Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Virtualization on Laptops and Windows 8

I wanted to cover something that is not Microsoft BI specific today, but still related.

I love to have the newest OS and software available to try out things and for presentations/demos, and like anyone else that does this I prefer to not carry around multiple laptops or connect via sometimes unreliable Internet connections to servers to do this. Over the years I have tried many different versions of virtualization technologies on both Microsoft and Apple platforms. I have used the paid versions like VMWare and Parallels along with the freely available ones like VirtualPC and VirtualBox. While all of these have their pluses and minuses lately I have been using Microsoft's Hyper-V technologies. Currently the biggest downside to using Hyper-V is that it is only available in it's most complete form in Windows Server 2008R2. This is a bit inconvenient for use on a laptop, but I currently have my MacBook Pro setup with BootCamp (Apple's dual-boot technology) to allow me to run both OS X Lion and Windows Server 2008R2 Enterprise without any virtualization. Then I can use Hyper-V in the Windows partition without any issues.

To get my Windows partition setup on the Mac so that it works more like Windows 7 then Windows Server I used the resources on win2008r2workstation.com and Mathieu Chateau's blog to get everything up and running as good as possible (I still have some strange driver issue, but it doesn't prevent any of the regular functions from working correctly). With all of these changes I'm still able to do "normal" things in the Windows partition like run Office and play Star Wars: The Old Republic. I have even been able to take advantage of the Thunderbolt port on my MacBook Pro in Windows to drive the 27" Apple Thunderbolt display and a 1TB LaCie External Thunderbolt harddrive. With the 16GB RAM and the 512GB SSD in my MacBook Pro this setup as worked very well for over the last 18 months.

Now with the new Lenovo laptop that I got from Pragmatic Works I have been trying to figure out a better solution than using VirtualBox. Don't get me wrong, VirtualBox is a great tool and is the only free solution that allows you to run both 32bit and 64bit virtual OS systems. But, now that I'm used to Hyper-V, I'm really looking for that to work on this laptop without requiring Windows Server 2008R2.

Thankfully Microsoft has the answer coming soon with Windows 8! For those that didn't hear the news yesterday, Microsoft has finally announced that they won't be going version crazy with Windows 8. For traditional Windows computers there will really only be 2 different versions, basic and Pro (there will probably also be an Enterprise version). And from that announcement the Hyper-V functionality will be moved down to the Pro version of Windows 8 (now being referred to as Client Hyper-V)! This should fix many issues that I have had with laptop setup over the years. On some of the Hyper-V blogs it does appear that the issues with using wireless networks in Hyper-V have been resolved, which is great news. They have also been able to remove the restriction on the different power states when running Hyper-V as well (for those that have not installed Windows Server with the Hyper-V role on a laptop, you are currently not allowed to use hibernate or sleep modes if the role is running).

This will greatly simplify my setups on laptops, I have not yet installed the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 to verify all of this. It does look like Windows 8 will be the way to go if you need to run virtual environments on a laptop.