Migrating to and Updating with Azure Stack HCI and DataON MUST Pro
Adam Morris is the Director of IT at DEC. Headquartered in Houston, TX with seven locations around Texas, DEC is premier civil engineering firm with expertise in public infrastructure, surface transportation, land development, hydrology and hydraulics, airports, ports and harbors.
We were looking to update our data center with a hyper-converged infrastructure, to increase performance and simplify our cluster management and updating process.
We decided to purchase a three-node DataON Integrated System for Azure Stack HCI. I liked the new, streamlined Azure Stack HCI OS. It got rid of the extras in Windows Server, improved performance, and made Hyper-V and software-defined storage easier to manage.
The Integrated System uses Windows Admin Center for simplified and streamlines management and updating for Azure Stack HCI. It features Cluster Aware Updating (CAU) to install the latest Microsoft-validated updates on every server in your cluster while keeping your applications running. It also works with DataON MUST Pro which uses CAU to keep your servers updated with the latest verified drivers, firmware , BIOS, and BMC. With just a few clicks you can start the automated updating process. It really works and saves you a lot of time.
During the deployment, we documented our process of migrating to Azure Stack HCI and how we updated the new cluster using the new Microsoft CAU tool with DataON MUST Pro.
The latest version of Azure Stack HCI OS now only supports VM configuration version 8.0 or higher. If you’re migrating from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Azure Stack HCI, you’ll need to first upgrade your cluster or nodes to Windows Server 2016. All other migration steps in this blog should be about the same.
Migrating VMs from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Azure Stack HCI
Replication and migration from Windows Server 2012 R2 to the new DataON Integrated System for Azure Stack HCI can be complicated. We used a combination of Failover Cluster Manager, Hyper-V Manager, and Windows Admin Center tools to perform these tasks.
- Install the Hyper-V replica broker role on Azure Stack HCI cluster.
- Open Failover Cluster Manager from the Windows Server 2012 R2 node.
- Select the VMs to replicate/migrate.
- Right-click and enable replication.
- Select Replica role ‘NameOfYourReplicaBroker’ from the Azure Stack HCI cluster.
- Use the default settings.
- Monitor the replication status in Hyper-V Manager on the Windows Server 2012 R2 node.
- Shut down the production (source) server. Server has to be shut down in order to do a planned failover.
- From the Windows Server 2012 R2 node, using Cluster Manager, go to ‘Replication’ and choose ‘Planned Failover.’
- Perform a planned failover.
- Uncheck ‘Start replica virtual machine after failover.’
- Leave “Reverse the replication direction after failover’ unchecked.
Remove Replication and Recovery Points
- Login to Windows Admin Center using the Admin account that has permissions.
- Open Cluster Manager and right-click on the server you migrated and go to ‘Replication.’
- Remove recovery points from destination and let sit for a couple minutes to allow for merging of checkpoints. This should be relatively small, maybe 2GB or less.
- Login to the Windows Server 2012 R2 Cluster Manager Hyper-V node.
- Open Cluster Manager and remove replication from migrated server.
- Go to Cluster Manager for the new Azure Stack HCI on Windows Admin Center and remove replication from the migrated server.
- Do not turn the server on yet.
- Open Windows Admin Center using the web console and look at the checkpoint status and make sure there are no checkpoints left over from the replication.
- Login using your Admin account.
- Go to the Cluster Manager.
- Connect to the Azure Stack HCI cluster.
- Manage it using the Admin account.
- Click on ‘Virtual Machines.’
- Click on the VM you migrated and in the middle section there will be the list of current checkpoints.
- If there are any listed, delete them. This will merge any checkpoint with the parent drive.
Move VMs and Storage Location
Replicating from Hyper-V to Hyper-V uses a default location defined during setup. If you do not want the VM to live there permanently, it’s a good idea to move that VM and its storage to a new location. It doesn’t look like the Windows Admin Center can do that so we will use Cluster Manager.
Note: You can move a VM storage while the VM is online. It does however impact performance greatly and will take much longer to move if it is a large server (1TB or more).
- Check before you do any moves for checkpoints that are not listed and if the server has any .avhdx files. If so, you will need to get rid of these by merging. If you cannot merge manually or automatically, create a checkpoint of the system using Hyper-V manager then delete the checkpoint subtree. This should merge any existing checkpoint files. Then continue with Step 2.
- Keep the VM off.
- If you do not already have a folder created for this VM, create one now.
- Open Cluster Manager from WAC01.
- Connect to the Azure Stack HCI cluster.
- Right-click the VM, select ‘Move à Virtual Machine Storage.
- Select the VM and drop and drop the top section the entire VM listed to the folder in the bottom section. Ensure that the new location populates in the top section to the new folder for each item for the VM.
- Click ‘Start.’
- You can monitor the storage migration using Hyper-V Manager on the node that is hosting the VM.
- Once complete, you can start the VM and verify connectivity and operation.
Upgrade VM Configuration Version Using Windows Admin Center
Note: We found that using Hyper-V manager to upgrade the VM configuration manager version resulted in inconsistent results. Some of which caused an error or simply did not perform the upgrade at all.
- Go to Cluster Manager
- Manage the Azure Stack HCI cluster
- Go to Virtual Machines
- Select the VM that has been migrated
- Click ‘Manage’ then ‘Upgrade Configuration Version’
- Open Cluster Manager or go to Windows Admin Center and start (if off) the newly added/migrated VMs.
- Verify it has network access and operates properly.
- Additional tests should be done at this step to ensure no unexpected behavior.
Note: This document assumed the Azure Stack HCI cluster has been setup properly and can be managed using an admin account with the proper permissions to run Windows Admin Center and remotely manage the Azure Stack HCI cluster.
Cluster Aware Updating with Windows Admin Center and DataON MUST Pro
Once we migrated the cluster over to the new Azure Stack HCI cluster , we used the new Microsoft CAU tool with DataON MUST Pro to update the software and hardware across the cluster.
Cluster Aware Update process:
- Click Updates in Windows Admin Center
- Click Check for OS Updates
- Select which updates you want to install and click Next
- Then check for hardware updates and click Get Updates
- Select which hardware updates you want
- Click Install
Once the update began, we waited for quite a while before it finished. We would have liked to have seen more feedback about the progress of the updating process. But once it did, all the nodes rebooted and then it installed the drivers. I recommend that you install them one by one, because in our case, not all the drivers were installed. I think it was a firmware or BIOS update that interrupted the driver process. This isn’t that uncommon, because we noticed the same type of thing happened when updating our other servers and workstations. We repeated the process, and it installed the missing drivers.
In future releases, I hope that we’ll be able choose which kinds of updates to install. For example, if we wanted to perform a security update, but not a cumulative update, we can’t do that now. We’d also like to see more frequent updates, instead of only quarterly.
As one of the first adopters of Azure Stack HCI and DataON MUST Pro, we did go through some growing pains. Although we’re a small/midsize company, DataON worked with us and helped us get everything working properly. We’re appreciative of the support we received from DataON. I don’t think we would have gotten the same type of personal support from other vendors.