Navision installations – from DOS to Hyper-V

I’m sure I’m not the only Navision freelancer, who besides loving to understand and master Dynamics NAV, also likes to try out new computer stuff, including installing all the new NAV versions? In the old days, back when this website started in 1995, this was so easy.

Classic installations

Back then in the early days of Navision Financials, the first Windows version (released with Windows 95), there was really no need for something special. You just installed the clients, and used local copies of your clients databases (FDB-files), which you ran directly with the FIN.EXE. There were nobody using SQL Server, unless they had 100’s of users.

Basically it was more or less an unchanged installation process, compared to the character based DOS and OS/2 versions Navision 3.0 and up.

And although SQL Server had grown more popular, then my personal preferred method for classic clients, were until a few years ago, the old FDB-file. It was simply just so easy.

I started as a freelancer in 1999. In a time where it still was normal that NAV consultants and developers didn’t bring their own PC, when working onsite with customers. You were assigned a PC, where you could access their system. Most companies did not allow any external access via the internet. So basically all I needed was a car and a desktop computer at home.

I installed my first SQL Server on my personal computer in 2005, when I started testing the platform used by dynamicsuser.net. Previously that had been something only our IT department handled. But I never used it with Navision until I started testing NAV 2009.

Three Tier installations

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 was surely a game-changer. Quite a few my longtime NAV freelancer friends, have still not truly embraced the role tailored client (RTC) or the Three Tier installations. What used to be as easy as running a few files, now required a much rather high technical knowledge, not only NAV in itself, but about network, security settings and a like.

Not that it isn’t possible to install a demo version with more or less a few clicks. But as soon as you start to install several versions, then the challenges began. The process of installing extra server instances in 2009 wasn’t as simple as of NAV 2013, where you had the Administration console. But in order to have more instances, then you still need to manually turn on and configure TCP port sharing (in order to use the same port numbers so that you can make it a bit easier for your self when opening the NAV servers with the client).

The Windows and installation nightmare

So until recently I had an SQL Server 2008, SQL Server 2014, IIS, Visual Studio 2010, 2013 and 2015, as well as NAV 4.0 SP3, NAV 5.0, NAV 5.1, NAV 2009 R2, 2013, 2013 R2 and NAV 2015, plus a lot of other apps installed on my Thinkpad W550s running Windows 8.1.

As part of my MVP status, I have also participated in the TAP program for Dynamics NAV 2016, and here the CTP (community technology preview) releases have kept coming sometimes every week. The current CTP is number 19! Lots of time used installing and uninstalling.
When MS releases new pre release versions, they typically only change all the version numbers/references etc., late in the process. So installing a pre release, typically have some conflicts with the previous released version.

Everyone who uses Windows also know that, the way to keep your PC running at a decent speed, then it’s a good idea to reinstall Windows and all your apps at least once a year. The reason among others is Windows does not clean up very efficiently, when installing updates and removing programs. So if you like me, always “have to” install new releases and sometimes beta software on top of heavy systems like SQL Server and Visual Studio (in multiple versions), then I would always recommend you to vipe and reinstall once a year. Something I have done yearly for the last almost 20 years.

It used to take me a few hours, but the last few years (same process as when I buy a new pc), “refreshing” my pc have taken me 2-3 days at least, plus a week or so before all the settings where almost as before. Basically billable time wasted!

Windows 10 and Hyper-V

Shortly after Windows 10 was released I was reading a comment on Facebook, where Waldo wrote something that made me consider, if there was another way. He said “Server software is on a server OS, and client software is on Windows 10”. This was in context to a problem running NAV 2015 NST/web server on Windows 10. Waldo suggest just to use HyperV which is a part of Windows 10, and then have your “servers” as virtual machines.

Hyper-V would not only allow me to get around the reinstallation nightmares and issues running NAV servers and everything locally, but I could also make the footprint of each app much smaller to my primary laptop. And when I get a new PC, then I can just move my VM’s to the new PC.

Creating my first Hyper-V took only a very short time. All I really needed was a machine where I could run NAV 2016, so I installed a Windows Server 2012 R2 and SQL Server 2014 (that’s when I love my MSDN subscription). Remember to turn on virtualization in the PC bios first. It’s turned off by default. And if you have an older pc, then it might not even be available.

The main challenge was that I’m usually only connect by WIFI. When the virtual switch, used to get the virtual machine “online” had to use my wireless network adapter. This doesn’t work out-of-the-box. Only with true wired Ethernet adapters. Instead you need to create an internal network and bind it to your wireless adapter (sharing with this virtual adapter).

I exported (copied) the Windows Server 2012 R2 VM right after I finished installing it. This VM I have then reused for the other NAV versions. In terms of disk space, then it might not be just as optimal, as I have SQL + Visual Studio etc. on all VM’s. But I only start the machines I need, when I need them. And I am able easily to move the VM’s to my NAS and network servers, when I have some I don’t need as often. 

I like this whole concept with VM’s and the cleanness of my PC, that I decided to take my old laptop (a ThinkPad W530 with 16GB ram and 1TB disk) into a Windows Server running Hyper-V. It took me a few days to turn it into a domain, with SQL Servers, development machines with VS, test server for dynamicsuser.net, etc..

Now the remaining issue is to get the VM’s on my laptop to work on the same network my new domain, so able to access my new domain servers.

But al together then I think that using Hyper-V’s to install your NAV test and development servers, is something I would recommend anyone. Why mess up your pc? Server software on server OS, client software on client OS, to quote Waldo.

So if you haven’t already, then try it out today! Its not getting any easier if you wait. The installations keeps getting more a more advanced.

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