Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Standalone Sandbox Using VirtualBox Part 1

One of the best approaches to learn CRM is to have a sandbox.  A lot of recommendations out there suggest having your IT administrator provide you with a CRM sandbox to play in.  That is fine and is surely a good idea, but personally creating a sandbox will certainly give you the satisfaction of getting your hands dirty and will give you a little respect with your colleagues.  So here we are going to look at getting a basic MS CRM 2011 up and running with Oracle’s VirtualBox.

So why VirtualBox?

  1. It is free
  2. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 requires a 64-bit operating system to install
  3. Microsoft does not provide a desktop virtual platform that supports 64-bit guest OS.  Microsoft's 64-bit virtual platform, Hyper-V, only runs on Windows server.  Even the 64-bit version of Windows Virtual PC will not support 64-bit guest operating systems.
  4. VirtualBox can mount and run Hyper-V images, including the Microsoft provided demo VPC. (PartnerSource or Customersource login required).

So unless you have access to a server with Windows 2008 installed, VirtualBox is your best option for setting up a standalon virtual sandbox on your PC.  Note that when Windows 8 is released, Microsoft will support Hyper-V on the desktop, so our recommendation may change at that time.

The steps included in this post should be applicable to setting up a standalone sandbox in "virtually" any other virtualization platform.

Performing the steps in order is very important to keep things easy.  Here are the brief steps we are going to perform:

This guide will enable us to create a brand new CRM environment within less than 3 hours, but there are a few prerequisites that you will want to have downloaded:

  • Windows Server 2008 - Standard or Enterprise
  • CRM 2011 Server Edition
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 (x86, x64, ia64) - Standard or Enterprise
  • Product Key for CRM 2011 Sever.  *IMPORTANT: A valid key is a must to finish the install.

Other tools needed:

  • ISO mounting tool, this guide is using MagicDisc.  Use your own ISO mounting tool if you have one more familiar to you
  • VirtualBox, which can be found at www.virtualbox.org

I am only going point out the installation steps necessary to get a very basic CRM 2011 environment up and running.  This means that if a step is not mentioned I used the default.   If you are interested in adding features please do so, as the scope here is just the bare bones. 

Create a VirtualBox Instance

*IMPORTANT: Hardware virtualization must be enabled in the BIOS.  This is an easy toggle and will not cause any issues to your system, but you will receive an error about VT-x/AMD-V and will not be able to boot Windows Server 2008 until this change is made.  The setting lingo varies from Bios to Bios but a common word in all will be ‘virtualization’, so look for that.

Create a new VM host; in this case CRMDEMO2011 is the name.  The defaults are fine for this example, but you may want to bump up the RAM if you are going to do some presenting or adding SharePoint, Outlook or Visual Studio.  I also strongly recommend that you bump up the disk space to a minimum of 40gigs if you are going to use SharePoint, Outlook or VisualStudio.  In any case, make sure you set the version of Windows to 8 (64 bit) or 2008 (64 bit).  Both work, but the ‘8’ version automatically sets the RAM higher which is probably better.

1: Create VM Host

2: Mount Windows Server 2008 R2 ISO

We are going to use our mounting software from our host machine and mount the Windows Server 2008 R2 there.  Make note of the drive that the mount is using, in this case ‘I:’.

3: Attach Drive with ISO to VM

The Windows Server 2008 R2 ISO is mapped on drive ‘I:’ from your host machine.  Attach the ISO by going to Settings -> Storage -> IDE Controller -> select Empty or create a new controller and map it to Host Drive ‘I:’ or the drive you used for the Windows Server 2008 R2 ISO.  When the VM starts the drive will be ‘D:’.

Summary:  On host mount Windows Server 2008 R2 ISO on drive ‘I:’, on VM (CRMDEMO2011) the drive will be ‘D:’.

4: Start VM

Starting the VM with the Windows Server 2008 ISO attached to the ‘I:’ will start the install with ease because it is now a part of the boot sequence.

 

Install Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard 64-bit

Installing a new Windows Server 2008 R2 is pretty straight forward.  Go through all the defaults.  You will want to add your product key here if you have one.  You may want to allow all the updates to happen if you have a nice network connection.  Once that is all done, it is not a bad idea to back up your CRMDEMO2011.VDI file.  That way you have a nice blank server ready to go for future use.

Two things for VirtualBox:

1:  After you are done with the server install, go ahead and install the guest additions, so you can get a nice full screen:

2:  A very important VirtualBox command:  [RIGHT CTRL] +Delete = CTRL+ALT+DELETE for the VM…probably the only one you really need to know.  This will drive you nuts if you don’t know it…you will hate VitualBox if you don’t remember!

 

Promote Windows Server 2008 to Active Directory Domain Controller

This step is in my opinion the most daunting.  For many years I have be conditioned that installing a domain server is a one and done deal.  That two domain server on the same network is really bad.  Yes, having two or more domain controllers can be bad, but here we are going to set it up so we do not compromise our host network.  Unless you really know what you are doing, DO NOT mess around with the AD settings or the VM network settings, especially while on your corporate network without the guidance from your local neighborhood IT guru.  CRM requires a domain, and since we are going for a standalone installation, we have to promote the CRM server itself to the domain controller role.  Additionally, promoting the server before we install SQL helps avoid additional configuration steps as a result of the server’s name and user accounts changing.

Promoting a domain controller is done from the commandline by running:

c:\>dcpromo

Seven tweaks are necessary:

1: Toggle: Create a new domain in a new forest

2: Name our network: CRM2011NET.local

3: Change forest function level to: Windows Server 2008 R2

You may get:

Selecting “Yes, the computer will use an IP…” is fine and keeps you from having to look at network settings.

You may also get:

Select ‘Yes’

 

Put in a password and you are done creating an Active Directory Domain Server…Congratulations!  You will have to reboot after dcpromo has done its thing.  The Domain we created is CRM2011NET, we will want to log back into the server using that domain.

4: Rename computer back to original name

Making the server a domain controller renames the computer to something weird, rename computer back to CRMDEMO2011 and reboot.

5: Create domain users

Create a few domain users is done from the commandline by running:

c:\>dsac

Create at least these users:

1: CRM2011NET\CRMDEMOADMIN

2: CRM2011NET\CRMSQLADMIN

3: CRM2011NET\Sal.Salesman

4: CRM2011NET\Mark.Marketing

 

Put the users in the ‘Users’ CN: