Microsoft exam 71-652: Virtualization

Virtualization is becoming a topic of increasingly popular discussion. This is because the technology offers great potential for cost savings. My blog today is about Virtualization (obviously). More to the point, I am going to be discussing my experience with beta testing the New Virtualization exam by Microsoft. First, a quick introduction to Virtualization for those who know nothing about it.

Virtualization is a technology that allows multiple Operating Systems to be run simultaneously on the same hardware. So lets say that I wanted to setup a study lab at home, One that required me to see how Linux and Windows XP would work together, but I only had one computer! The way to accomplish this is through Virtualization, and luckily there are a couple Virtualization software solutions out there. VMWare, Virtual PC and Virtual Server are a couple that come to mind.

OK! So it can work in a home lab, cool! What about in a production environment? The quick answer is, “would be even better for a production environment”. I say “quick”, because there are of course situations where virtualization may not be ideal. These cases might be when running DNS servers and Domain Controllers when using only 1 host server, or when using very power hungry servers.

Typically, with today’s technology, servers are under-utilized. I take for example, a server we have at work that has2 Dual Core processors with 4 GB of RAM. The server runs our Websense Server and 2 SQL applications which are used daily. The load on the server is ridiculously low! For what we use at work, I could probably install Virtual Server 2005 on this machine and replace 4 actual servers we have in production! That means Savings!

Examples of savings are

  • Electrical Costs
  • space being freed up
  • less to cool in the datacenter
  • less hardware to buy
  • backups all from one physical server

So, there is a quick rundown on Virtualization. So what about this Beta exam? Well, I love beta exams, there’s no cost (except my time) and no expectations (no pre-exam jitters). If I pass, I get the certification title, if I don’t then at least I had the experience of the exam, and knowledge gained from studying it. This paticular exam caught my eye because Virtualization has been a popular topic at work lately. So what was on this exam?

Well, due to the NDA I agreed with, I can’t tell you what is on the exam, but I can tell you a bit about it. this exam is testing on Microsoft’s Server 2008 Hyper-V software. Hyper-V is Microsoft’s Next Generation Virtualization software. The problem is that, even with an evaluation copy of Server 2008 at home, I don’t have the required hardware to run Hyper-V.  Basically Hyper-V requires a processor that is Hardware Virtualization ready and 64 bit. Neither of which I have. So I settled for the next best thing.

I installed Virtual Server 2005 with 2 VM clients on it. I hate to admit it, but this was my first attempt with any VMs, but I found it fairly simple and fun. I used a 30 day trial of Vista (pre configured VHD) and an extra copy Of XP pro as a fresh install for my VMs. This was done on a workstation class machine (3 GHz Dual Core, 2 GB RAM) and with both vm’s running in an XP host I rarely spiked above 50% utilization on my processor.

For memory, I allotted only 128MB for the XP VM and the Vista came pre-configured to use 768, which I did not change. I joined the Vista client to a domain, and left the XP client on the default workgroup. Everything ran smoothly. I have to admit the clients reaction time were a little slow, but not too bad. I can only image what the performance would have been like If I had multiple NICs and HDDs in a RAID setting.

Setting up a Virtual Server with VMs was not the only “studying” that I did for this exam. Luckily Microsoft had a couple e-learning courses available for Hyper-V. One of the courses was free, the other was free through a promotion code. I also took advantage of the MS FAQs page for Hyper-V. Although with only a week of experience on this subject and no chance to play with the actual product, I’m afraid it just isn’t enough to pull a passing score this time.

The exam didn’t take me too long. Just over an hour really. The questions were not long winded like many MS exams I’ve taken (what a relief), but subject matter as I’ve said above is not something I have a lot of experience with. There were some easy questions, and there were many questions that i could figure out based the studying I did do, but I think the majority of questions on this one dealt with specifics on Hyper-V that I didn’t get a chance to explore.

I’ll post back when I get some results. For Beta Exams, Microsoft usually says to expect results at around 8 weeks after the Beta is closed. However, I took a Beta that ended in March that I’m still waiting for the results. So it could be a while.


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