Installing WS08 RC1 w/ Hyper-V on a Dell 2900/III

I bought a nice server for home a couple of weeks ago... a Dell 2900/3 tower system with dual quad-core Intel E5410s, 8GB RAM, and 5 160GB SATA2 drives on a PERC6/i RAID controller. It was sort of Christmas gift from my accountant... he told my wife that if we were thinking of buying any equipment or office supplies, that we should buy them before the end of the year. Woo hoo! That's why I pay the man!

My plan was to use this server to run VMs for writing, deveopment and testing work, as well as for some home services. Because I'm spending a bit of time with 64-bit only software like Exchange 2007 and ILM "2", I intended to use the new MSFT virtualization software (Veridian, now called Hyper-V and part of WS08 RC1) to do it all. VMWare? Bah!

The 200 lb crate showed up in our driveway a couple of weeks ago, and I wasted no time in getting it unpacked and set up (Are you kidding me? This is like Christmas all over!). First step was to unpack the beast (nice packaging by Dell, BTW), which was straightforward, and attach the tower base with casters. This was all easy, and I rolled the server into the office, hooked up a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and fired the thing up. Yikes, those fans sound like an F-18 going to afterburner for a cat shot! I didn't expect that. But after about 10 seconds the fans throttled back to a more reasonable hum, and I started poking around the CMOS setup screens to make sure the RAID controller was configured properly. It had all 5 drives in a RAID 0 volume, which is what I wanted, so I was figured I was good to go.

I burned a DVD with WS08 RC1/Hyper-V, and rebooted the machine with the DVD, and the WS08 installer came up without a problem, and lo and behold it recognized the RAID volume as well! Cool, I really didn't expect that. I started the installation process, and it failed with a useless disk-related error. Ah nuts, that figures. So I dug out the Dell setup CD, and started reading the directions. When all else fails...

I booted up the setup CD, which is a Linux OS with some Java apps, went through the configuration steps (RAID, CMOS, Windows setup parameters), and at the end of the sequence, it asked me to insert the Windows 2003 OS media. Hmmm, would it work with WS08? Nope, that failed miserably. So I went through the process again and installed WS2003R2 EE, with no problem. Then I booted from the WS08 RC1 DVD, reformatted the RAID volume, and installed WS08 RC1 with no trouble at all. The only thing I had to do was delete the old WS2003R2 files. Not seamless, but workable. Next stop, Hyper-V!

Hyper-V is provided as a server role option in RC1, so I ran Server Mangler and added the role. Installation went fine, but the Hyper-V service wouldn't start, instead generating a couple of failure events: "Hypervisor launch failed; the hypervisor boot loader's internal logic failed. (status 2)."  Hmmm. Back to the instructions. Hyper-V has three hardware requirements: a 64-bit CPU, the virtualization instructions (either Intel VT or AMD AMD-V) must be enabled, and the motherboard/CPU must support data execution protection. The 2900/3 is on the list of vendor tested platforms for Hyper-V, so I was pretty sure the hardware had the right stuff. But I had read somewhere that some motherboards let you enable or disable the VT instructions. I'm not sure why one would want to disable them, but I checked the CMOS setup again, and sure enough it was disabled. I enabled the VT instructions, rebooted the machine, and voila, Hyper-V came up just fine.

So, to install Windows Server 2008 RC1 with Hyper-V on a Dell 2900/3, do the following:

  1. Boot the server, go into CMOS setup, and make sure that the VT instructions are enabled.
  2. Boot the machine using the Dell setup/configuration disk.
  3. Configure the RAID controller and other settings using the setup environment.
  4. When prompted, insert the DVD for WS2003R2 (presumably WS2003 would work as well).
  5. Install the OS as you normally would.
  6. When the server boots up with WS2003R2, insert the DVD for WS2008 RC1 with Hyper-V and boot from that DVD.
  7. Select the option to reformat the volume and install WS08 over WS2003R2.
  8. When the server boots into WS08, delete the old Windows subdirectory (it is conveniently renamed to something like Windows.old... I've forgottent the exact name).

And there you go.

BTW, Hyper-V on RC1 is very nice. I'll write something in a few days about it. I have had absolutely zero issues with it.

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