Getting Hyper-V Integration Components via Windows Update

In the next version of Hyper-V, Microsoft will be changing how we deploy new versions of integration components to virtual machines that are running a Windows guest operating system (OS). I will discuss this new process and what it means for Hyper-V administrators in this post.

How we currently get Hyper-V Integration Components

The process of getting and updating integration components depends on if you are running Windows or Linux as the guest OS of the virtual machine.
With Linux, it’s pretty simple. Depending on your distribution and version, you will either get the Linux Integration Services (LIS, what the integration components are called for Linux guest OSs) built into the original installation, or you will download them from Microsoft. If the LIS came with the operating system, then the only way to update the LIS is to upgrade the guest OS.
In the world of Windows, the Hyper-V integration components have come pre-installed in the OS since Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Those integration components need to be updated. When a host is updated, a new copy of the integration components is installed in the form of VMGUEST.ISO in C:\Windows\System32 on the management OS. This ISO is used to deploy the integration components — a process that is necessary to fix bugs and add support for new features that the host can offer. And that’s where the trouble begins.

Installing the updated integration components has been a manual process. You can do it one virtual machine at a time using Hyper-V Manager, or you can deploy it to lots of machines at once using System Center Virtual Machine Manager. Both methods require the Windows guest OS to reboot. Those who manage their virtual machines guest OS using System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) could extract the MSI from the ISO file and deploy it as a custom update via a collection-based maintenance window. But not many organizations use SCCM to manage servers, and this solution will not work with multi-tenant clouds.

Manually deploying Hyper-V integration components. (Image Credit: Aidan Finn)
Manually deploying Hyper-V integration components. (Image Credit: Aidan Finn)

Feedback on this subject was strong; Microsoft needed to find a more efficient process that didn’t require manual effort or customer engineering to keep integration components up to date on Windows guest OS virtual machines.

Integration Component Delivery via Windows Update

One novel approach to the old problem was to inject a new version of the integration components installed into a local WSUS or SCCM server. This method, while completely unsupported, enabled customers to quickly get new versions installed onto their farm of virtual machines with little human effort. Updates and reboots were done during maintenance windows, and reports were available to track versions and success levels.

Microsoft, with the next release of Windows Server, has decided that they are going to change how they deliver new versions of the integration components to Windows guest OSs. Instead of relying on Hyper-V administrators to do the work, Microsoft will simply release the new integration components installer via Windows Update. In fact, any virtual machine running the below guest OS on a Windows Server Technical Preview host will be receiving updates for the integration components from Windows Update.

  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 7

Obviously, this solution requires that the virtual machine is receiving updates from Windows Update, hopefully via a managed WSUS server.
There will be a category for Hyper-V Integration Components. This will allow you to easily find and manage the updates, and put in any automatic approval rules that you deem appropriate. With that, Microsoft has made owning and updating Hyper-V much easier, which is very important in a time when Microsoft has accelerated the release of new versions and features.