In this article we are going to explore the steps on how to create and install a Nutanix Windows AHV VM Guest. The process is very simple and straight forward and the idea is to have this as a follow up from previous articles dedicated to testing and leaning about the Nutanix CE platform in our homelab.
Ideally we can create a Nutanix Windows AHV guest straight away with a default installation of the Nutanix CE. To make a better sense of the options that are presented in this article we also explored in the past with pertinent articles the single settings for the Nutanix VM Guest configuration.
In this occasion we are going to build a Nutanix Windows AHV VM Guest based on Windows Server 2016. The very same configuration steps can also be applied to other Windows based Operating Systems currently supported by Nutanix.
Of course we can follow the same configuration steps for Linux based Operating Systems.
In a nutshell what we need to do apart from specifying the number of virtual CPUs and VM Network to use would be the OS installation ISO cloned from the Nutanix Image Configuration Storage and the Storage Container location where to store the virtual Disks the VM Guest will use for it’s own storage. It’s a lot easier to run the actual steps in the wizard!
In particular we’ll use SCSI type of virtual Disks and in order for Windows to recognise them we’ll use the drivers included in the VirtIO ISO file. At the time of writing the latest version of these drivers is 1.1.1 and are available from the Nutanix Community site (Site requires free login https://next.nutanix.com/discussion-forum-14/download-nutanix-ce-docs-and-guides-3188).
In addition from the same Nutanix Community site we can also download the MSI installer which will assist with the deployment of the Nutanix Guest Tools (NGT). The NGT provides the following components and capabilities:
- Nutanix Guest Agent (NGA) service to communicate with the Nutanix CVM
- File-Level Restore (FLR) CLI. Performs file level recovery from snapshots
- Nutanix VM Mobility Drivers. Facilitates the migration from ESXi to AHV VM Guest Migration with both in-place hypervisor conversion and cross-hypervisor for disaster recovery migration
- VSS Requestor and Provider for Windows based VM Guests
- Application-Consistent snapshots for Linux based VM Guests
I would say there are plenty of reasons to install NGT on Windows and Linux VM Guests. Let’s get started by installing our first Nutanix Windows AHV VM Guest.
This article is organised in 3 steps:
- Create Nutanix Windows AHV VM Guest
- Install Windows 2016 Guest
- Install Nutanix Guest Tools for perfomances and extra features
Step 1: Create Nutanix Windows AHV VM Guest
From the home view in the Nutanix Prism let’s go into the VM section and then choose to “Create VM” from the upper right.
A new wizard to create a Nutanix Windows AHV VM Guest will start. The options are straight forward like name and description. Let’s leave unchecked the option “Use this machine as an Agent VM”. This is something the Nutanix CVM will use.
According to the physical (virtual if nested!) hardware available to the Nutanix CE cluster let’s assign the vCPUs. As a rule of thumb let’s make sure not to over-provision the CPUs for obvious reasons. In this screenshot I have initially used 1CPU 1Core. Actually 1CPU 2 Cores works a lot better even in a nested environment.
As per RAM memory, again it really depends on how much we have available in the Nutanix cluster in this case. As a rule of thumb i use for each OS I’m deploying is:
- 2GB of RAM memory
- 3072MB (2GB*1.5 ) as min and max size for Paging file. This way the Paging File will never fragment keeping performances stable over time
Next is to add the CD-ROM where to mount the installation ISO cloned from the Nutanix Image Configuration Storage.
With the “pencil” icon let’s update the CD-ROM configuration. In the Operation field we select the “Clone from Image Service”. Bus Type IDE and of course we select the Windows 2016 image we uploaded earlier.
Now let’s repeat the same steps by adding a second CD-ROM Image now pointing at the VirtIO ISO image file. We’ll use this one later on to install the drivers to recognise the SCSI virtual Disk, the Network Card and also enable the drivers for the Ballooning feature. In addition, will also help installing the Nutanix Guest Tools.
At this point let’s add and select the virtual Disk where the Virtual machine will install the operating system. For this purpose we can also select the desired Storage Container.
In a final step for the AHV VM Guest configuration let’s add also a network card bond to the chosen VM Network.
One network card can be associated to one VM network with one VLAN ID at a time. In this case I’m using the “VM Prod” Network which uses the default “VLAN 0”. Such VM Guest will be able to talk with other Hosts on the network outside the Nutanix Cluster.
Now that Nutanix Windows HAV VM Guest has been created we can see and edit the main settings from the Home > VM > Table view.
At a glance also the details and info about configuration and performance of the CPU, Network, Disk and other components.
Step 2: install Windows AHV Guest on Nutanix
When ready all we have to do is to PowerOn the VM. Chances are if we are running the latest version of Nutanix CE available in a nested environment the VM Guest might not boot properly.
Thanks to excellent information from the Nutanix CE forum a temporary fix has been found to solve the issue.
All we need to do is to Power off the VM and update a property using the acli command line from the CVM:
“acli vm.update “Your VM Name” extra_flags=machine_type=pc-i440fx-rhel7.2.0″
After changing the VM property we can successfully Power On the VM Guest and carry on with the installation!
Let’s select proper locale settings and hit on next.
From here we can select the Windows 2016 version. In this case I will go for a Full Desktop Experience. To save RAM memory and amount of updates we can simply choose the first one without Full GUI and manage the VM Guest through PowerShell.
Let’s accept the license agreement and continue.
Since we need to load custom drivers to recognise the SCSI virtual Disk let’s choose the Custom option.
Great news is the virtual Disk has been detected. We now need to install the drivers for it. On a side note the space appears to be 20 GB instead of 40 GB simply because I did upload the wrong screenshot! 🙂
To do this let’s use the Load Driver option.
This will pop up a new wizard so we can load the new SCSI driver.
If the CD-ROM with the VirtIO ISO file has been mounted properly we can now access the content and select the folder named after the operating system we want to install.
Let’s leave the option to hide incompatible drivers and select the proper one: Nutanix VitIO SCSI pass-through controller.
At this point the new drive is mounted, formatted and ready to host the Windows Server install files.
Installation doesn’t take very long. In a matter of a few minutes the Nutanix Windows AHV VM guest is installed and ready to use.
first thing to do at this point would be to install the drivers for the virtual Network Card and the Balloon Memory Driver feature.
Let’s open the Windows Server Device Manager. Right click on the Ethernet controller to install the drivers
Let’s browse to the VirtIO CD-ROM.
From the top Windows Server 2016 folder let’s leave the “Include subfolders” and let the wizard to find the appropriate driver. We can repeat the same step for the other device.
This is also a quick way to test the information from the driver.inf files.
All unknown devices are now installed and ready.
The physical Hardware is exposed to VMware Guest Nutanix. But this one is running as a nested Hypervisor. It is a amazing to see the same physical CPU information inside the Nutanix Windows AHV VM Guest!
Part 3: Install the Nutanix Guest Tools
In this final part we are now ready to install the Nutanix Guest Tools. From Home > VM > Table let’s select this option for the intended VM.
a new CD-ROM disk will be mounted and we can run the installation of the msi file included.
The installation is very quick and allows for extra features like:
- Nutanix Guest Agent
- File-Level Restore
- Nutanix VM Mobility Drivers
- VSS Requestor and Provider
We’ll cover in more details such features with dedicated articles.