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Hyper-V generation 2 virtual machines part 1

John Howard MSFT 24 Oct 2013 12:01 PM


This is another one of my blogpost series, this time taking a dive into generation 2 VMs, a new feature in HyperV in Windows 8.1
that Ive been working on as Program Manager for throughout the release. In the end, it turned into a small novel rather than a
few short posts, but I hope you find them valuable. Especially when you get to the part 10!
Part 1: Introduction to generation 2 virtual machines
Part 2: Networking and boot order
Part 3: Storage
Part 4: Keyboard for Windows 8 & Windows Server 2012
Part 5: Kernel debugging
Part 6: Secure Boot
Part 7: FAQ
Part 8: Manually migrating generation 1 virtual machines to generation 2
Part 9: Installing from ISO
Part 10: Utility for converting generation 1 virtual machines to generation 2 ConvertVMGeneration
Why have we introduced generation 2 Virtual Machines?
The main reason for introducing generation 2 VMs is a strategic bet by the HyperV team to have a platform upon which we can
build upon in future releases, while introducing a number of improvements in this release as well.
If you look at previous virtualization solutions from Microsoft, including Virtual PC, Virtual Server, and all earlier releases of Hyper
V, from a VM perspective, the underlying hardware is relatively old, emulating an Intel 440BX chipset. Interestingly perhaps!, I
only recently discovered that the codename for this chipset was Seattle. Kind of appropriate with Redmond being the easterly
youngerbrother city to Seattle, and where I now call home!
Of course, we have introduced many features to make guest operating systems run well in a virtual environment, such as software
based I/O and kernel enlightenments. There are plenty of posts and documents which explain that in more detail though, so I
wont go into depth in these posts.
The reason for using emulated devices is that most operating systems can run on that hardware. And that was important to be
successful as a virtualization platform. However, it meant compromises had to be made.
Generation 2 VMs have a revised set of virtual hardware which move away from previous limitations, unleashing new possibilities
in the future. We still have full compatibility by keeping the previous hardware intact in the form of generation 1 virtual
How to create and distinguish between a generation 2 and generation 1 VM.
In HyperV Manager, we have added an additional step in the New Virtual Machine wizard:

In PowerShell, you use the Generation parameter to NewVM. If the parameter is not specified, a generation 1 VM will be

Once a VM has been created, in HyperV Manager, the generation is shown on the summary tab when a VM is selected:

To determine the generation of a VM using PowerShell, the Generation property is exposed on the VMObject returned by Get
The generation is also exposed in the VirtualSystemSubType field in the Msvm_VirtualSystemSettingData class. The values are
Microsoft:HyperV:SubType:1 for a generation 1 VM, or Microsoft:HyperV:SubType:2 for a generation 2 VM.

What is different about generation 2 Virtual Machines

1. The firmware
First, we took a decision to change the system firmware. Generation 1 VMs use a PCAT BIOS, as have the majority of OEM PCs
until recently. While technically there is nothing wrong with BIOS, it has limitations. Especially when you consider in our case its
written in 16bit assembler. This makes ongoing enhancements extremely difficult. It is also relatively slow to initialise taking up a
significant proportion of virtual machine power on time, and relatively inefficient consuming a fair number of CPU cycles during
this initialization.
Instead of BIOS, we went with UEFI firmware, which is actually a logo requirement for OEMs to achieve Windows 8 & 8.1 logo.
One of the big advantages of using UEFI is that it is written in a highlevel language which makes if far easier to maintain and
extend. Our implementation is based on TianoCore, EDK II and is a UEFI 2.3.1 implementation with necessary modifications and
UEFI has a number of other advantages such as removing the 2.2TB MBR partition limits for the boot volume. I will go into that in
a little more detail in a future post.
Our UEFI firmware in Windows 8.1 does not have a CSM Compatibility Support Module. In terms of how the UEFI forum defines
platform types, this makes our implementation Class 3. We do not have a 32bit implementation, which means that only 64bit
Guest Operating systems would be able to run in this environment. I will cover what operating systems are actually supported
2. The devices
There are some obvious devices we removed. For example, the legacy network adapter which is an emulated device based on a
DEC/Intel/Tulip 21140. Then we removed the IDE controller. And the floppy controller plus associated DMA controller. And the
serial controller COM ports. These are all things you can directly see in the VM settings.
Then we changed other devices such as removing the legacy i8042 keyboard controller which has an interesting side effect I will
talk about in a future part, PS/2 mouse, S3 Video, the Programmable Interrupt Controller PIC, the Programmable Interrupt Timer
PIT, the Super I/O device on which floppy support relied. We actually went even further by removing the PCI bus as well. For
good measure, we also removed the speaker and the numerical coprocessor. We also revised ACPI.
Of course, when you rip this much out, you may initially think could an operating system boot in this environment?. With just the
above changes, the answer would be no. Primarily because the most common ways of booting a generation 1 VM are a disk/VHD
attached to an IDE controller, an ISO/DVD drive attached to an IDE controller, or PXE boot from the legacy network adapter. Im
ignoring boot from floppy .VFD Im sure not many people do this these days!
Given that both IDE and Legacy NIC are no longer present, we had to introduce alternate boot mechanisms, and a new DVD
device. We extended the UEFI firmware to be aware of software based devices ie those using VMBus, and support booting from
our softwarebased SCSI and Network controllers, plus the new softwarebased DVD device.
To give you a feel of what this means inside device manager, the screenshot is from a Windows Server 2012 virtual machine
running on HyperV in Windows Server 2012, with up to date Integration Services installed. This is relatively typical of what you
would see on any VM you have running today in HyperV.

The following is a screenshot from a generation 2 Windows 8.1 virtual machine running on HyperV in Windows 8.1

You may be asking at this point, so what? In fact, Id be surprised if you werent asking that question. A big advantage is that the
security attack surface of a generation 2 VM is lower than that of a generation 1 VM. It moves us closer towards accountability of
compute resource by not consuming so many resources in the parent partition or Hypervisor through emulation. And it makes
VM management decisions easier. This last point is where I will pick up in the next part.
A short afterstory.... A lot of people incorrectly abbreviate generation 2 virtual machines to gen 2, or capitalise the G when its
not at the start of the sentence, or even use just G2. Even I am occasionally guilty. The correct terminology is a generation 2
virtual machine. Internally we did have a few other names during development, one of which had some particularly strong
negative feedback which will forever stick in my mind! And no, Im not letting on
At Microsoft, you can change your picture which shows up on internal email among other places. I was trying to futile effort
encourage people to stop using the incorrect terminology. Hence I changed my picture to that of a Gentoo penguin with a red
circle and cross through it. Well I thought it was a good idea, if a little subtle! Of course I wasnt thinking it through entirely as I
got some comments that I was being derogatory towards Linux which was not the case at all! You live and learn!!

Peter Forster 24 Oct 2013 10:28 PM

Hi John,
too bad, I've already named my VMM 2012 R2 Temaplate "Server 2012 R2 Datacenter G2" :

Thanks for the post, waiting for the other parts...

L. 24 Oct 2013 10:39 PM

Actually, it would be nice to be also able to boot Linux in a generation 2 VM, if only for faster boot times and moving
fully to GPT disks.
Since you have improved synthetic devices support in the Linux kernel thank you very much for that!, and Linux can
already boot from UEFI, it can't be that far off. Maybe for the next version? :
John Howard MSFT 24 Oct 2013 10:58 PM

Linux support is being worked on. It doesn't require any changes in HyperV, rather in the set of LIS components,
plus some kernel changes to support the appropriate devices.
Kristan 25 Oct 2013 8:43 AM

John Howard please include Endian Firewall on LIS please.

We need to deploy it on hyperV.
Rune 29 Oct 2013 9:45 AM

Can you add support for RemoteFX in G2 ASAP. Allot of us in the University and Collage sector need it for our
Helberth 7 Nov 2013 10:40 PM

I install Hyper V with windows server 2012 R2, the virtual machines for generation 2 work very slowly windows8 and
Windows server2012 R2, i made one probe creating one virtual machine using Generation one and the diference in
performance is better. Any have one Idea that why this problem.
John Howard MSFT 7 Nov 2013 11:02 PM

No, this is not expected at all. We have not seen this at all during development. But you give very little information to
guess at.
Can you provide details about the configurations for both the VMs UP or MP, NUMA spanning or not; At
recommended minimum RAM for guest OS or constrained?; DM or static memory; Both running simultaneously or
individually without any other VMs or applications running to compare like for like; what workload are you running
to indicate slow; slow during boot, slow in terms of general responsiveness; slow during running a measured
workload?; Slow in I/O or something else? Type of VHDX fixed, differencing, dynamic? Where is the VHDX? On an
SMB share or local? VM in a cluster or not? Any external factors which would affect the timing eg VHDX on a
network and network throughput subject to external influence or physical disk maxed out due to other activity?
Actual measurements etc.....
If you can get to a situation of like for like with a single VM running ruling out external factors and actual
measurements that demonstrate a performance difference, it might be possible to investigate further.
Frank Gia 8 Nov 2013 12:58 AM

Please make it less complex

JD 8 Nov 2013 2:52 AM

Pretty disappointing that this functionality doesn't already exist with the released product. Anyone having to
upgrade there environment is now forced to follow a convoluted process to upgrade the virtual hardware or spend
money on a 3rd party tool. Not to mention that Gen2 VMs are already limited to Win8/Win2012.
John Howard MSFT 8 Nov 2013 5:04 PM

Frank can you be more specific which bit is overly complex in your opinion?
John Howard MSFT 8 Nov 2013 5:09 PM

@JD which functionality? To convert between generation 1 and generation2 my best guess? This is no different to
native you can't easily take a disk from PCAT/BIOS based system, put it in an EFI based system and expect it to
boot. They are so fundamentally different in the way they boot.
But I think you may be confused there absolutely is no need to move to generation 2 virtual machines when
upgrading the parent partition to Windows Server 2012 R2/Windows 8.1. Generation 1 and generation 2 virtual
machines are both fully supported and can run simultaneously.
One correction, generation 2 VMs can run Windows 8/Windows Server 2012 and later. Not just Windows 8/2012. In
addition, Linux support is being actively worked on and should arrive soon.

As for migration tools, wait just a little longer. You will hopefully be pleasantly surprised at how simple it is, and the
cost free.
sebus 4 Dec 2013 11:53 AM

Linux support of the very few main distros that HyperV support is an absolut MUST, the sooner the better, please
Adrien de Croy 13 Dec 2013 1:32 AM

we need to be able to install guest OSes from DVD.

So I guess this means we can't move to Gen 2 VMs.
That's progress I guess.
John Howard MSFT 13 Dec 2013 6:34 PM

Adrien is there a particular reason you are using physical media and need to use physical media as opposed to an
ISO, network or other image based deployment technique? What operating systems?
David 18 Dec 2013 2:55 AM

When will the option to have Gen2 guests be added to VDI? I just tried to rollout out a Gen2 Windows8.1 collection
but Remote Desktop Services says only Gen1 is supported.