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Windows VM For Small Business?

empmdk

Newbie
Joined
Mar 19, 2017
Messages
15
I do all the IT work for a small business & will be building them a new server very soon. My plan has been to run FreeNAS for backups of all PC's in the office and other general file storage & have a Windows VM installed. Some of the software they use (accounting & estimates) requires a Windows based server to hold the files.
On my home server I have been testing this scenario & so far has been very stable. My only issue with it is that it seems to be fairly laggy even while using VirtIO drivers. However, they will not be using the Windows install directly. The software they use basically just works with the files stored on there so I don't think it would be a big deal.

The Windows VM will have it's own pool running on an SSD which will be backed up daily to the mass storage pool of Red drives.

Does anyone here have any experience with this kind of situation? Would you trust this setup for a small office, any tips, alternatives, etc.
 
Last edited:

blanchet

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Apr 17, 2018
Messages
191
Bhyve Windows VM are very slow because the virtio disk is not supported yet. It is probably a bad idea to use such a setup for a professional usage.
VMware is a better plateform to run Windows VM than bhyve.

With VMware ESXi free, you have to install an agent (for example Veeam Agent Free) to backup the VM.
Therefore, I strongly suggest to buy at least VMware vSphere Essentials, so that you can use Veeam Backup & Replication Community Edition (it can backup 10 VMs for free) to backup VMs without agent. In this case you will have very good setup for a small office.

Other hypervisors (Citrix Xenserver, XCP-NG, Hyper-V, Promox VE) may work, but VMware ESXi is really the best product on the market.

If you have the suitable hardware and skills, you can setup a datacenter in a box with VMware and FreeNAS. But a setup with two servers is easier.
 

empmdk

Newbie
Joined
Mar 19, 2017
Messages
15
Thanks for the great information, blanchet. Since I don't have enough spare parts laying around to do a test build with ESXi or XCP, I'll stick with having two systems at least till FreeNAS has better Windows compatibility.
 

blanchet

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Apr 17, 2018
Messages
191
Good news: there is a patch to support virtio disk for Windows guests.
Bad news: the patch has reached the FreeBSD repository only on May 2, 2019, that means you may have to wait for FreeNAS 12.1 to get it.
 

empmdk

Newbie
Joined
Mar 19, 2017
Messages
15
Ah great. Thanks for the heads-up. I'll keep an eye on the roadmap for this.
 

ChrisChros

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
120
Hi, is this patch now included within 11.3 RC1?
If so, how can I change from AHCI to VirtIO Disk Driver on an existing Windows VM?
Thanks
 

Tsaukpaetra

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Jan 7, 2014
Messages
213
If you already have an install using AHCI, you'll need to get the VirtIO drivers installed and working in order to do the switch.
First, add a spare disk as VirtIO (Do NOT switch your OS drive yet at this point, it doesn't need to be formatted or anything, any ZVol will work). Once booted, mount the VirtIO driver ISO, go into Device Manager and find the Unknown Device, right-click and choose Update Driver.
In the New Hardware wizard, select "Browse my computer for driver software", and enter in the mounted drive's letter in for the search path (I.e. D:\). Click Next, and Windows should automatically find the RedHat VirtIO driver. It should prompt you to allow signed drivers (if you've never installed a VirtIO driver before).
At this point, if Windows has not crashed you should be able to shutdown the VM, go into Devices, and switch the OS drive to VirtIO (you can also remove the dummy disk, we're done with it now).
If all goes well, Windows will start up, say it's installing devices and reboot back, normal as can be (except perhaps a little faster now that it's using VirtIO).
 

ChrisChros

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
120
Thanks, I followed your instruction with creating a spare disk and mounting this as VirtIO Disk. Windows installed a driver "Red Hat VirtIO SCSI controller".
Is this the right one?
 

sretalla

FreeNAS Expert
Joined
Jan 1, 2016
Messages
1,645

ChrisChros

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
120
Thanks.
 

ChrisChros

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
120
it works. Thanks a lot.

If all goes well, Windows will start up, say it's installing devices and reboot back, normal as can be (except perhaps a little faster now that it's using VirtIO).
"little faster" is my main target to do the change from AHCI to VirtIO. With the AHCI Windows performs really slow. Each and every "click" will bring the system load to 100%, even with 4 vCPUs and 8GB RAM.
 

Tsaukpaetra

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Jan 7, 2014
Messages
213
I would also recommend using remote desktop as the VNC device is also less than speedy.
 

ChrisChros

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
120
Thats what I already do.
 

Tsaukpaetra

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Jan 7, 2014
Messages
213
Hmm, well, clicking things normally doesn't bring a system to 100%, that's not normal... But not really on topic for this thread.
 

ChrisChros

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
120
thats truth, so from my point of view problem of changing from AHCI to VirtIO is solved.
The other topic I have to investigate and maybe come back later.
 

diskdiddler

FreeNAS Guru
Joined
Jul 9, 2014
Messages
2,073
Chris, can you provide an update on how the system has been? is the performance acceptable?

What was the other problem, do you still have it?
Finally, where does one ACTUALLY FIND the most up to date, VirtIO driver?
 

ChrisChros

FreeNAS Experienced
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
120
Chris, can you provide an update on how the system has been? is the performance acceptable?
Changing from AHCI to VirtIO increased the speed but is still not as fast as I would expect with the specs my system is running.
 

diskdiddler

FreeNAS Guru
Joined
Jul 9, 2014
Messages
2,073

diskdiddler

FreeNAS Guru
Joined
Jul 9, 2014
Messages
2,073
Changing from AHCI to VirtIO increased the speed but is still not as fast as I would expect with the specs my system is running.
Mine isn't perfect but it's definitely usable - what about stability?
 
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