How To Make Linux Run Better On Hyper-V

Hyper-V is built into Windows Server 2012, which means it’s very good at running Windows virtual machines — but the advantage of running Linux VMs is that you don’t have to pay for the licences. If you want to run Linux under Hyper-V, follow these tricks for better performance.

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These tips come courtesy of Microsoft program manager Abhishek Gupta, who presented them during a session at TechEd North America this week.

Choose a version that supports Integration Services While Hyper-V can run almost any Intel-based Linux distribution, it performs much better if the distribution supports Integration Services (IS), which bundle drivers required for Hyper-V directly into the distro. Other distributions have to use “fully emulated” mode, which requires simulating hardware features in software and leads to reduced performance and manageability. Further advantages: Integration Services make management via System Center easier, and if you have a support contract for that distribution, you’ll be covered for assistance with any issues that arise.

Distributions which support Integration Services include Red Hat (5.5 and above), SUSE (11 SP2 and SP3), Open SUSE 12.3, Ubuntu 12.04 and above, Debian 7.0-7.4 and Oracle Linux 6.4 and above. Note that with Red Hat 5.5-5.8 and 6.0-6.3, you’ll need to separately download IS; the code works but isn’t routinely included in the kernel.

Disable Secure Boot Since Linux distributions don’t yet support Secure Boot (a long-running controversy based on access to code), you need to disable this option.

Realise that networking speeds will be slower Linux distributions running under Hyper-V typically can’t get full 10GB networking performance from high-speed NICs. Gupta said Microsoft is working on a fix, but until that happens, don’t panic if network performance isn’t quite you expect.

Don’t use older system images Images set up to run under Hyper-V for Windows Server 2008 R2 may not run on newer releases. You can solve this by either creating new system images, or by deleting the installed Integration Services 3.4 release and manually adding 3.5

That’s one of the few times you need to worry about which version of IS has been installed. “The version number is only important if you have downloaded IS from Microsoft,” Gupta said. “If your distro comes with it prebuilt, you don’t need to worry about it.”

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