Every time you install Hyper-V you you’re presented with a diverse landscape of platform options, that left untended can overgrow even the most capable IT team. Counting the legacy existence of Windows Server 2008 R2, there are now (theoretically, at least) a dozen different ways you could install an instance of Hyper-V on a system. Hyper-V for Windows Server 2008 x64 SP2 is excluded from this discussion due to teething/setup issues. There are notable feature enhancements in Window Server 2012 (Hyper-V v3) that you may wish to consider in choosing what host OS to install. Making the best decision for a host operating system can save you a whirlwind of complications down the road as your environment expands. Expand your Hyper-V monitor capabilities.
Windows Server (Full Installation) with Hyper-V Role
If you’re installing Hyper-V for the very first time, I would highly encourage you to start with the Full Installation of Windows Server. The primary advantage here is that you’ll have access to the Hyper-V console on the server, and not have to deal with the added complication of remote administration.
Another reason that you might choose the Full Installation over Server Core or the free Hyper-V Server is if you’re installing a non-production environment, and also need to run additional roles on the Server OS. Not all roles are available in Server Core, and managing a multi-role Server Core system can be a significant headache. For production systems, you should plan to make a Hyper-V server dedicated to that role.
One might be inclined to think that the presence of the GUI in the Full Installation has performance implications, but not really. More significantly, the presence of the additional baggage in the Full Installation represents additional overhead regarding patch management.
Windows Server (Server Core) with Hyper-V Role
If you’re installing Hyper-V in a production environment, and will be installing at least one instance of a Windows Server OS that is not yet licensed, then this is the best installation option. The Server Core installation removes a number of unnecessary OS components, which significantly mitigates the patch management efforts for your host system, but it still provides the additional virtualization licensing.
Consider this: The only thing worse than having to reboot a production server … is having to reboot a production virtualization host running multiple production servers.
Note, however, that if you choose to install Windows Server 2012 (Server Core), this will require an installation of Windows 8, or another installation of Windows Server 2012, in order to access the Hyper-V console remotely. Windows Server 2012 cannot be administered from a Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 system.
The free Hyper-V Server provides the best impact when you’re looking to virtualize non-Windows installations (e.g. Linux, Unix), or where you already have the licenses for existing Windows operating systems. If you’re focusing on server consolidation and primarily doing physical-to-virtual migrations of existing (licensed) Windows servers, then this is the best place to start; however, like the Server Core installation, if you opt for the Hyper-V v3 Server, it will require you to work from the command line, or manage the server with Windows 8 or another Windows Server 2012 system. The Hyper-V v2 Server can be managed from Windows 7.
Also worth noting, both the Server Core and Hyper-V Server installations can also be managed from System Center Virtual Machine Manager. Hyper-V monitoring simplified!