three 1.99GB files that Vista couldn’t read were physically located across and after the 32GB point on the disk) but my experience goes to show that it’s worth trying another machine before giving up totally on the data.

Building a Windows cluster using VMware

Over the last few days, I’ve been testing a Windows cluster in a virtual environment. Of course, the whole point of a cluster is a highly available system running on specialised hardware, but for test purposes a virtual environment can be really handy.

It’s a bit tricky, but it works! The information on how to achieve this is contained in two TechRepublic articles by Steven Warren: