RemoteFX and vGPU Improvements in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V

Let’s take a look at some of the RemoteFX and vGPU Improvements in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V. For me the abilities they are adding in this release are significant and a break through. Why? They are talking away many of the last show stoppers for a number of scenarios that are important to the ecosystems I roam around in, when the CxO have a clue that is.

What are we looking at that’s new for Windows Server 2016?

The things that are breaking down the biggest showstoppers are:

  • OpenGL & OpenCL API Support (FINALLY!)
  • 1GB dedicated VRAM
  • 4K Resolution
  • Serverv VM Suppport (very important in our GIS environment actually) Generation 2 VM Support (YES!)
  • Improved performance
  • H.264/AVC codec investment

Now, I missed this initially but it was announced at Microsoft Ignite 2015 that RemoteFX will support generation 2 virtual machines and it allows us to still benefit form the future of virtual machines without losing RemoteFX. Until now generation 2 virtual machines were no compatible with RemoteFX.This was due to the Generation 2 virtual machines not having an emulated PCI bus, which RemoteFX needs until WIndows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1.

Generation 2 support combined with Server support in the virtual machine and OpenGL (ip to 4.4) /OpenCL (up to 1.1)  is a breakthrough, let’s hope the versions supported don’t spoil the party. I wonder if they can come up with a mechanism to upgrade support if OpenGL for newer versions that are released. But application compatibility was very limiting.

This is really great news and will make Hyper-V a far better candidate for many more scenarios than ever before.

Get your test rig set up

So it’s time to upgrade the lab server with a RemoteFX capable GPU to Windows Server 2016 TPv3 and test this.

I think some of our GIS engineers will be very happy with these new capabilities for ESRI Arc GIS, Adobe, AutoCAD, … and many more less well know specialty software they need.

If you want to test it out here’s the Experience guide for Enabling OpenGL Support for vGPU in Server 2016

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So we set it all up but unfortunately there is still an issue being worked out at the moment of writing.

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But I will help you get started for when it’s fixed.  Which I hope will be soon! To me it looks like they “just forgot” to activate RemoteFX for server as it look a lot like a Windows Server 2012 R2 VM where one tries to add a RemoteFX card, it just doesn’t work. Sale host with Windows 10 Enterprise does not have this issue …

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So why not test with Windows 10? Well the OpenGL/CL capabilities are server only. And those are important to us!

Putting Windows Server 2016 TPv3 To The Test

I’ve dedicated some time to start investigating the new and improved feature and capabilities ever since Technical Preview 1 (TPv1). We kept going with TPv2 and now TPV3. The proving grounds for putting Windows Server 2016 TPv3 to the test are up and running.image

As usual I’ll be sharing some of the results and finding.  I only use the public Technical Previews for this so this means that it’s public information you can read about and go test  or find out about yourself.

So far things are going quite well. I’m learing a lot. Sure, I’m also hitting some issues left and right but on the whole Windows Server 2016 is giving me good vibes.

Expertise, insights, knowledge and experience is hard won. It’s never free. So I test what I need to find out about, find interesting or think what will be valuable in the future. Asking for me to go and test things for you on demand isn’t really going to work. I have bills to pay and cannot spend time, effort & resources on all of the numerous roles and features available to us in this release. Trust me I get enough offer to work for free or peanuts from both strangers and employers, so, thanks for the offers but I need no more 😉

Lightning Fast Fixed VHDX File Creation Speed With ReFS on Windows Server 2016

In this blog post we’re going to take a quick look at the lightning fast fixed VHDX file creation speed with ReFS on Windows Server 2016. We’ll compare it to creating fixed VHDX files On NTFS with a SAN that supports ODX. Both the NTFS and the CSV volume are CSV disk in a Hyper-V cluster and the test is run on the same node. The ODX cabale SAN is a Dell Compellent with Storage Center 6.5.20.

We create on  a selection of fixed VHDX files sizes (50GB, 100GB, 500GB and 1TB) on NTFS volume Windows Server 2016 host You can see the quite excellent results in file creation speeds with ODX.

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These results are very good (DELL Compellent always did a great job implementing ODX) and the time to create a 1TB fixed VHDX is just over 5 seconds consistently. Impressive by any standard I would say! When we start using CSVs we can see that times double for the larger VHDX sizes but still +/- 12seconds for a 1TB disk is impressive by any standard. There is little difference whether the node where the script runs owns the CSV or not.

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Can things be more impressive? Let’s do the same exercise on a ReFS volume on a Windows Server 2016 host. Same server, same SAN with ODX enabled but note that ReFS does not even support ODX, so it cannot be leveraged.

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No matter what the file size of our fixed VHDX files they are created in just over 1 second consistently. This is very impressive.

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When we use a CVS LUN we still see the same impressive results. On CSV LUNS not owned by the node where we execute the test script we see a creation time of 2 seconds for VHDX sizes of 1TB. Still lightning fast.

If you do not have a SAN that supports ODX you can see why ReFS might become a very attractive choice for the file system for your Hyper-V virtual machine data volumes in Windows Server 2016. I can see why they mentioned it as the preferred option for Storage Spaces Direct. Do note that ReFS does not support deduplication and/or UNMAP (I see no dedupe support yet for virtual server workloads on the horizon either yet?). If you move large amounts of data around ODX does provide significant assistance with this. So with ReFS go for a large SSD tier. Flash only without deduplication or erasure coding might be cost prohibitive I’m afraid.

But let this not put you off ReFS. It has many benefits in combination with storage spaces and these new VHDX operation capabilities just add to that. So for many environments with commodity based storage this has become an even more interesting choice.

The Hitch Hikers Guide to Hyper-V Administration: Don’t Panic

Not all information you might see or is presented to you is valid. You need to check, that’s the prime reason we have the “trust but verify” mantra in IT. If you don’t you might start trouble shooting a ghost issue. An example of this are GUI issues, such as when you leave the Hyper-V Manager GUI open for way to long and the information goes stale in the cache.

The below screen shot is what caused some diligent admins to start trouble shooting a non existent problem. The figured that the VMs were left in a locked state due to backups failing. But hey, all backups had run and succeeded?! So they searched and found  KB article 2964439 Hyper-V virtual machine backup leaves the VM in a locked state. When they wanted to install the hotfix it failed stating it was not applicable to their system.

At that moment they considered killing the VMMS.exe service and/or failing over the nodes. While preparing for that they’d logged in to all nodes, only to see the issue not present there. That made ‘m think and step back for a while.

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In this case it’s just a quirk with the Hyper-V manager that is left open way to long. Right click the host and refresh or close the GUI and reopen it is all that’s needed to see the real information.

So slow down before you start trouble shooting & recovering form a “ghost” problem. It may cause real issues. The lesson here is you should not go into the “Action Jackson” mode. You can move swift and efficient but the ability to execute does not constitute just speed it doing what’s needed when and when needed. Here ends the lesson Smile