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Creating and Deploying Virtual Machines Overview

Updated: November 1, 2013

Applies To: System Center 2012 - Virtual Machine Manager, System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager, System Center 2012 SP1 - Virtual Machine Manager

Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) provides a number of methods for creating and deploying virtual machines, and for applying standard configuration settings to those virtual machines. This section provides information about these methods, and about other concepts that are related to virtual machines.

Methods for Creating and Deploying Virtual Machines

  • Create and deploy a stand-alone virtual machine—You can manually create a stand-alone virtual machine as follows:

    • Create and deploy a virtual machine from a blank virtual hard disk—After creating the virtual machine using this method you can install an operating system from an .iso image, CD or DVD, or from a network boot if a Pre-Boot Execution Environment (PXE) server is available. For instructions, see How to Create and Deploy a Virtual Machine from a Blank Virtual Hard Disk.

    • Create and deploy a virtual machine from an existing virtual hard disk—Using this method you can create a virtual machine from an existing virtual hard disk stored in the VMM library. We recommend that you use a virtual hard disk that has been generalized using Sysprep, otherwise the new virtual machine will have the same identity as the source machine. For instructions, see How to Create and Deploy a Virtual Machine from an Existing Virtual Hard Disk.

    • Create and deploy a virtual machine from an existing virtual machine—Using this method you can clone an existing virtual machine in the VMM library to create a new one. We recommend that you clone virtual machine that has been generalized using Sysprep, so that the virtual machines do not have the same identity. As of System Center 2012 R2, when you use this method to create a virtual machine, Virtual Machine Manager automatically uses differencing disk if a base disk is detected on the host on which the cloned virtual machine is being created on.

  • Create and deploy a virtual machine using a virtual-to-virtual (V2V) conversion—Use this method to copy an existing Citrix XenServer or VMware virtual machine and create a Hyper-V virtual machine. For more information, see How to Convert Citrix XenServer Virtual Machines to Hyper-V, and How to Convert VMware Virtual Machines to Hyper-V.

  • Create and deploy a virtual machine using a physical-to-virtual machine (P2V) conversion—Use this method to convert an existing physical computer into a virtual machine, if you are running VMM in System Center 2012 or System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1). As of System Center 2012 R2, you can no longer perform P2V conversions in VMM. P2V conversions are done on a best effort basis. For more information about P2V, see How to Deploy a Virtual Machine by Converting a Physical Computer (P2V).

  • Create and deploy a virtual machine using a virtual machine template—Use this method to create virtual machines with consistent configuration settings taken from a template. Virtual machine templates are preconfigured XML objects stored in the VMM library. Templates can be used to control and restrict the virtual machine configurations available for selection by self-service users. Templates have a number of properties associated with them, including a guest operating system profile, a hardware profile, and one or more VHDs which can be used to create a new virtual machine. To create virtual machine templates, you first create the required profiles, and then create templates based on those profiles. Templates can be created from an existing template, from a virtual hard disk stored in the library, or from an existing virtual machine deployed on a host.

    As of System Center 2012 R2, when using this method to create and deploy a virtual machine, usage of differencing disk is optimized, allowing for a more efficient process.

  • Create and deploy virtual machines in a service deployment—System Center 2012 – Virtual Machine Manager introduced the concept of a service, which is a logical grouping of virtual machines that are configured and deployed together, and managed as a single entity. Services can be single-tier or multi-tier. A single-tier service consists of a single virtual machine that provides additional configuration settings to those provided by a virtual machine template. A multi-tiered service contains multiple virtual machines. For example a multi-tier service might consist of a SQL server tier, a Server App-V tier, and a Web App tier. You define a service by configuring a service template, which includes information about virtual machines that are deployed in the service. You can create a new service templates, or create a service template based on an existing virtual machine template. For more information, see the following resources:

    As of System Center 2012 R2, when using templates in this method to create and deploy a virtual machine, usage of differencing disk is optimized, allowing for a more efficient process.

  • Rapid provisioning of virtual machines   In VMM, you can rapidly provision virtual machines by using storage area network (SAN) copy technology such as snapshot and clone. Rapid provisioning is available for stand-alone virtual machines and for virtual machines that are deployed as a service. For more information, see Rapid Provisioning of Virtual Machines Using SAN Copy Overview.

Using Differencing Disks for Creating and Deploying Virtual Machines

In System Center 2012 R2, usage of differencing disks has been optimized. You can use differencing disks when you create virtual machines using a virtual machine template, or when you use a service. Using a differencing disk is associated with a virtual hard disk that serves as a base virtual disk, and which does not change. This base disk is combined with a differencing disk that contains any modifications to the base disk. This allows you to isolate the changes to the base disk, and to optimize several operations in VMM that are related to virtual machines. Using a small set of initial virtual disks, you can use differencing disks so that a large percentage of the disk data is shared among multiple virtual disks.

VMM optimizes support for differencing disks to provide the following benefits:

  • Optimized migration of storage that utilizes differencing disks. During a migration, VMM does not migrate base disks unless it is necessary.

  • Optimize virtual machine deployment time by utilizing differencing disks. VMM will attempt to identify and utilize differencing disks on the target computer.

  • When differencing disks is utilized, deployment of the base virtual disk is optimized by taking advantage of the Windows Offloaded Data Transfers (ODX) capability to copy files to the guest machine during service deployment.

  • Optimize time and storage of cloning of virtual machines by utilizing differencing disks. VMM provides the option to create and utilize differencing disks during a cloning operation.

When using differencing disks, administrators should pay attention to the following:

  • Ensure that unused base virtual disks on hosts are removed.

  • If a base virtual disk becomes corrupted, or unavailable for any other reason, all virtual disks that depend on the lost disk are lost too. As with any critical data, to mitigate that risk, you should follow a backup plan that will ensure the high availability of the base virtual disks.

Fast File Copy

During virtual machine deployment Virtual Machine Manager needs to move and copy large files, such as VHD’s, between two locations. Fast file copy in System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager improves the performance of file transfers, mostly by leveraging the Windows Offloaded Data Transfers (ODX) feature introduced in Windows Server 2012 R2. In System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager, background intelligent transfer (BITS) is still used as a mechanism for file transfers. However, when possible (for example when copying files to SANs that support ODX), Virtual Machine Manager leverages ODX for that task, greatly improving the time performance of virtual machine deployments. For information about Windows ODX, see Windows Offloaded Data Transfers Overview.

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For additional resources, see Information and Support for System Center 2012.

Tip: Use this query to find online documentation in the TechNet Library for System Center 2012. For instructions and examples, see Search the System Center 2012 Documentation Library.
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