This is the first part of a new series on application server evaluations of CRM and SharePoint. In this series, I’m primarily interested in the Infrastructure required to support the application. A later series will concentrate on the application from the user’s perspective. All of the evaluations will be conducted in a virtual machine environment. This installment discusses the virtual infrastructure build out.
I’m preparing the L7TG virtual domain in order to evaluate two new “on-premise” Microsoft Server technologies: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and Microsoft SharePoint 2010. The first thing I need to do is free up some disk space by deleting some obsolete Windows Server 2003 virtual machines. This would allow me to transition from the Windows 2003 to the Windows 2008 R2 / SP1 Enterprise platform.
My virtual domain is implemented on a black box Intel E3400 3.0GHZ, dual core processor with 8GB of RAM and 3 SATA 500MB disk drives – one for the OS and two for the virtual machines. I’m running Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise with Hyper-V in a Workgroup. The L7TG Active Directory domain is completely virtualized on this host machine.
The first step is to install Windows 2008 R2 Service Pack 1. That operation ran without a hitch and I was able to launch all of my virtual machines. Being the cautions person that I am, I made a full disk backup of my OS drive both before and after the SP1 update using Acronus True Image Home 2010 (http://www.acronis.com/). I’m now ready to make changes to the virtual environment. One thing worth noting is that all the VHD files that reside on the two active physical disks used for hosting the virtual machines are backed up to a terabyte drive that I use for backup and recovery.
The overall approach to this evaluation project meant that I would be using a Windows Server 2008 platform for my Domain Controller. I don’t believe in upgrading any OS. I believe that a clean install on bare metal is the best approach. With a Domain Controller, the migration is relatively straight-forward: install the patched OS, install the DNS role, and run DCPROMO to add a Domain Controller to an existing domain. My DNS is AD-Integrated so the installation process replicates all AD components including DNS on the Domain Controllers. The next step is to transfer the Flexible Single Master Operations Roles (FSMO) to the new DC. I use the standard GUI MMC tools to transfer the roles. Use Active Directory Domains and Trusts to move the Domain Naming role. Use Active Directory Users and Computers to move the Rid Master, PDC Emulator, and Infrastructure Master roles. Transferring the Schema Master role is a bit more involved. One way involves registering the schmmgmt.dll and running MMC to add the Active Directory Schema console. The other alternative is to use the command line and NTDSUtil.exe. This link (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/324801) provides instructions and a starting point describing both methods. Don’t forget the Global Catalog! DCPROMO will inquire if the Global Catalog has been transferred from the server before demoting the old Domain Controller. Use Active Directory Sites and Services to create a Global Catalog on the new server and then remove it from the old DC before using DCPROMO to delete the DC.
The next step is to prepare the Application Servers that will be used to host the CRM and SharePoint software. The easiest way to deploy servers in my environment is by cloning a previously deployed server’s VHD file. There are a number of ways to create a template, perhaps the easiest is to SYSPREP a “final cut” of a workgroup server. Make sure you have a NETBIOS name like W2K8R2SP1CLONE that would normally be a part of your domain. Copy that file to your production location renaming it to the new server’s name. To keep things organized, I established the following standard. I place servers on one of my two data drives (Data500a), and client virtual machines on the other (Data500b). The file structure is organized in a common top level folder followed by folders that represent the names of the machines on the Domain. Here’s an example: the Domain Controller, L7TGDC1 Is in a folder on G:\VM\L7TGDC1\L7TGDC1.vhd. the CRM application server is called L7TGCRM11 and Is in a folder on G:\VM\L7TGCRM11\L7TGCRM11.vhd. Simply copy your clone VHD to a new folder using the name of the server you are creating and then rename the VHD file to match the folder name. Remember, you still have to change the computer’s name once you start it.
Once I have the file in place, I use Hyper-V Management console to create the virtual machine. I prefer to not assign a NIC when I create the VM until after I start it for the first time. I then rename the server. When I reboot, I join the computer to the AD domain. Since the server is has minimal roles installed, it makes a perfect platform to install your favorite application trial downloads. Generally speaking, the application server software will use a back end database that relies on Microsoft SQL Server. If you don’t have an instance of SQL Server, the installation generally includes SQL Server Express edition.
That’s it for the prep work. I’m now ready to deploy the evaluation free-trials that I downloaded from the appropriate Microsoft product web page.This posting is provided “as is” with no warranties, guaranties or any rights whatsoever. All content is based on the author’s experiences and opinions and is not intended to influence the actions of the reader.