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Using Hyper-V features to enhance storage

Top tips from Microsoft MVP Brien Posey on Hyper-V best practices and changes to Hyper-V with Windows Server 2012 R2.

There are a number of Hyper-V features that ease management, help the physical storage in a virtual server environment to perform better and expand capacity. Some features have been available for quite some time, while others are new with the release of Windows Server 2012 R2. But to effectively improve storage efficiency, storage and virtualization administrators need to know the best way to work with Hyper-V's latest crop of capabilities.

Both Microsoft’s VHDX file format and SCSI pass-through disks, existing Hyper-V features, give storage a performance boost. The VHDX file format allows greater scalability for virtual machine disk files and eases the conversion process, while SCSI pass-through disks offer the option to bypass the creation of a virtual disk in favor of a direct connection to physical storage. New with Windows Server 2012 R2 is the ability to share VHDX files and ease management with such Hyper-V features as Generation 2 virtual machines and storage quality of service (QoS).

To better understand how these Hyper-V features work, Microsoft MVP Brien Posey answered a series of "Ask the Expert" questions and wrote some user tips. We've compiled them here to help you determine the best way to implement these features to make the most out of Hyper-V storage.

Virtual Machines

1. Hyper-V features: Generation 2 virtual machines

The debut of Windows Server 2012 also brought enhancements to Hyper-V, one of which is the Generation 2 virtual machine (VM). The VM upgrade provides numerous enhanced capabilities, such as dynamic resizing, cloning and better integration with Hyper-V's VHDX file format.

Performance

2. Using Hyper-V features to get better performance results

Hyper-V's Storage QoS feature, added to Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 R2, can ease storage management while improving performance and capacity utilization. Storage QoS allows for more control over disk I/O so you can put a cap on IOPS and reserve CPU consumption. In the tip below, Brien Posey explains how the Storage QoS feature works.

Configuration

3. Using SCSI pass-through disks with Hyper-V

Hyper-V VMs usually use virtual hard disks, but they can also be directly attached to physical storage with the SCSI pass-through disk feature. While using SCSI pass-through disks can achieve higher performance and ease SAN management, it will only do so if they are installed correctly. In the following tips, Brien Posey explains how to install SCSI pass-through disks and how they can affect other aspects of a virtual environment.