Category Archives: 15896

4th Generation Hyper-V 2012 R2 Server for Around $1,200 USD – Parts List and Video!

In honor of the release of Windows Server 2012 R2, I’ve updated my latest server build using the latest components. You can use this home Hyper-V server to create your own private cloud, prototype design solutions, test new software, or run your own network like I do . Nothing provides a better learning tool than hands-on experience!



My last build used a third-generation Intel I5-3470S Ivy Bridge Quad-Core CPU. My G4 build uses a fourth-generation Intel I5-4570S Haswell Quad-Core CPU and a larger faster 360GB SSD to run active Hyper-V virtual machines. The new components result in a super-fast 7.5 second boot time!



My Design Requirements

This design is a little less cost-focused so I can use the latest Intel processor, faster SSD drives, and a sleek high-performance micro-ATX case. These new components currently add about $200 to the base $1,000 price, but as usual for high-end technology, those costs will go down.  You can probably build it for less even now.

  • Minimum of 4 cores
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 capable. Hyper-V for Windows Server 2012 R2 requires hypervisor-ready processors with Second Level Address Translation (SLAT).
  • 32GB of fast DDR3 RAM
  • Must support SATA III 6Gb/s drives
  • Must have USB 3.0 ports for future portable devices
  • Low power requirements
  • Small form factor
  • Budget: Around $1,200 USD

The processor I chose is the new Intel I5-4570S Haswell Quad-Core CPU. Even though all four cores run at a quick 2.9 GHz, it only uses 65W. The beautiful aluminum heatsink and fan included with the processor keep the CPU running at a cool 25° Celsius (77° F) at room temperature.



As before in my previous builds, RAM requirements drove most of this design. Memory is single most important component in a Hyper-V host. Pairing up a super-fast processor with quick reliable RAM is the key to a good design.



Gigabyte Motherboard – Durable enough to cut a steak on it! J

Overclocking is not longer only used by gearheads and has moved to the mainstream. Most desktop motherboards include self tuning overclocking to get every gram of power out of their rig. I don’t use any of these features, even though they’re available. I prefer stability over speed – and this server is plenty fast enough!



I’ve also found that while all SSD are fast, some are faster. Drives with high IOPS provide a noticeably faster computer especially during bootup and long drive operations, like copying ISOs and VHDXs.



This build is more stylish than previous builds, using a sleek high quality Rosewill Slim MicroATX case. Most µATX cases are designed for desktops and, as such, they usually have small 250W-300W power supplies. The included Rosewill 300W µATX power supply works just fine for my build since all the components have low power requirements. Peak power requirements for this build is only 186W, giving me plenty of power to spare. This PSU is also designed to keep the case cool by exhausting warm air at the back along with another built-in 80mm on top of the case.



I ordered everything from Amazon because they had the lowest prices. And with Amazon Prime it was all delivered in just two days. Gotta love that! You can even join Prime for free for 30 days and cancel if you want after you get your gear.



Here’s the entire parts list for this server:



QuantityItemDescription
1

Intel Core i5-4570S Quad-Core Desktop Processor 2.9 GHZ 6MB Cache- BX80646I54570S

This is a 4th generation Haswell Intel processor. It includes the newest Intel HD graphics and runs at a very low 65W. 3 year limited warranty.
1Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H LGA 1150 Intel B85 HDMI SATA 6Gbps USB 3.0 Micro ATX DDR3 1600 Intel Motherboards GA-B85M-D3H

I chose this LGA 1150 Micro ATX motherboard over Intel because it has 4x SATA 6Gb/s and 2x SATA 3Gb/s connectors. It also uses the Intel B85 Express chipset, has an UEFI BIOS, has 2x PCI and 2x PCI-Express slots, and USB 3.0 ports. 3 year limited warranty.
2Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1600 MHz (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory (CMZ16GX3M2A1600C10)

1.5V 240-pin dual channel 1600MHz DDR3 RAM with built-in heat spreaders. Lifetime warranty. 10-10-10-27 CAS Latency. Great RAM at a great price. Each package contains 2x 8GB DIMMs (16GB). Be sure to buy two packages.
1Kingston Digital 120GB SSDNow V300 SATA 3 2.5 (7mm height) with Adapter Solid State Drive 2.5-Inch SV300S37A/120G

120GB SATA 6Gb/s (SATA 3) SSD used for the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system. 85,000 IOPS 4KB random read / 55,000 IOPS 4KB random write. 3 year warranty.
1Corsair Force Series GS Red 360GB (6Gb/s) SATA 3 SF2200 controller Toggle SSD (CSSD-F360GBGS-BK)

360GB SATA 6Gb/s (SATA 3) SSD used for active VMs (the VMs I normally have running, like a domain controller, Exchange servers, Lync servers, etc.). Toggle NAND for up to 90K IOPS random write speed. 3 year limited warranty.
1
2.5-inch SSD/Hard Drive to 3.5-inch Bay Plastic Tray Mount Adapter Kit

Plastic mounting kit for 2.5″ SSD drives. Holds two SSD drives, stacked on top of each other in the left drive bay.
1WD Green 2 TB Desktop Hard Drive: 3.5 Inch, SATA III, 64 MB Cache – WD20EZRX

2TB Western Digital Green (low power) SATA 6Gb/s (SATA 3) drive. Used for storing ISOs, seldom used VMs, base images, etc. I usually configure this drive to sleep after one hour to save even more power. 2 year warranty.
1Lite-On Super AllWrite 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive – Bulk – IHAS124-04 (Black)

Great quality DVD burner. It’s cheap, too. I connect this to one of the SATA2 ports on the motherboard. 1 year limited warranty.
1TRENDnet 32-Bit Gigabit Low Profile PCI Adapter, Retail (TEG-PCITXRL)

The Gigabyte motherboard includes one gigabit NIC. It’s best practice to add another gigabit NIC for Hyper-V so you can separate host and VM traffic.
1C&E CNE11445 SATA Data Cable (2pk.)

I need 4x SATA cables for this build. The Gigabyte motherboard comes with two black 18″ SATA cables. Flat (not L shaped) connectors work best for this build. FYI there’s no technical difference between SATA2 and SATA3 cables.
2StarTech 6in 4 Pin Molex to SATA Power Cable Adapter (SATAPOWADAP)

The micro ATX PSU in the Rosewill case has four power connectors for drives, which is just enough — 2x SATA and 2x Molex connectors. Use these adapters to convert the two Molex connectors to SATA. Be sure to buy two.
1Rosewill Slim MicroATX Computer Case with ATX12V Flex 300W Power Supply, Black/Silver R379-M

Sleek mirror-finished micro ATX case with removable drive bay cage for easy access. Includes quiet 300W PSU, 80mm cooling fan on top, 2x front USB 2.0, and audio ports. Excellent quality.



It took about 90 minutes to assemble everything and take these pictures. The following slideshow shows how I put it all together. Click the slideshow to open the hi-res slideshow in a new page.






The first thing you’ll need to do after building your server is install the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system. This will take a total of about 8 minutes from DVD. Amazing!

Windows Server 2012 R2 will install default drivers for all the server components. Next, you’ll want to update the BIOS to the latest version and install the optimized drivers available for some components. The Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H motherboard includes a utilities and drivers disk. Pop the disk in and run setup.exe in <DVD Drive>:\Utility\GIGABYTE\AppCenter.  This will install the Gigabyte AppCenter utility on Windows Server 2012 R2.

Use AppCenter to download and install the latest drivers and utilities. AppCenter can be accessed using the icon in the notification area near the clock. Select Live Update and choose the following updates:

First half of the utilities and updates to install.

Second half of the updates to install.

It will take a few minutes to download and install the software and updates. You may need to restart a couple of times to complete the installation. Live Update in AppCenter makes it a lot easier to install the necessary utilities and drivers to keep your hardware up to date.

Installing utilities and updates.
My motherboard shipped with version F4 of the BIOS. At the time of this article, the latest BIOS version is F7. The @BIOS utility in AppCenter was unable to download the latest version for some reason, so I went to http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=4567#bios and downloaded the F7 BIOS manually, then used the @BIOS utility to install it from the file.

Updating and flashing the BIOS.
Now you can run Windows Disk Management to initialize, format, and label your Corsair 360GB SSD and Western Digital 2TB drives. Be sure to check my article about Windows Server 2012 deduplication to increase your Hyper-V server density. Now you’re ready to install the Hyper-V role and start making VMs!

Here’s a short video of the beast in action!




I’ll be doing a demo of this home Hyper-V server at the MVP Showcase at the MVP Summit, November 17th, 2013.  If you’re an MVP and will be going to the Summit, please drop by the MVP Showcase to see the server in action.

As usual, if you have any questions or comments please leave them below. I hope you enjoy reading about these server builds and take the opportunity to make this investment in your career.



UPDATED Blistering Fast Hyper-V 2012 Server – Parts List and Video!

Over a year ago I wrote an article detailing how to build a Blistering Fast Windows Server for about $1,000 USD.  At that time “Windows Server 8″ hadn’t even been released yet, but I wanted to build a server that would work with “future generations” of Hyper-V.  The article proved to be extremely popular and paved the way for many fellow technologists to build their own lab servers.



Now that Windows Server 2012 has been out for a while I wanted to update that article to incorporate newer technologies, like 3rd generation Intel processors and faster DDR3 RAM.  I also made some tweaks to my initial server over the year, adding another SSD drive for active VMs and enabling sleep mode on my physical storage hard drive to save more power.  I’m including those items in this build, while maintaining the same price point as over a year ago.



Lessons Learned

I modified a few things since I built the original lab server I documented in January 2012.  Here are the lessons I learned:

  • If RAM is king, IO is queen.  The two most important things for a Hyper-V 2012 server are RAM (VM capacity) and IO (VM performance).  IO becomes even more important as you add more concurrently running VMs, which you can easily do with 32GB of RAM!
  • SSD = IO. My original design used a single SSD for the operating system and binaries.  I soon learned that VM performance was pretty poor running off a traditional mechanical hard drive, even though I was using a fast SATA III 6Gbps drive.  I ended up buying another 250GB SSD drive to host my active VMs.
  • CPU isn’t as important as I thought.  It’s important to have enough cores to share with your VMs, but most of the time my CPU is idling at 10% utilization even with 8 VMs running simultaneously.
  • Deduplication is amazing! You can increase the VM density on an SSD drive using Windows Server 2012’d built-in deduplication feature.
  • You can never have enough SATA III ports.  My first build used an Intel motherboard with two SATA III 6Gbps and two SATA II 3Gbps ports.  I ended up having to buy another SATA III controller when I added the other SSD drive.  Better to have at least 4 SATA III ports to begin with.



My Design Requirements

This build has an emphasis on cost.  Even though my budget is the same as the earlier build, I have to make it work with two SSD drives instead of one.

  • Minimum of 4 cores
  • Windows Server 2012 capable.  Hyper-V for Windows 8 requires hypervisor-ready processors with Second Level Address Translation (SLAT).
  • 32GB of fast DDR3 RAM
  • Must support SATA III 6Gb/s drives
  • Must have USB 3.0 ports for future portable devices
  • Low power requirements
  • Small form factor
  • Budget: Under $1,000 USD

As before, the RAM requirements drove most of this design.  Interestingly, I found that the newer technologies (3rd generation Intel Core I5 Ivy Bridge and DDR3 1600 RAM) actually cost less than the 2nd gen I5 and DDR3 1066 RAM in my last build.

Unlike last year’s build, I discovered that Amazon usually has the lowest price for everything.  This makes it a  lot easier to order and receive since all the components come from one place.  This should also make it easier for my European friends since they can source it all from Amazon, as well.  Another big bonus is that I have Amazon Prime which gives me free 2-day shipping on all the components.  I could even choose to spend $3.99 more to get it next day!  I love this service!

Here’s the entire parts list for this server:



Quantity Item Description
1   Intel Core i5-3470S Quad-Core Processor 2.9 GHz 6 MB Cache LGA 1155 – BX80637I53470S

This is a 3rd generation Ivy Bridge Intel processor. It includes Intel HD 2500 graphics and runs at a low 77W. 3 year limited warranty.
1   AS Rock PRO4-M LGA1155 Intel H77 Quad CrossFireX SATA3 USB3.0 A V GbE MATX Motherboard H77

I chose this LGA 1155 Micro ATX motherboard over Intel because it has 4x SATA3 and 2x SATA2 connectors. It also uses the Intel H77 chipset, supports RAID 1, 5 and 10, has 4 PCI-Express slots, USB 3.0, and has a great BIOS. See the video below. 3 year limited warranty.
2   Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1600 MHz (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory (CMZ16GX3M2A1600C10)

240 pin dual channel RAM with built-in heat spreaders.  Lifetime warranty.  Latency is 10-10-10-27.  Each package contains 2x 8GB sticks (16GB).  Be sure to buy two packages.
1   Kingston SSDNow V200 128GB Bundle SV200S3B7A/128G

SATA3 SSD used for the Windows Server 2012 operating system. The package includes the drive and SATA3 cable, an external enclosure, and cables. 3 year warranty.
1   Samsung MZ-7TD250BW 840 Series Solid State Drive (SSD) 250 GB Sata 2.5-Inch

SATA3 SSD used for active VMs (the VMs I normally have running, like a domain controller, Exchange servers, Lync servers, etc.). Super-fast drive. 3 year limited warranty.
1 Kingwin 2.5 Inch to 3.5 Inch Internal Hard Disk Drive Mounting Kit

Metal mounting kit for 2.5″ SSD drives. Holds two SSD drives, stacked on top of each other.


1   WD Green 2 TB Desktop Hard Drive: 3.5 Inch, SATA III, 64 MB Cache – WD20EARX

2TB Western Digital Green (low power) SATA3 drive. Used for storing ISOs, seldom used VMs, base images, etc. I usually configure this drive to sleep after one hour to save even more power. 2 year warranty.
1   Lite-On Super AllWrite 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive – Bulk – IHAS124-04 (Black)

Great quality DVD burner. It’s cheap, too. I connect this to one of the SATA2 ports on the motherboard. 1 year limited warranty.
1   SATA Data Cable (2pk.)

I need 4x SATA3 cables for this build. The ASRock motherboard comes with a black one and the Kingston 128GB SSD comes with another read one.
1   Rosewill 40-In-1 USB 2.0 3.5-Inch Internal Card Reader with USB Port / Extra Silver Face Plate (RCR-IC001)

This is just a handy cheap addition. It slides into the floppy drive tray of the case and adds another USB 2.0 connector, SD card reader, and lots of other reader slots to the front of the computer.
1   APEX TX-381-C Black Steel Micro ATX Tower Computer Case USB/Audio/Fan

Mini ATX tower case for Micro ATX motherboards, like the ASRock. It includes a carrying handle and 2x USB 2.0 ports and audio jacks under a small door on top of the case. It comes with a fairly quiet 80mm rear case fan and clear instructions.
1   Rosewill Stallion Series 400W ATX 12V v2.2 Power Supply RD400-2-SB

Dual 12V rails. Nearly silent 120mm fan and mesh cable sleeving. Includes 4x SATA power connectors and 1x PCI-Express. 1 year limited warranty



Click the video below to hear a description of the parts I ordered for this beast:








It took about 90 minutes to assemble everything and take these pictures. The following slideshow shows how I put it all together:








Once assembled, I updated the BIOS online (very cool – see the video below) and installed Windows Server 2012 Datacenter Edition.  Installation took only 4 minutes, 50 seconds!  Amazing.



Windows Server 2012 recognized all but two of the computer’s components, but some required updating so Windows Server can use their advanced capabilities.  Do NOT install the drivers using the setup program on the included ASRock H77 Pro-4M DVD.  The ASRock setup programs will BSOD the server since they are written for a different OS.  Instead, open Device Manager, right-click the following devices, and update the driver software using the ASRock DVD.



Here are the devices that need to be updated, in this order:


System devices
  • Xeon(R) processor E3-1200 v2/3rd Gen Core processor DRAM Controller – 0150
  • PCI Express Root Complex (Becomes “PCI bus”. Requires a restart)
  • Intel(R) H77 Express Chipset LPC Controller – 1E4A (Requires a restart)
  • Intel(R) 7 Series/C216 Chipset Family SMBus Host Controller – 1E22
  • Intel(R) 7 Series/C216 Chipset Family PCI Express Root Port 8 – 1E1E (Requires a restart)
  • Intel(R) 7 Series/C216 Chipset Family PCI Express Root Port 6 – 1E1A
  • Intel(R) 7 Series/C216 Chipset Family PCI Express Root Port 1 – 1E10

Universal Serial Bus controllers
  • Standard Enhanced PCI to USB Host Controller (Becomes “Intel(R) 7 Series/C216 Chipset Family USB Enhanced Host Controller – 1E26″)
  • Standard Enhanced PCI to USB Host Controller (Becomes “Intel(R) 7 Series/C216 Chipset Family USB Enhanced Host Controller – 1E2D”)

Other devices
  • Unknown device  (Becomes “Intel(R) Smart Connect Technology Service”)

Sound controllers
  • High Definition Audio Device (Becomes “Realtek High Definition Audio”)
  • High Definition Audio Device (Becomes “Intel(R) Display Audio”)

Network adapters
  • Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller

IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers
  • Standard SATA AHCI Controller (Becomes “Intel(R) 7 Series/C216 Chipset Family SATA AHCI Controller”. The DVD drive will probably change drive letters after this update.)
  • Standard SATA AHCI Controller (Becomes “Asmedia 106x SATA Controller”.  This one is tricky.  Restart and press F8 to boot in Safe Mode. Restart again into normal mode. You will now see new “ATA Channel 0″ and “ATA Channel 1″ controllers.)

Display adapters
  • Microsoft Basic Display Adapter (Becomes “Intel(R) HD Graphics”.  The screen flashes during installation.)

Install Intel Management Engine Components from the ASRock DVD
  • Run <DVD Drive>:\Drivers\ME\Intel\(v8.1.2.1318_1.5M)\Setup.exe
  • Accept the Intel Manageability Engine Firmware Recovery Agent license agreement
  • Check for updates. This takes a few minutes.
  • This will fix the unknown PCI Simple Communications Controller device.

I also recommend that you update the Samsung SSD 840 firmware, which includes better TRIM support:
  • Download and install the Samsung Magician 4 software.
  • Click Firmware Update and Update. Reboot to finish the firmware upgrade.



Finally, run Windows Disk Management to initialize, format and label your Samsung 250GB SSD and Western Digital 2TB drives.




Here’s a video of the Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V server in action:








I hope this article, slideshow and videos are helpful to you in your quest to build the perfect Hyper-V lab server.  This is a great investment in your IT career!



Special thanks to my ExtraTeam colleague, Aman Ayaz.  It was his need for a new Hyper-V lab server (and his Visa card) that made this article possible.  :)






How to Easily Check for a Windows Enterprise CA

I work with a lot of different clients and often need to generate private certificates for applications, such as Exchange, Lync Server, and System Center.  I’m often surprised that clients aren’t aware if they even have a certificate authority server in their domain and if so, what it’s name is.



Here’s a simple way to check for an enterprise CA in a Windows domain.  Run the following command from a CMD prompt:

Notice the extra dash “-” between the -config and -ping switches.



If there is an enterprise CA published in Active Directory, you will see a pop-up box asking you to choose the CA to ping, as shown below:




Notice that CA name and the computer that hosts it are displayed.  Once you select the certification authority and click OK, certutil will ping the server to make sure that it’s online and functioning, as shown below:
 

Certutil successfully pinged the CA
 If certutil is enable to locate and Enterprise CA in the domain, it will display an error message indicating that no active Certification Authorities were found:



Certutil was unable to locate an Enterprise CA in the domain
 

certutil -config – -ping