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How to Build Windows Storage Spaces Direct on a Virtual Lab

This article describes how to build a Windows Server 2016 Storage Spaces Direct virtual lab, step-by-step on a Windows 10 desktop or laptop PC. This virtual lab environment is capable of emulating a complete cluster of storage servers, each with six directly attached virtual disk drives. Since Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 now support nested Hyper-V, each virtual server can also run the Hyper-V role and host application workload VMs.

Download a PDF of this article to have it easily available while building your lab. Click on the “Download article” button above. It’s just below the title on the right.

Virtual Lab Overview

The virtual lab will contain the following components:

  • An Active Directory Domain Services VM dedicated to this environment
  • Four Storage Server VMs
  • A Virtual Switch for the Management Network
  • A Virtual Switch for the Provider Network subnet

In the diagram below (click to zoom in) the workstation has the Hyper-V role installed and has a group of Virtual Machines providing both Active Directory and Hyper-Converged Storage services.

The screenshot below is the Hyper-V Manager running on the completed lab workstation with a group of Virtual Machines.

The functions of each virtual machine shown in the screenshot below are:

  • AD1 – A Windows Server 2016 VM providing AD DS services
  • Storage1-4 – Windows Server 2016 core VMs with attached Virtual Hard Disks emulating four storage servers with locally attached disk drives. These VMs can be either a dedicated storage cluster or as a hyper-converged cluster.
  • Win2016-Core-Template The template VM which is used as a template to build server VMs.

Deploying the Virtual Lab

This section covers the creation of the virtual lab and will consist of the following steps:

  1. Install the Hyper-V role on the lab workstation or server
  2. Create the Management Hyper-V Virtual Switch
  3. Create the Provider Hyper-V Virtual Switch
  4. Build the Windows Server 2016 template VM
  5. Build the Storage Spaces Direct server VMs

System Requirements

The hardware requirements for the virtual lab are:

  • A PC workstation with
    • 16GB Memory and
    • an SSD drive with 300GB free space
  • A Windows version capable of running the Hyper-V role
    • Windows 10 (Pro or Enterprise) (not the Home version)
    • Or Windows Server 2016 with Desktop Experience
    • Up to date with Windows Updates
  • 16GB Memory or greater
  • One or more SSD drives with 300GB free space or greater

Windows software images:

  • Windows Server 2016 ISO image file
Note: Evaluation versions of both Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10 are available at the Microsoft TechNet Evaluation Center.
Warning: You must install Windows Server 2016 Datacenter edition. Only the Datacenter edition contains the Network Controller, Software-defined Networking, and Storage Spaces Direct. You will get odd errors following these instructions if you install the Standard edition.

Install Hyper-V role

The virtual lab can be hosted by either a Windows 10 or a Windows Server 2016 computer. Hyper-V is enabled differently depending on the version of Windows.

Windows 10 Hyper-V

Control Panel >> Programs and Features >> Turn Windows features on or off

  1. Enable the Hyper-V Management Tools and Platform.
  2. Enable Hyper-V role on Windows 10

The equivalent PowerShell command is

Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName:Microsoft-Hyper-V -All

Windows Server 2016

Run the PowerShell command

Install-WindowsFeature –Name Hyper-V -IncludeManagementTools -Restart

Create the Hyper-V Switches

The two Hyper-V virtual switches are:

  • Management – Deployment and management network. This network will interact with the host workstation network and external networks.
  • Provider – This network is the core datacenter network and handles all storage, virtual machine and cluster traffic.

Management Virtual Switch

From the Hyper-V Manager on the host workstation, go to the Virtual Switch Manager and create a new virtual switch with the following settings.

  • Name: Management
  • External Network
  • Select the physical network adapter on the workstation which has Internet access
    • This may be a wired network interface or a wireless interface
  • Allow Management Operating to share the network adapter

Provider Virtual Switch

Create the provider virtual switch with the following settings.

  • Name: Provider
  • Select the Connection type: Private network

Build the Active Directory Domain Services VM

The Active Directory VM will be a dedicated server for this cloud environment. The example configuration parameters for this server are:

Parameter Value
Domain Name Contoso.local
Computer Name AD1
Management Adapter IP Address 10.0.0.100/24
Role/Features AD DS, DNS

The IP address ranges used in these instructions are the same subnet as the Internet router. The Internet router address is 10.0.0.1. For your environment, this range will likely be different and you will need to make the appropriate adjustments.

Create a new virtual machine wizard

Follow the steps below using the Hyper-V Manager on the host workstation.

  1. Action >> New >> Virtual Machine
  2. Name: AD1
  3. Store the Virtual Machine path:
    • In our example, we use E:\VMs\AD1 since the E: drive is an SSD
    • (Select the SSD drive letter and folder where the VMs will reside)
  4. Select the Generation of VM (either works)
  5. Startup Memory: 1024MB
  6. Use Dynamic Memory
  7. Connect to the Management virtual switch
  8. Select 20GB as the Virtual Hard Disk size
  9. Begin Installing an operating system from a bootable CD/DVD by selecting the image file
    • Browse to your Windows Server 2016 ISO file

Start and Configure the AD1 VM

  1. Connect the virtual console to the VM (right-click AD1 VM and select connect)
  2. Follow the Windows installation after selecting Windows 2016 Standard (Desktop Experience)
  3. Log into the new AD1 VM
  4. Rename the computer to AD1

Set the Management Adapter IP configuration

Follow these steps in the Change Adapter Settings, located here.

Control Panel > View Network Status and Tasks > Change Adapter Settings

  1. Rename the adapter to Management
  2. Set the IP Address to 10.0.0.100
  3. Set the Subnet to 255.255.255.0
  4. Set the Default GW to the IP address of your Internet router
Note: This lab environment used for these examples used 10.0.0.2-99 as DHCP and 100-254 available for static addresses. Your environment will likely vary.

Install the Active Directory Domain Services role

  1. Include the Management Tools (default)
  2. Once the step above has completed, the Role Install of AD DS wizard will include a link promote this server to a domain controller. Click on this link.

Configure Active Directory

  1. Deployment Configuration
    • Select: Add new forest
    • Enter the Domain name: Contoso.local (anything you like)
    • And then Next
  2. Domain Controller Options
    • Use the defaults and
    • add a DSRM password (anything you like)
    • and then Next
  3. DNS Delegation
    • There will be a warning about DNS delegation, ignore this
    • Do not create DNS delegation
    • And then Next
  4. NetBIOS name
    • NetBIOS name: Contoso (anything you like)
    • And then Next
  5. Paths
    • AD DS paths, take the defaults
    • And then Next
  6. Review Options:
    • Click Next
  7. Prerequisites Check:
    • There will be some warnings – ignore
    • Click Install

Save this VM to be used over and over!

The core server VMs will be created with an automation script. Save this VM to be used in other labs or to rebuild other labs. This will allow testing various functions and failure scenarios with the virtual lab.

Note: A simple method of saving and restoring the Active Directory VM is to make a Hyper-V VM snapshot. The AD VM can be rolled back to the initial installation state when rebuilding the virtual lab environment.

Build the Server Template VM

We will build a Windows Server 2016 VM which will be copied and used to create additional VMs. This allows the lab to be created quickly with a script. The lab can then be deleted and recreated quickly and with little effort.

Create another VM similar to how the AD1 VM was built above.

  1. Use Hyper-V Manager to create a new Virtual Machine
  2. Select a unique VM name, such as “Win2016-core-datacenter”
  3. Select the Windows Server 2016 core datacenter version
  4. Update the Management network. Rename the VM adapter to Management
  5. Set the IP address to 10.0.0.10
  6. Set the DNS address to 10.0.0.100 (AD1)
  7. Apply the latest Windows updates, first by logging into the console and run SCONFIG
  8. Apply all the updates available
  9. Shutdown the VM. This VM VHD file will be copied from this location and used to create additional servers.
  10. Remember the complete path of the new VHDx file as this path will be required in the PowerShell commands below.
Note: It might be a good idea to make a snapshot of this template VM.

Build the Storage Server VMs

Building the Storage servers is cumbersome and labor intensive. The following software scripts are provided to automate this process. The AD1 and Template VMs can be saved and reused. Being able to destroy the core servers and rebuild easily is a critical requirement.

Download a copy of this PowerShell CmdLet. Right-click this link to save the New-vS2DNode script. Then rename the text file to New-vS2DNode.psm1.This PowerShell CmdLet will be imported and used in following steps to create the storage server VMs.
function New-vS2DNode
{
  <#
  .SYNOPSIS Create a virtual machine with attached virtual disks
  .DESCRIPTION Describe the function in more detail
  .EXAMPLE Give an example of how to use it
  .EXAMPLE Give another example of how to use it
  .PARAMETER poolname The computer name to query. Just one.
  .PARAMETER computername The name computer name to query
  #>
  [CmdletBinding()]
  param
  (
      [Parameter(
      Mandatory=$True,
      ValueFromPipeline=$True,
      ValueFromPipelineByPropertyName=$True,
        HelpMessage='- VMName ')]
      [string]$VMName,
      [Parameter(Mandatory=$True)]
      [string]$VMPath,
      [Parameter(Mandatory=$True)]
      [string]$VHDTemplate,
      [bool]$AddStorageDisks
  )
    begin
    {
        $ErrorActionPreference = "Stop";
        Write-Verbose "Checking if Hyper-V is enabled"
        $HyperV = Get-WindowsOptionalFeature -FeatureName Microsoft-Hyper-V-All -Online
        if ($HyperV.State -ne "Enabled" )
        {
            Write-Error "Hyper-V must be enabled on this host - exiting"
            Throw
        }
        Write-Verbose "Checking if VMPath [$VMPath] folder exists"
        if (!( Test-Path $VMPath ))
        {
             Write-Verbose "Creating VMPath folder [$VMPath]"
             New-Item -Path $VMPath -ItemType directory | Out-Null
        }
        Write-Verbose "Checking for adequate disk space to create server"
        $Drive = (Get-Item $VMPath).PSDrive.Name + ":"
        $DriveObj = (Get-WmiObject Win32_LogicalDisk -ComputerName 'localhost')| ? DeviceID -eq $Drive
        Write-Verbose "Disk Space available [$DriveObj.FreeSpace]"
        if ($DriveObj.FreeSpace -lt 5000000000)
        {
            Write-Error "Inadequate disk space to create Virtual Machine"
            Write-Error "Server has less that 50GB available"
            Throw
        }
        Write-Verbose "Checking if VM already exists"
        $Exists = Get-VM -name $VMName -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
        if ($Exists) {
            Write-Error "VM already exists in Hyper-V"
            Throw
        }
        Write-Verbose "Checking if VMPath is empty"
        if ( Test-Path $VMPath )
        {
            if( (Get-ChildItem $VMPath | Measure-Object).Count -ne 0)
            {
                Write-Error "VMPath folder contains data - exiting"
                Throw
            }
        }
        Write-Verbose "Checking if VHD Template exists"
        if (!( Test-Path $VHDTemplate ))
        {
            Write-Error "VHDTemplate file not found - exiting"
            Throw
        }
        Write-Verbose "Checking that Hyper-V Virtual Switch [Management] exists"
        Get-VMSwitch -Name Management -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue | out-null
        if ( $? -eq $false )
        {
            Write-Error "Hyper-V Virtual Switch [Management] not found - exiting"
            Throw
        }
    }
  
    process
    {
        function AddStorageDisks
        {
            ###############################################################
            #  Create the Storage Disk VHDs and attach to Storage Server VM
            $VHDPath = $VMPath
            $i=0
            ForEach ($_ in 1..6)
            {
                $i++
                $DiskName = "Disk0" + $i + ".vhdx"
                $VHDFile = "$VHDPath\$DiskName"
                Write-Verbose "New-VHD - Creating VHDFile [$VHDFile] Size 5GB"         
                New-VHD -path $VHDFile -Size 5GB -Fixed | Out-Null
                Write-Verbose "Add-VMHardDiskDrive - Attaching [$VHDFile] to VM $VMName"
                Add-VMHardDiskDrive -VMName $VMName -Path $VHDFile -ControllerType SCSI
            }
        }
        Write-Output "Copying VM Template [$VHDTemplate] to $VMPath\$VMName.vhdx"
        $Status = Copy-Item $VHDTemplate "$VMPath\$VMName.vhdx"
        Write-Verbose "Creating VM $VMName"
        New-VM -Name $VMName  -MemoryStartupBytes 1GB -Generation 2   -VHDPath "$VMPath\$VMName.vhdx"  -Switchname "Management"
        Write-Verbose "Set VM DynamicMemory and ProcessorCount 2"
        Set-VM -Name $VMName -DynamicMemory -ProcessorCount 2
        Write-Verbose "Set VM for Virtualization Extensions"
        Set-VMProcessor -VMName $VMName -ExposeVirtualizationExtensions $true
        Write-Verbose "Enable Mac Address Spoofing"
        Get-VMNetworkAdapter -VMName $VMName | Set-VMNetworkAdapter -MacAddressSpoofing On
        if ($AddStorageDisks)
        {
            Write-Verbose "Adding Storage Disks to VM"
            AddStorageDisks
        }
    }
}

Create the storage server VMs

Run the following commands below to create your storage server VMs.

Note: The Storage Server VMs can be configured either as a dedicated storage cluster, or as a Hyper-Converged cluster. These configuration examples are provided in other articles.

Change the VMPath and VHDTemplate parameters for your environment. The commands also assume the path of the PowerShell CmdLet module file is on the current working directory. Update this path if required.

Import-Module -Name .\New-vS2DNode
New-vS2DNode -VMName Storage1 -VMPath E:\VMs\Storage1 -VHDTemplate E:\VMs\Win2016-Core-Template\Win2016-Core-Template.vhdx -AddStorageDisks $true -Verbose
New-vS2DNode -VMName Storage2 -VMPath E:\VMs\Storage2 -VHDTemplate E:\VMs\Win2016-Core-Template\Win2016-Core-Template.vhdx -AddStorageDisks $true -Verbose
New-vS2DNode -VMName Storage3 -VMPath E:\VMs\Storage3 -VHDTemplate E:\VMs\Win2016-Core-Template\Win2016-Core-Template.vhdx -AddStorageDisks $true -Verbose
New-vS2DNode -VMName Storage4 -VMPath E:\VMs\Storage4 -VHDTemplate E:\VMs\Win2016-Core-Template\Win2016-Core-Template.vhdx -AddStorageDisks $true -Verbose

Get-vS2DNode

Syntax

Get-vS2DNode -VMName -VMPath -VHDTemplate [-AddStorageDisks $true|$false]
  • VMName – The name of the Virtual Machine to create
  • VMPath – The path where the new Virtual Machine and attached Virtual Hard Drives will be created
  • VHDTemplate – The full path including the file name of the Template VM (created in the instructions above)
  • AddStorageDisks – This command will optionally create VHD files associated with the new VM. These VHD disks simulate directly attached hard disks for a storage server. If this parameter is negated, the command will create a standard VM, which can be used for other purposes such as AD servers or Hyper-V compute servers.

Results

With the Storage VMs built and running we can log into one and see the results.

The above storage VM has one operating disk with 20GB and six directly attached virtual SCSI disk drives.  When the storage servers are joined into a cluster, the storage cluster will have 24 disk drives available to add to a Storage Spaces pool.

Note: The virtual SCSI disks were created at 5GB size since this is the smallest size disk drive supported by Storage Spaces.

Summary

The Virtual Lab created is now a base infrastructure to build into a complete hybrid cloud environment. The complete hybrid cloud can be constructed by adding roles and configurations, clustering the servers, etc. Each server is compatible with both the Storage Spaces Direct and Hyper-V roles. This provides an environment which supports:

  • Windows Failover Clusters
  • Hyper-V hosted Windows and Linux Virtual Machines
  • Live migrations of VMs
  • Containers running (not too heavy) workloads
  • Practically any private or hybrid cloud infrastructure

For instructions to configure this environment onto a Hyper-Converged Storage Spaces Direct cluster, refer to Configuring Storage Spaces Direct – Step by Step.

Please do provide feedback on errors or any other comments below.

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