Microsoft Gets 'Feature Complete' Hyper-V Out the Door
Published: March 26, 2008
by Alex Woodie
Microsoft last week issued a "feature-complete" version of its Hyper-V virtualization software last week, beginning the final countdown to availability of this important product by late summer. The first Release Candidate (RC) of Hyper-V brings several new features, including stability improvements and language support, Microsoft says. But the most important thing for Microsoft is to get Hyper-V into customers' hands as soon as possible, and get them thinking about adopting the product as their virtualization standard before they adopt VMware's ESX Server.
Microsoft started developing the Hyper-V hypervisor (formerly codenamed "Viridian") with help from XenSource (now part of Citrix Systems) several years ago when it became apparent, with VMware's outrageous success, that virtualization was the next big wave in business IT. While the industry is still figuring out how to handle security and integration in virtualized servers, the basic assessment that hypervisors are the next operating systems still holds water, and Microsoft desperately wants a ship in that fight. Hyper-V is that ship, and RC is its first big ocean trial.
With the Hyper-V RC (Microsoft didn't label it RC0 or RC1 as it normally would, just RC), Microsoft has made several tweaks and added some new features. For starters, the list of operating systems that are certified to run on the Hyper-V hypervisor has grown, and now includes Windows Server 2003 SP2, Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP1 (X86 and X64 versions), Windows Vista SP1, and Windows XP SP3. These are in addition to the previously supported operating systems, which included Windows Server 2008 and others. Microsoft says the full list of supported operating systems "will be announced prior to RTM," which it says will occur in August, within 180 days of the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows Server 2008, as it promised last year.
With the RC, Microsoft also added support for the 64-bit version of Windows Server 2008 standard, enterprise, and datacenter versions with Hyper-V RC, although it's only available fully in English, and partially in German and Japanese. Lastly, Microsoft says it has improved the product's "performance and stability for scalability and throughput workloads"--a nice way of saying that it finally meets the company's performance expectations, which were scaled back last year from Microsoft's original performance expectations. "We are happy with the progress made on the performance side between Beta and RC," Microsoft said on this Hyper-V RC FAQ, adding "we will not be publishing performance numbers at this time."
As it stands now, Hyper-V will be able to carve 16-core symmetric multi-processor (SMP) servers into multiple virtual machines that can run a mix of Windows and Linux operating systems. (Originally, Microsoft had hoped to support 64-core SMP servers, but that plan proved too ambitious.) Hyper-V also doesn't offer some of the high-end features Microsoft had initially targeted in the early days of the Viridian project, such as the capability to add storage, networking, memory, or processor resources without bringing the virtual environments down. Hyper-V will simplify life for administrators by allowing them to rapidly provision new Windows or Linux operating system images for development, test, production, or disaster recovery (DR) workloads purposes. (The exact number of virtual machines that Hyper-V will be able to support is not something that Microsoft talks openly about.) A virtual switch (a piece of code that replicates an actual network switch in a virtualized environment) is also included with Hyper-V. It should streamline administrators' roll-out of virtual, networked applications (although it does raise some security concerns of its own).
Microsoft is eager to highlight the upside of Hyper-V, which it did last week by repeating its claim that only 10 percent of the world's servers are virtualized. What is perhaps more telling about that statistic, however, is the fact that EMC's VMware subsidiary owns nearly all of that 10 percent, giving it a considerable head start in the race for X86 and X64 hypervisor dominance.
While Hyper-V is still under construction and VMware has a tremendous lead, there is still a lot of money up for grabs. If there's one thing Microsoft has proved that it knows how to do, it's identifying a hot market, jumping in just a bit late, getting an average product to market, and then pulverizing its competition into submission through is sheer size and questionable business practices. With European and U.S. regulators watching closely, Microsoft won't be able to pull any shenanigans, however, and instead will have to go broadside with VMware. As Hyper-V's true capabilities become known in the months to come, it should make for an interesting fight.
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