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Explore SCVMM features for VM deployment and management

SCVMM can help admins better manage their virtualization stacks by providing VM networking diagrams and templates, but there are certain requirements admins must meet before use.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager enables IT administrators to better manage and deploy their VMs with features and native capabilities such as rapid VM provisioning, VM cloning and shielded VMs. But there are some requirements that admins must meet before they can take advantage of these features.

For example, admins who want to provision VMs with System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) must have a storage system that supports the snapshot feature and an existing widespread virtual hard disk. Also, if admins want to clone VMs, they must generalize VMs and run SCVMM 2012 R2 or later.

SCVMM 2016 improvements

Microsoft introduced several improvements to SCVMM 2016 to help admins better manage their virtualization stacks. For example, SCVMM reached feature parity with Hyper-V 2016. This includes the Cluster Rolling Upgrade feature, which enables admins to upgrade cluster nodes without any downtime. New SCVMM features also include a centralized storage quality-of-service wizard that supports policies for the centralized storage QoS engine.

Another SCVMM feature Microsoft introduced is support for Nano Server, which provisions virtualization hosts and VMs. Admins can also take advantage of Nano Server cmdlets to create images for Nano Server deployments.

Microsoft made networking and security enhancements to SCVMM 2016 as well. Admins can use SCVMM to create a template that provides configurations for Network Controller, Windows Server Gateway and Software Load Balancer. Admins can also add or remove static or dynamic memory. In addition, SCVMM 2016 includes a Storage Replica feature to replicate Hyper-V cluster files. This replication supports data mirroring between physical sites with crash-consistent volumes for recovery purposes.

Rapid provisioning of VMs

SCVMM provides a storage area network (SAN) copy feature for the rapid provisioning of VMs. During rapid provisioning, the SAN copy feature deploys VMs to storage systems over a network without copying large VM files. This enables admins to create VM templates, which can quickly deploy VMs on specific hosts.

SCVMM provides a simplified way to clone running, paused or shutdown VMs.

To use the SCVMM SAN copy feature, admins must have a storage system that supports the snapshot feature, as well as an existing widespread virtual hard disk. Admins must also accurately configure, discover and classify the system in SCVMM with a Storage Management Initiative Specification provider. Next, admins must allocate storage pools to the virtualization hosts that reside in the SCVMM host group.

Admins can create an SCVMM SAN copy template one of two ways: using an existing VM or creating a new VM. If admins use an existing VM, they should copy the existing VM hard disk to the mounted logical unit in the folder path. If admins use a new VM, they should use a blank virtual hard disk, then install and configure the OS before executing Sysprep.exe with the /generalize option to generalize the VHD.

Ease VM cloning with SCVMM

SCVMM provides a simplified way to clone running, paused or shutdown VMs. Cloning a VM offers several benefits, such as support for rapid VM deployment and mission-critical VMs. Admins aren't required to take a VM offline to test an upgrade. Rather, they can clone the running VM, test the upgrade and apply it to the VM. Admins can also retain a copy of a critical VM, which they can restore in the event of a failure.

To clone a VM, admins must satisfy a few requirements. First, admins must understand that cloning a nongeneralized VM can cause issues such as hardware discrepancies. Once admins generalize the VM, they must run SCVMM 2012 R2 or later; earlier versions don't have the option to clone a VM. Admins must also deploy the cloned VM on a Hyper-V host or store the VM in the SCVMM library.

Once admins satisfy these requirements, they can go into SCVMM and find the Virtual Machine tab. There, admins can locate the VM they want to clone, select the Create option and click on Clone. Admins can complete the cloning process with a cloning wizard, which requires an identity for the cloned VM, configured hardware for the VM and a destination for the cloned VM.

Deploy shielded VMs with SCVMM templates

The introduction of shielded VMs to SCVMM 2016 enables admins to better protect against compromised hosts or fabric. Admins can deploy a shielded VM with a SCVMM template in just a few steps, but they must meet certain conditions:

Ensure that the OS disk is both globally unique and basic. Shielded VMs rely on BitLocker, which doesn't support dynamic disks. The disk must also have at least two partitions.

Prepare the OS disk with the Shielded Template Disk Wizard. This generates a hash for the disk and adds the hash to the disk volume. During this process, the wizard enables and installs BitLocker on the disk's OS and adds the disk to the VHDX metadata.

Copy the OS disk to the SCVMM library. If admins don't complete this step, they won't be able to deploy the shielded disk.

Create the SCVMM template that includes the shielded VM disk. To do this, admins must first guarantee that at least one network interface card is available and configured, which admins can do from the Configure Hardware page. Admins can then navigate to the library workspace in SCVMM and select the Create VM Template option. Next, admins can click Use an existing VM Template or Virtual hard disk stored in the library on the Select Source page.

Manage complex VM networks

SCVMM enables admins to manage complex VM networks and troubleshoot issues through native tools such as Network Controller and Windows Server Gateway. Admins can view and manage network connectivity through the SCVMM console. Admins can also create VM network diagrams from the console and can view the name of a VM, the name of the virtual switch associated with each VM and the networking resources in their systems.

Creating diagrams helps admins keep track of physical, virtual, logical and software-defined networks. Once admins create VM network diagrams in SCVMM, they can export them to Microsoft Visio.

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