Category Archives: Microsoft Hyper-V

Topics surrounding Microsoft’s production-ready hypervisor solution.

Hacking the HP 5406zl…

The HP 5406zl
The HP 5406zl

The venerable HP 5406zl.  This switch has been around for many years, in fact, it was introduced back in 2004.  Over time, this switch has seen a number of upgrades, and the current base model 5406zl’s provide 379Gbps of non-blocking goodness.  A while back I acquired one of these to replace the Cisco SG200-26 I had.  The 5406zl is a fully modular switch, and great deals on eBay can be had, if you know where and what to look for.

One of the modules for the 5406zl is the Advanced Services Module.  I have two of these.  They are x86 servers on a blade, letting you run VMware, Hyper-V or Xen.  Normally, you have to buy them from HP pre-configured.  The reality is you do not, you just have to be a bit creative.

These blades J4797A, come with a dual core 2.53Ghz, 4GB RAM and a 256GB 2.5″ hard drive.  You can easily upgrade the RAM from 4 to 8GB (it is DDR3 SODIMM).  You can also swap the Hard drive for a SSD.

I have a J4797A which is supposed to run Citrix XenServer.  I simply upgraded the RAM, and installed VMware 5.1 to the SSD, and viola, I was able to get a $2000 VMware blade for around $250CAD all in.  While not super speedy, these blades work great for DNS, Firewall and TACACS.  They even come with HP’s Lifetime Warranty.

Oh, and if you did not hear, the latest K15.16.0006 (now .0008) firmware, enables the “Premium” features for free.  Even more reason to find one of these switches on eBay.

Windows Server 2012, VDI and nVidia GTX 650

So it has been a while since my last post.  Many interesting things have been going on, but, let’s chat about one of the more interesting technology develops I have been upto.

For years now, I have been a fan of VDI solutions.  I believe they offer customers the ability to significantly reduce spending on IT operations and maintenance for PC’s.  Of course, VDI removes the large “fat” PC at the desk, and replaces it with a “thin” client that uses backend server power to render the screen.

When I first got this working in 1997 with X11 and Linux, I thought it was very cool and interesting.  I have played with Citrix Metaframe back in 1999, and Windows NT Terminal Services Edition too.  That dates me doesn’t it?

Well, fast forward to 2012.  I wanted to take a oppourtunity to move my PC at home to a “thin” client infrastructure.  Using Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V and a Windows 7 VM of my desktop I gave it a try.  Things I can confirm,

  • RemoteFX DOES work with a GeForce GTX 650.  As advertised it does work worth with nVidia’s latest drivers (WDDM 1.2 DirectX 11), and Windows Server 2012.  I could not make this work with Windows Server 2008R2.
  • AMD Radeon 4870’s do not work with RemoteFX and Windows Server 2008R2 or Windows Server 2012.  Just too old and AMD calls this a “legacy” card.  Since this card is not DirectX 11, I expected it would not work with 2012, but not working with Windows Server 2008R2 was a bit f a surprise.
  • RemoteFX with a vGPU works for most applications.  I have a modern fully switched, enterprise-class network, and where the system faltered was on video.  Flash videos and Youtube HTML5.  While is works when you have it in a window, it does not work so well in full screen mode.  QuickTime videos, well, they play but there is a lot of tearing at 720p.

So for me, VDI at home is not quite ready for prime time.  Before anyone says “you just need more horsepower”, this was on a Xeon 1620 system with 32GB of RAM.  That should be more than enough to host one desktop with good performance.  Otherwise, performance was ok.

For my testing thin client testing, I borrowed a HP t610 Thin Client.  It works fabulously.  It is quiet, and you do not even notice it is running.  HP has a winner with that little machine.

Here is hoping SP1 for Windows Server 2012 improves the performance so I can try this again.  In the meantime, my desktop will stick on its high-fat diet.

MS Certification & Hyper-V


This week I achieved my Microsoft Certified Professional status when I passed my MCTS exam for Hyper-V. I find certifications valuable for customers when showing credibility. They demonstrate someone has the minimum level of knowledge needed to run a product, which is a good thing, especially in the consulting world.

In spending time learning and working with Hyper-V, it’s clear it is a different type of product than VMware VI3 or vSphere 4. Hyper-V gives, what I expect, good OS level virtualization. While VMware is still the market leader, I think Hyper-V could challenge it, mostly in the smaller enterprise and SMB space. The additional of MS Hyper-V R2 for free (which includes High Availability features and Live Migration similar to VMotion) is going to have customers kicking the tires on the product.

I myself still prefer VMware. From a fit and polish perspective, I find it offers more features and, IMHO, VMware is still more mature and proven. I certainly won’t be able to switch to Hyper-V for, simply because I would require a lot more hardware. I think the lack of memory over subscription and ballooning support will hold some customers (like me), back from the product.