Running Azure Stack inside a Virtual Machine in a home lab

Microsoft Azure Stack is a great product which will go GA at the end of the year but untill then we have first Technical Preview available which can be downloaded here.

Considering it is actually a whole cloud platform Azure Stack's minimum hardware requirements are quite hefty – 12 physical cores and 96 GBs of RAM. You wont find such amount of compute power in most PCs but there are some options, particularly for people who have access to relatively strong workstation-style PC – I did it myself with 20 GBs of RAM.

For the start you need Windows Server 2016 TP4 installation with virtualization features inside it. You can install it directly on your computer, use the .vhdx file included with Microsoft Azure Stack POC to boot directly from it or use the virtualization software with nested virtualization support (like I did it).

For Hyper-V, nested virtualization is available from Windows 10 Insider Preview 10565 – you can read the instructions to enable it here.

Otherwise you can also use other software, like VMware Workstation. For nested virtualization to work, you need to select "Hyper-V (unsupported)" as an OS in VM settings (there is also an option with editing the VM's .vmx file but let's keep it simple).

Please keep in mind that the method described below is not supported by Microsoft but when you need to learn while having access to the limited resources, you can improvise – it's more than acceptable.

As the first part is finished now we need to customize the installation files for Azure Stack, shrinking the official hardware requirements. After downloading and extracting the installation files go and mount "MicrosoftAzureStackPOC.vhdx" file to get write access to the content inside it.
Move to \AzureStackInstaller\PoCDeployment directory and open "Invoke-AzureStackDeploymentPrecheck.ps1" file inside it.
Now find this part of code:

function CheckRam {
    Write-Verbose "Check RAM."
   
    $mem = Get-WmiObject -Class Win32_ComputerSystem
    $totalMemoryInGB = [Math]::Round($mem.TotalPhysicalMemory / (1024 * 1024 * 1024))
    if ($totalMemoryInGB -lt 64) {
        throw "Check system memory requirement failed. At least 64GB physical memory is required."
    }
}

Change "64" in the line "if ($totalMemoryInGB -lt 64)" to whatever size you can give the Azure Stack. In my case I went for 20 GB. Save and close the file.

Now we need to edit the memory requirements for the infrastructure VMs. Go to the \AzureStackInstaller\PoCFabricInstaller directory and open the "PoCFabricSettings.xml" file for editing.

Find this line of code:

<Name>ADVM</Name>

Below it there is the configuration settings for the "ADVM" virtual machine. Modify the code to match this:

      <ProcessorCount>4</ProcessorCount>
      <RAM>1</RAM>  
      <MinRAM>1</MinRAM>  
      <MaxRAM>2</MaxRAM>  

If you would like you can also modify the "ProcessorCount" value. For me CPU count was not critical so I left it unmodified.
The settings we set here means that "ADVM" virtual machine will have a Startup Memory of 1 GB and Dynamic Memory feature turned on and configured with the minimum of 1 GB and maximum of 2 GB of RAM.

Now go and find every other VM configuration inside the file and modify it. Here is the full list of VM names:

ACSVM
ADVM
BGPVM
ClientVM
MuxVM
NATVM
NCVM
PortalVM
SQLVM
xRPVM

After modifications save and close the "PoCFabricSettings.xml" file and unmount the "MicrosoftAzureStackPOC.vhdx" file.

That's all. Now you can run "DeployAzureStack.ps1" and install Azure Stack as described in the official guide.

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