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 Post subject: Nexus - for the future
PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 6:16 am 
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Oh dear. Why did I ever start reading these forums? Now I simply have to build new server. This story is long. It's a bad habit of mine. Full of typos and stuff, but hey! I'm Finnish. :mrgreen:

I currently have Datavault X510 but my 4 x 1.5 TB hard drives are 75% full right now. I can’t enable duplication (not enough space) so I’m living on the edge right now.

I do have 4-bay external SATA enclosure, but it screams like a banshee. Maybe I could replace a fan but I still don’t trust that peace of crap. It has disappeared two times from storage pool and I had to reboot the server to get it back. I will not use that crappy thingy anymore and I don't want another enclosure either. So now I have 4 spare HDD's and nowhere to put them. :evil:

What I want is

  • Silence. My apartment is smallish “concrete box” and I don’t have basements or warehouses where I could put my server. This is number one priority.
  • Lots of room for hard drives. Hot-swap capabilities are not required. This is number one priority too. :)
  • Aesthetics. While Norco and other server-class cases are sweet they really don’t look that good in my combined living room / bedroom. I know. This may sound as a stupid requirement. Don’t laugh at me.

My plan is to build a server witch grows step by step with me. I’m not getting everything at once but I’m going to buy more HDD’s and SATA/SAS cards whenever there is a need for them so I have to plan carefully my choices for the case, PSU and motherboard.

How I’m planning to make this happen?

This is only a preliminary plan and some components are undecided yet.

  • Nexus Edge case. Main features for me:
    • 9 x 3.5 HDD “out-of-the-box”. Installation with included rails.
    • 8 x 5.25 for future expansion with 4 to 3 (or 5 to 3) SATA backplanes
    • 3 x silent 140mm case fans pre-installed. Noise absorption wave foam pre-installed. Possibility to add more 120mm or 140mm fans if needed.
  • Intel i3 540 processor, 4 Gt memory, ASUS P7H57D-V EVO motherboard, no graphics card needed. Main features from the motherboard to me are:
    • Intel H57 chipset. Supports integrated graphics from processor. VGA/DVI/HDMI out.
    • Good set of PCI-E and PCI slots (for its price). Needed for SATA/SAS cards in future.
    • On board: 8 x SATA, 1 x eSata, 1 x UltraDMA (for DVD-RW), 2 x USB3 for possible future use
  • PSU - not decided yet. 650 watts or more.

I am a little bit biased towards Nexus and Asus since I have had only good experiences with them in the past.

In future when this baby grows up I'm going to get HighPoint / Supermicro / somethingelse PCI-E 8-port SATA/SAS cards to give me extra SATA ports.

For software: WHS (v.1) of course. Maybe Vail in future, if MS get its act together and brings back DE for Vail. :evil: What isn’t decided yet is use for virtual machine software. But that’s another story and I don’t have to decide that yet if I’m not going to use VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V Server.

So..

How does this sound to you? I'm not asking if I'm crazy because I already know the answer. :mrgreen: Tips? Different parts? Recommendations? Or do I just go for it?

:oops:


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 8:28 pm 
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Your build looks good to me. I need to upgrade my storage server and decided on Norco 4220 case instead of Supermicro 3U case due to cost of materials needed to build the system. I went with AMD X2 555 BE w/ Asus 890 chipset mobo with onboard video. Mobo has enough expansion slots (ie. adding 2x Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 boards etc...) It's gonna take me a while to fill up all 20 HD's but it's a start.

JB


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:29 pm 
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Yes, these forums make you want to build your own. I too am looking at building a server in the future, don't know when yet, just plotting. That case is awesome! I want one now. Where can I get one in the US? How many HDD do you think you can fit? 17-20?


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2010 12:05 pm 
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I really wish that I could have one of those "server class" cases too, but those really need separate room or cabinet. They are clearly not designed for bedrooms. :) Are you guys going to install only WHS in your server or are you going to use some kind of virtualization?

I decided to go with virtualization route. Decision was made two hours ago after long and heated debate with myself. :D I’m going to install Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard and add Hyper-V role so I’ll be running WHS in VM inside of W2008R2. I’ll pass all compatible storage HDD’s directly to WHS, except maybe I’ll create system disk as a virtual disk (vhd). Does anybody know if this is a smart thing to do or does it make any difference?

One physical HDD will be dedicated to backup W2008R2 itself since WHS can’t reliably backup domain controllers as far as I know. W2008R2 has a decent image based backup program included, so I’ll stick to that.

I currently have another Server 2008 R2 installation in my workstation and it is acting as a primary DC, primary DNS, WINS, WSUS, DHCP server and digital TV-recorder. So another big reason for using WHS in virtual environment is that I can use W2008R2 side of the new server as a digital TV-recorder and transfer all primary roles (DC/DNS/WINS/DHCP) from my workstation there. My workstation will be running only backup roles after that and I can finally shut that computer off when not needed for other purposes without affecting anything of my network functions. Yay!

This makes me wonder if my choice of CPU and RAM is enough. Probably I’ll add total of 8Gb memory but CPU should be powerful enough. After all, there won’t be that many computers in my home network - only 2 or 3 excluding servers and WHS.

Yes, this sounds quite ambitious and overkill, but that’s the way I like it. :mrgreen: I have Technet Subscription for the software and this will be my testing environment too. That is the official explanation to run two domain controllers and other “corporate grade” network services in home environment. Unofficial explanation and the real reason is: Because I can. :mrgreen:

A lot of work, but it should be a lot of fun too. Scheduled time of birth for my new server should be around end of January. \:D/ \:D/


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2011 1:07 pm 
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Just a quick update. Parts are on they way. Couldn't wait any longer since my Datavault is acting like a jealous bitch. [-(

My DataVault X510 must have been listening for my server plans since for the first time one of my hard drives failed! :evil: There is still some data (if not all) to rescue. It's now attached with "SATA to USB" thingy to my workstation and it is SLOOOWLY copying data to better place. And I really mean slowly - from 150 kb/sec to 5 Mb/sec and there is about 950 gigabytes of stuff. This is going to take a while, but if it can actually copy everything, I'm not complaining. Of course duplication wasn't enabled. :oops: Too much stuff for that.

Just a little bit changed list - different motherboard and more memory for virtual machines.


Now comes the hard part. I'll have to wait those parts 1-2 weeks! :shock: :oops:


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2011 11:12 pm 
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I'm curious How your going to pass Large capacities to the VM.
I gave up on the idea when I found it only allows three VHD (Virtual Hard Drives), so if you wanted HUGE volumes you need all your storage up front unless you fudge it but then your space would never be accurate.
You could use VMware but that has it's limitations as well.
However if you use the win2008 to handle the shares and just run a VM whs for the web part that would work fine.
I almost did this myself.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:06 am 
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Chasrobin wrote:
I'm curious How your going to pass Large capacities to the VM.
I gave up on the idea when I found it only allows three VHD (Virtual Hard Drives), so if you wanted HUGE volumes you need all your storage up front unless you fudge it but then your space would never be accurate.


I'm not quite sure what you mean by that 3 VHD limitation? Do you mean that I can have only 2 IDE controllers and 2 IDE channels in each controller (3 HDD's and one DVD)? While that's true, I can use virtual SCSI controllers and "unlimited" amount of HDD's or VHD's with those.

This is what I'm going to do with Hyper-V

- Install one IDE-controller
--- Master = 80 gigabyte VHD. This will be the system drive for WHS
--- Slave = virtual CD/DVD
- Install one SCSI controller (after installing integration services)
--- Pass all compatible (smaller than 2TB) HDD's directly to WHS.

I'm getting pretty much all of my ideas from here: http://www.unproductivitydefined.com/20 ... er-on.html

The only difference is that I'm not going to use Hyper-V Server 2008R2 but W2008R2 Server Standard with added Hyper-V role instead.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:18 am 
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Yes I did a test setup of this just a couple weeks back, exactly the same as you describe.
But when I tried to add HDD's to the Hyper_v of WHS I found I could not pass hdd's directly I had to use virtual disk and this was limited to just three.
I did not see if there was a capacity limitation but it would have been a bear to juggle software each time I wanted to expand or simply create a huge VHD even though there wasn't enough real space but again you would have a single massive volume with zero redundancy.
Too many eggs in one basket for me.
I read up on VMWare and it had it's challenges as well, and as I already have a EX490 running it didn't make sense for me to try to keep a VM running.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:53 am 
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There might be something wrong with your Hyper-V setup, since it is capable of passing disks directly to VM. :-k I have done it a couple of times at work (not with WHS but it shouldn't matter) and there are quite many examples of that in "the net".

Are you sure that your disks were initialized first and then put back "offline" before you tried to add them to WHS?


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:17 am 
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Yes, the one thing I did have question with.
Is my Areca controllers, though they worked fine with a regular WHS install I kept getting unknown device errors in Hyper-V.
And even after installing the drivers it would never see the drives attached to the controllers.
I also read about them being offline but that made no difference.
I have also used VM's at work but only for test environments or web servers not for anything larger.
And couldn't recall ever seeing a directly mounted storage.
And As I have a low wattage EX490 I opted to let my Beast system sleep.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 10:47 am 
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My baby is shaping up. Yay! :banana:

The case is here, all HDD's are here, processor, memory, PSU and cables are heere. And what I'm I missing? Motherboard and graphics card. :evil:

I couldn't get that Asus H57-chipset motherboard anymore that I originally ordered (it's sold out and not manufactured anymore) so I had to change it to different model. I'll get instead (next week probably) Asus P7P55D-E EVO. A little bit more expensive and I had to buy "el cheapo" graphics card too, since this motherboard doesn't support on-die grapics from i3 processor. Oh well. This motherboard comes with dual ethernet ports, 9 SATA-ports, 1 IDE port and good set of PCI and PCI-e slots, so maybe this is a good thing after all.

Anyhoo.. I couldn't keep my hands off things that I have here. Some pictures next. Pictures are always good thing. (Cable management is still work in progress, so don't start nagging about that..)

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8 HDD's and PSU are mounted. One HDD is still in my workstation, but after that, all 9 HDD slots and SATA-ports from motherboard are in use.

Next stop: getting 8-port SATA card and either 5.25" to 3.5" mounting brackets or backplanes .. or something. I don't have to decide that yet, since there is plenty of storage for me for now.

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LOOK MA! All HDD's are labeled. Size and motherboard SATA connector number. This will (maybe) help me to diagnose HDD problems in the future.

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There is still a lot of space left for motherboard and additional HDD's in the upper section of this case. 8 x 5.25" slots are still free and one 3.5" slot (topmost slot).

There is still more to come (next week probably), so stay tuned!


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 12:55 pm 
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HOORAY!

The server is now up and running! :beerme: It took four days to install/configure software and copy stuff to WHS. Now it's done and I'm quite tired. My brains hurt. First I got a lot of blue screens. :evil: They all seem to be related to Hyper-V, but after installing all Windows Updates, my server has been solid as a rock. I never figured out what was the problem and what update fixed it.

IT IS QUIET! This was my number one priority. It is even more quiet than my workstation so it can be left on for 24/7. It even consumes less power. :mrgreen:

Copying all data took about 20 hours, duplication about 13-14 hours, balancing disks about 8 hours.

This is what I have now:

Nexus (the server)
- W2008R2: Hyper-V, AD Domain Services, DCHP, DNS, WINS
- DVBviewer Recording Service
--- with 3 USB DVB-T tuners acting as digital TV recorder
- 0.5 TB HDD (WD Blue) as system drive
- 1.5 TB HDD (WD Green EADS) as Data drvie
- 2.0 TB HDD (WD Green EARS) as backup drive

NexusWHS (inside virtual machine)
- WHS v.1
- 4 cores / 4 gigabytes memory / dedicated gigabit NIC
- Small 80 GB Virtual HDD as system drive
Data drives (passthrough)
- 2 x 1.5 TB HDD (WD Green EADS) in data pool
- 1 x 1.5 TB HDD (Seagate LP) in data pool
- 3 x 2.0 TB HDD (Seagate LP) in data pool

I'm backing up W2008R2 and my WHS virtual machine to dedicated backup drive, using Windows Server Backup as a backup software. This way I maybe have working solution for backing up WHS system drive. I haven't tried to restore it, but in theory it should work. It doesn't back up passthrough drives, but those are duplicated. I don't even have to shut "virtual WHS" down before backing it up. 8)


And now :pics:

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Disk Management. This doesn't show all HDDs but you can see that some of the drives are offline. This is required if you want to use them as passthrough drives with Hyper-V. One note though: There is no logic about disk numbering / sata channels. See: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/937251

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Hyper-V settings. Nothing special here. Hyper-V is really quite simple to use.

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And finally - WHS in action! This is how WHS sees those passthrough drives. They are SCSI drives for WHS. 8) But it doesn't matter. Performance is native.

Now I'm going to sleep for a week!!!½


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:40 am 
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I have now been using my new server for a couple of weeks and I have some notes and experiences about it. Sorry - this is a long post. This is still a bad habit of mine. This somehow turned out writing about Hyper-V and benefits/pains with "Server 2008 R2 and WHS combo server". You can consider this as a "final report". :mrgreen:

(Please forgive my grammar and typos. This took hours to write. :shock:)

I can’t praise enough about Hyper-V and my new shiny server. Server 2008 R2 is really good piece of software and WHS is quite happy inside Hyper-V virtual machine. So, it’s a great combination, but a couple of randomish notes – some good, some bad.

Getting Hyper-V

Technet Subscription is your friend if you want "full" Server 2008 R2 Standard. You’ll get a lot of other stuff too – including 5 WHS licenses.

If you don’t want Technet Subscription, you can get Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 for free. Free version is based on Server Core and it is a little bit more difficult to set up. No fancy GUI, but it’s doable. Microsoft actually recommends that you use "Core" version when running Hyper-V, but in home environment workloads are usually not that high that it matters.

Get Server 2008 R2 Standard if you can. Fancy GUI is sometimes quite helpful. Get free Hyper-V Server R2 if you are not afraid of command line and you don’t need (want) advanced server capabilities (mainly AD-DS) or desktop experience.

By the way, Server 2008 R2 can be "converted" to act just like Windows 7 with Aero Peek and all bells and whistles. More information: http://www.win2008r2workstation.com/

Getting drivers for WHS inside Hyper-V

You don’t have to worry about getting "Server 2003" drivers, since Hyper-V Integration Services includes all necessary drivers. HDD and network drivers are synthetic, so their performance is native.

You can probably run all other "advanced" stuff with Server 2008 R2 (host side) and use Windows 7 64 bit drivers if needed. This is what I do. I have 3 digital TV (DVB-T) tuners set up in the host side. I consider TV-tuners "advanced". :oops:

Sounds good? Well, there is a catch. Hyper-V SCSI drivers won’t be available until you boot your WHS. This isn’t a problem if you are making fresh/new install of WHS. But it is a problem, if you have to make WHS restore.

You can’t insert Hyper-V SCSI drivers as "F6" drivers (loaded with WHS installer during install time). So server recovery isn’t possible, because your virtual SCSI drives aren’t visible to WHS installer. There may be a hack somewhere, but it’s not officially documented. More about why you have to use virtual SCSI drives later.

If you have to reinstall your WHS OS, you have to make a fresh install and insert your SCSI storage disks after installing WHS OS and Hyper-V integration services. This probably means a lot of copying: "Copy content out of disk, insert disk to WHS, let WHS format it and copy content back to it." :crazy:

If you are using only IDE disks (3 HDD drives or less) this isn’t a problem. IDE drives are available during install/boot time. But this is unlikely scenario, since I’m writing this to "DIY builds and massive storage" forum. :mrgreen:

Intel i3 540 CPU is quite capable little beast

It runs Server 2008 R2, Hyper-V (with WHS VM), AD-DS, torrent downloads, digital TV recordings and other stuff fluently. Don’t let that cheap price fool you!

Below is a screenshot from Resource monitor when uTorrent was downloading, DVB Viewer was recording 3 programs from different channels, WHS was streaming full-HD mkv (via NFS) from WHS and all "other" services were on.

Attachment:
nx-resmon.jpg
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Processor load averages 13-16% and about 9-12 % of it was used by Resource monitor itself. Not bad at all.

Get at least 4-6 GB of memory.

I have 8 GB. Memory is cheap and it will help you running "two or more computers in one machine".

Windows 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 will give to Hyper-V a great bonus: Dynamic memory allocation. You can set your VM memory allocation dynamically, for example 1024 – 2048 megabytes / 20 % overhead. When your VM starts, it gets 1024 megabytes of memory, but if it needs more memory, it will get it up to 2048 megabytes. All dynamically without need to reboot your VM. 20% overhead means that Hyper-V will add 20% more memory to what VM is currently demanding.

More info and supported guest operating systems for Dynamic Memory: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/libr ... 7651(WS.10).aspx

Get at least two network cards and dedicate one for WHS.

It really helps. Don’t try to save on this.

My (current) two NICs are integrated "Realteks" but they have dropped twice out of network. Disable/enable adapter trick brought them back online again, but this isn’t acceptable for me, so I will get two Intel NICs in the future.

Hyper-V and storage drives

You have to use at least one IDE drive for your VM. It can be either virtual or passthrough disk. WHS will not boot from virtual SCSI drives. It won’t even see them before "OS has been enlightened enough", which it is not during installation or boot-up.

More info about virtual SCSI drives: http://blogs.technet.com/b/craigf/archi ... 08-r2.aspx (interesting stuff can be found under heading "Synthetic vs Emulated")

You can have only 4 IDE drives (3 HDD / 1 DVD) with your VM and after that you have to install SCSI controller to it. No biggie, only a couple of mouse clicks and SCSI controller is installed and you can attach virtual or physical HDDs to it. There is a catch though, so please read what I wrote under heading "Getting drivers for WHS inside Hyper-V" carefully.

My choice was to use one small 80 GB virtual HDD as a primary IDE disk = system drive for WHS and my 6 data drives are configured as virtual SCSI passthrough disks.

There is no (detectable) performance penalty with passthrough disks and there is only small penalty (according to Microsoft) when using fixed size virtual HDDs. This opens up some possibilities. Advanced format drives? No problem. Don’t use them as passthrough drives, but create a fixed size (max 2 TB) virtual HDD inside it and assign that to WHS.

Note: idea about creating two 1.5 TB virtual HDDs inside of 3 TB drive isn’t a good one. Performance will be crappy if WHS reads/writes both of them at the same time and you will lose both of them if that drive physically fails. Duplication won’t help you when two drives fails.

You can monitor SMART information and disk temperatures from the host side even those passthrough disks won’t show up in Explorer and are offline disks in Disk Management. You don’t need any SMART add-ins in your WHS. They probably don’t even work properly. I haven’t tried that though...

Popular Disk Management add-in (from Tentacle Software) doesn’t show temperature information. No biggie, since I monitor all my HDDs from the host side.

Backing up virtual machines can be a pain

Virtual Machine snapshots won’t work if VM is using passthrough disks.

You can use "Windows Server Backup" for backing up your whole system and VMs (excluding passthrough disks) but it fails sometimes if VM (WHS) is doing high disk IO in virtual HDD (VSS timeout). Demigrator anyone?

Even when it does make proper backup, it will make sometimes time complete backup of your VM and attached virtual HDD – not just "changed blocks". This means longer backup time, but you don’t have to shut down your (Windows based) VMs when making backups.

I have no idea if restoring WHS VM works. In theory it should work, but your "data disks" and System disk will be in a different state. I don’t know if it matters, but I’m not willing to try.

I decided that I will not backup my WHS VM (anymore). If the disk where my WHS VM is stored fails, I will not lose any data, since passthough (data) disks are probably fine. This means fresh install of WHS, but I’m knocking on the wood that this won’t happen, since I’m not doing anything special, running other than one add-in (Disk Management) or running "unsupported" services/programs that could mess up my WHS.

I only backup my W2008R2 system drive and it takes about 2 – 4 minutes (after first backup).

Getting disks "out of WHS" for diagnostic purposes

Shutdown WHS virtual machine, go to Disk Management and put the disk back online. Done.

Now that disk is visible with host operating system and you can do whatever you want with it. No need to open server case and fiddle with cables.

Go to disk management and put that disk back offline. Start your WHS VM. Now that disk is back in WHS storage pool.

Cool. 8)

Getting WHS out of your current server to another server

..is simple operation too - in theory at least. This is what you do if your server hardware fails or you get new server for some other odd reason.

Shutdown your WHS VM. Export it. Move exported files to another server. Move all passthrough disks too. Import your exported WHS VM it and verify that your data disks are set properly offline and attached to WHS VM. You probably have to add them again in Hyper-V manager since your data disks LUNs (Logical Unit Numbers) will change. Restart your WHS VM.

Done. No need to reinstall anything, no need to update drivers if your host version (and SP level) is the same or newer. Or maybe you have to update Hyper-V Integration Services but that is really simple task.


Last edited by paavor on Wed Mar 02, 2011 6:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 6:12 am 
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I'll continue to write my experiences with WHS inside Hyper-V if someone is interested.

Quote from my own writing.. :mrgreen:

paavor wrote:
You can use "Windows Server Backup" for backing up your whole system and VMs (excluding passthrough disks) but it fails sometimes if VM (WHS) is doing high disk IO in virtual HDD (VSS timeout). Demigrator anyone?

I have a working solution for my backup problems. Backing up W2008R2 with WHS virtual machine started to fail almost every time. Note: I'm still using Windows Server Backup program built in W2008R2.

Solution is quite simple: uncheck "Backup (volume snapshot)" from your WHS virtual machine Integration Services settings.
Attachment:
nx-int-svc-backup.JPG
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This has following effects:

  • When Server Backup starts doing backup, it puts your WHS VM in saved state. It won't be doing "live" backups from your WHS VM anymore.
  • It won't try to make VSS snapshot anymore inside WHS VM. This was the failing part for me.

So basically it hibernates your WHS momentarily, takes a snapshot, starts your WHS and continues doing backup. This WHS VM downtime doesn't last more than a minute (in my case). I can live with that. 8)

I scheduled this to happen every night at 5:30 when nobody isn't using WHS and WHS won't be doing any special jobs itself (chkdsk, Windows Updates, client computer backups, backup db cleanups, etc..). Now my W2008R2 backups including WHS VM backups are succeeding again. Yay! :beerme:


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