'Viridian' Hypervisor Gains Formal Name: Hyper-V
Published: November 14, 2007
by Alex Woodie
Microsoft this week announced Hyper-V, the name of the forthcoming hypervisor virtualization layer for Windows Server 2008 that formerly went by the codename "Viridian." And the software giant decided that it would deliver a stand-alone version of the hypervisor called Hyper-V Server, a tacit acknowledgment that the market doesn't necessarily expect virtualization to be bundled as part of the operating system. Microsoft also announced a validation program to ensure Windows Server 2008 plays well with virtualization products besides Hyper-V.
Microsoft has been working on Hyper-V for several years, ever since it realized it needed a more powerful competitor to VMware's virtualization offerings than its own Windows Virtual Server. Compared to products like Virtual Server, hypervisors sit closer to the bare metal and deliver much better granularity of CPU and memory, sub-socket partitioning, and dynamic reassignment of virtual machines.
When Microsoft first unveiled Viridian in May 2006, the company claimed the new hypervisor would blow Virtual Server--and ESX Server, VMware's hypervisor--out of the water. It has since had to scale back its virtual ambitions, and cut some of those high-end features from the hypervisor, namely support for 64-core symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) servers (Hyper-V will support 16, the same as other X64 hypervisors), the capability to migrate users without requiring a reboot, and support for adding storage, networking, memory, or processor resources without requiring a reboot.
Nevertheless, on a feature-by-feature basis, Hyper-V is expected to compete head-to-head with ESX Server. The technology will offer some sophisticated features, like support for multi-processor guests, support for large memory allocation (more than 32 GB per machine), and an integrated virtual switch. But no feature list can cover up the fact that ESX Server has already proved itself in the field and is the undisputed leader on the market.
Microsoft may be late to the virtualization party, but it's determined to make an impact, nonetheless. It's also proving itself to be somewhat more flexible to the market's realities than previously thought.
For example, up to this point, Microsoft has always talked about the hypervisor being a feature of the operating system. To get the advantages of Hyper-V (Viridian), one must have already invested in Windows Server 2008 (Longhorn Server), licenses for which can range from $1,000 to tens of thousands of dollars. That is no longer the strategy at Microsoft, as the company this week announced that it will sell a stand-alone version of the hypervisor called Hyper-V Server that users will be able to purchase for the low, low price of $28.
(Similarly, Microsoft will be offering three Hyper-V-less versions of its Windows Server 2008 operating systems, which will save customers who don't want Hyper-V a whopping $28. See "Windows Server 2008 Pricing and Packaging Set by Microsoft" elsewhere in this newsletter for more information.)
Microsoft still expects most customers to get Hyper-V by purchasing a copy of Windows Server 2008 when it becomes available sometime in the second quarter of 2008. But by allowing its OEMs to sell licenses to Hyper-V Server, Microsoft may be more successful at seeding the market with its brand of hypervisor, which could offer a strategic advantage down the road as virtualization becomes more common.
More virtual strategy from Microsoft was found in the form of the Server Virtualization Validation Program, a new program announced yesterday to allow developers of other virtualization solutions, such as VMware or Citrix Systems (which just bought XenSource) to validate Windows Server running on their virtualization products.
Because vendors may balk at supporting their software or operating system when it's running in a customer's virtualized infrastructure, Microsoft thought it best to set up a formalized program to help minimize the finger-pointing when things go wrong.
SuSE Linux vendor Novell, which has a partnership with Microsoft, is one of the first vendors to publicly support the Server Virtualization Validation Program. According to Roger Levy, senior vice president and general manager of Open Platform Solutions for Novell, the program will provide customers with "additional peace of mind when they run Windows as a guest in a validated environment such as SuSE Linux Enterprise."
Lastly, Microsoft unveiled two "solution accelerators" aimed at helping customers deal with virtualization issues. The first accelerator, called Infrastructure Planning and Design, provides "architectural guidance" and other information for helping users plan their server migration or virtualization architectures. The second, called Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP), helps users by matching their needs with Microsoft products. Both offerings are free and can be downloaded at technet.microsoft.com/en-us/solutionaccelerators/default.aspx.
Windows Server 2008 Pricing and Packaging Set by Microsoft
'Viridian' Hypercall APIs to be Open Source, Microsoft Says
Microsoft Revs Betas of Longhorn, Viridian, Vista SP1
Microsoft Slashes 'Viridian' Features to Meet Ship Date
Microsoft Unveils "Viridian" Hypervisor, Extends Virtualization Roadmap
Microsoft Working on New Virtualization Technologies for Longhorn
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