Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Run Android emulator and Android Studio on Azure VM using Hyper V

14 min to read.

Abstract

Due to Corona outbreak, times are hard! Please take care everyone! I wish good health for all! Stay safe!

There is another outbreak I am seeing – Making Development environment available on Azure to enable Work from home. Almost in every customer call I hear about requirement to enable Development Environment on Azure and accessing it from Home laptop/ PC and continue the business.

In the era of “Mobile first” almost every big enterprise, every Small and Medium Business (SMB), every Start up company have mobile development teams. They use variety of tools and one of the important IDE used for Mobile development is “Android Studio”.

Installing and running Android studio is smooth; however Android emulator installation fails on Azure VM. It is not straight forward. In this blog we will see “how to enable Android emulator with Android Studio on Azure VM”.

Let’s go!

Concept - Android Emulator and VM Acceleration

Without a virtualization technology and VM acceleration, the Android emulator must translate the machine code from the VM block by block to conform to the architecture of the host computer. This process can be quite slow. 

With a hypervisor, the VM and the architecture of the computer running emulator match, so the emulator can run code directly on the processor using the hypervisor. This improvement drastically increases both the speed and performance of the android emulator.

This concept is well suited for hardware. For example, if you have laptop then Android emulator can work like a charm. Because the required hardware for VM acceleration is provided by underlying laptop on which you are running Android Studio and hypervisor for emulator runs on laptop hardware.

Android Emulator and Intel HAXM

Android emulator is default based on Intel Hardware Accelerated Execution manager [HAXM]. This is Virtualization technology used behind the scene by Android studio to run the android emulator. HAXM is installed as a part of installation process of Android Studio as well.

So on Azure VM where we plan to run the Android simulator, Intel HAXM should be installed and present.
At the same time Intel HAXM and Hyper V are mutually exclusive. Means, if you have Hyper V enabled then HAXM can’t be installed and vice versa.

Installation of HAXM on Azure VM is not a problem. The VM series is a problem. When you say I want to install the HAXM; Hyper V should be disabled. Most of the VM series today have Hyper V “some way” enabled or not supported.

Remember Azure VM itself is a VM. Means it is based on Hyper V behind the scene already. Now on top of this VM you want to install another Hypervisor – either HAXM or Hyper V. The only series that supports the Hyper V on Azure VM itself is Hyperthreaded VMs – Dsv3 and Esv3 series or Dv3 and Ev3 series.

This Azure VM series support nested virtualization; because it supports running Hyper V on top of it or running any other hypervisor on top of it. Therefore installation of HAXM on Azure VM will succeed only on these Azure VMs and other will fail.

Now even if we install HAXM successfully on Azure VM and then install Android Studio with emulator successfully; the emulator will not work. I have experienced many errors as described below -

“error while loading state for instance 0x0 of device 'goldfish_pipe'”.

“Unfortunately, the Android emulator can’t support virtual machine acceleration from within a virtual machine.”

Android Emulator and WHPX

Microsoft Visual Studio has Android Emulator. It uses WHPX technology behind the scene. However it works on hardware. Means it can run well on your laptop but not on Azure VM. I could not start Android Emulator on Azure VM. When I attach the Visual Studio Android Emulator to Android Studio; it fails with many errors.
So what is the solution?

Solution and Architecture

Well, the solution provided will not help to run the latest version of Android emulator. However you will be able to make the Android Emulator work on Azure VM with “Older version”.

For this we will leverage “VS Emulator for Android” which is earlier version of Android Emulator Microsoft had released prior to current version of “hardware acceleration” based Android emulator.

So overall solution looks as follow – [click to get better view].



As a part of the solution make sure you provision VM with v3 series. I have selected Ds4v3 VM on Azure portal and provisioned it. By default allow the internet access to this VM so that we can download required software. As per the diagram I have attached public IP to my VM. So take RDP over public IP.

After RDP, install the software in the order mentioned below.

Visual Studio Emulator for Android – Life saver!

I have selected below version [click to get better view] of Windows 10 for provisioning VM on Azure. Also I have selected Ds4v3 series and Gen1 for provisioning. Go ahead and provision Azure VM.



Install Hyper V

Login to your VM and configure Hyper V on top of it. Open Run window -> type “appwiz.cpl” -> Click on “Turn windows feature on or off” -> Select all options against Hyper V option -> Select option “Windows Hypervisor platform”. After successful installation restart VM. Refer below [click to get better view].



Install Java

VS Emulator for Android requires Java. Therefore install using the link - https://www.java.com/download/.
Restart the machine.

Install Visual Studio Emulator for Android

Go to this page - https://visualstudio.microsoft.com/vs/msft-android-emulator/. Install VS emulator for Android. Remember we don’t have to install the complete Visual Studio here. The Visual Studio based Android emulator is based on Hardware acceleration and it will not work on Azure VM. At least I could not make it work after lot of attempts.

Successful installation screen shown below. It should also appear in start menu. [click to get better view].

After installation restart the Azure VM.



Install Android Studio

Install Android Studio from the link - https://developer.android.com/studio#downloads. Current version as of today is Android Studio 3.6.3. Install with default selected options. After successful installation you will see an option “start android studio”. Select this option and click finish as shown [click to get better view].



This launches the Android Studio and further starts configuration of Android Emulator. Continue with standard configuration with default options selected. You will see that HAXM installation failed. This is expected behavior as Hyper V is already enabled; HAXM is bound to fail. You will get screenshot as follows [click to get better view] –



This completes the installation of all required software. Restart the machine.

Integrating Android Studio to use Visual Studio Emulator for Android

The default path of Android SDK for me is - C:\Users\kunal\AppData\Local\Android\Sdk. This is default path.

We need to set a specific registry key to tell Visual Studio Emulator for Android where the Android Sdk is located. To set the needed registry key, run the script below in PowerShell on the Azure VM. If you have installed it on different path then change the below path in script accordingly.

$androidSdkPath = Resolve-Path $(Join-Path "$($env:APPDATA)" "../Local/Android/Sdk")

$registryKeyPath = "HKLM:Software\WOW6432NODE\Android Sdk Tools"
New-Item -Path $registryKeyPath
New-ItemProperty -Path $registryKeyPath -Name Path -PropertyType String -Value $androidSdkPath


Successful execution of the script will have below view [click to get better view].



Running Android Studio with VS Emulator for Android

First open Visual Studio Emulator for Android. On the launch screen you will see all version available in this emulator. You will see the last version that were available on this was API 23 Marshmallow. Refer below screenshot [click to get better view].



From above screen I downloaded the red marked device for emulator. When you click on Green checkmark then Device emulator starts as shown below [click to get better view].



Now open Android Studio. Click on “Start a new Android Project” on start screen. Then Select the Project Template as Basic Activity. Click Next. On “Configure your project” screen I selected Java as Language and kept rest of the setting as is. Click Finish. The creation of new project will take few mins. Final screen will be visible as shown. As you can see, VS Emulator is also visible on the below diagram. This means Android Studio has picked up VS Emulator for Android [click to get better view].



Go ahead and click on Run to deploy your test application on this emulator.

Post deployment you will see your application running on Visual Studio Emulator for Android as shown below [click to get better view].



Follow general security best practices when you take RDP over internet to this VM. Like whitelisting incoming IP in NSG etc.

Disclaimer

Visual Studio emulator for android is obsolete version and has last version of android available as API 23 – Android 6.0 - Marshmallow. However currently Android is running with version API 29 – Android 10.0 - Q.
I know we are not running on latest version however this workaround unblocks us in current Covid-19 situation.

Also, on top of this page - https://visualstudio.microsoft.com/vs/msft-msandroid-emulator/, it explains you that current version of Android Emulator uses hardware acceleration. VS Emulator for Android is older version of it and not recommended. 

However I chose this solution to my customers as of now; as this unblocks the customer immediately with the power of Azure cloud.

Also, right now my customer was not able to perform any android specific development task due to Corona virus situation. So even if older version, at least customer was able to continue the business and that was more important.

I repeat, the above approach of using older version of VS emulator is obsolete. For best experience you should switch to Hardware based emulator either using HAXM or WHPX. The above stated approach is a workaround for now. May be in future Microsoft Azure may release “absolutely non restricted Hyper V” supporting VMs and it may work.

Please note, this recommendation is my personal recommendation and in no way it represents the company I work for.

Bonus Tip

You can very well use this approach with Azure Windows Virtual Desktop [WVD]. Plus on top of it if you want to test your APK by device connection to USB; then you can enable local laptop USB while you take RDP to WVD and make it work.

Conclusion

Hope this article helped you to get started on Android Studio and Android emulator with Azure VM quickly. Let me know your views in comments section below to improve and what are your thoughts on this approach.
Happy emulating!!

A humble request!

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