Microsoft's Next Generation of Virtualization

4 minute read
David Dahlquist avatar
Windows Server 2008 Virtualization
Microsoft's big next-generation virtualization beast has arrived and the speculation pours forth like wine. Redmond's hypervisor based virtualization system for x64 systems, Microsoft Hyper-V, has released to manufacturing and is available for deployment into production environments. So far, the verdict is out in regards to Hyper-V's actual performance, but what about its implications for the virtualization market?

The Virtualization Craze

Server virtualization has been all the rage in the world of IT because of its various economic benefits, the least of which include the need for smaller staff, fewer physical machines, lower energy costs and less management overhead. By virtualizing multiple operating systems on one physical machine, economic benefits abound; you've heard it all before -- Microsoft's been doing it with Windows Virtualization for a while. So what's all the fuss about this Hyper-V stuff?

What is Hyper-V Anyway?

When it was released in Beta at the beginning of the year, Microsoft's Hyper-V was speculated by some that it may be Microsoft's "killer app" for Windows Server, and one that would put fierce pressure on their competition, but what exactly is this much-hyped new feature that's supposed to have other virtualization companies shaking in their boots? The major difference between Microsoft's Hyper-V and their previous Microsoft Virtual Server, is Hyper-V's use of a hypervisor, which provides hardware abstraction services to the OS environment as well as resource allocation and partitioning. This sets Microsoft apart from their peers in the virtualization world, like VMWare Server, Parallels and VMWare Workstation as these services use host-based virtualization; a process in which a host operating system runs a subprocess provided by its native kernal called a Virtual Machine Monitor in order to provide virtualization services. The Hyper-V model allows for much better I/O performance of virtual machines as well as more enterprise scalability. The new 64-bit hypervisor layer utilized for Hyper-V, as well as the host operating system, and new high-speed VMBus "synthetic" drivers that run in the virtual machines will also lead to significant speed increase. Core scenarios for Hyper-V span the usual virtualization gamut of server consolidation, business continuity and disaster recovery, and testing and development.

Key Features

Key features of Hyper-V, aside from the aforementioned 64-bit hypervisor architecture include:* Support for simultaneously running different types of operating systems - including 32-bit and 64-bit systems across different server platforms, such as Windows, Linux, and others* Symmetric Multiprocessors (SMP) Support - Ability to support up to four multiple processors in a virtual machine * Network Load Balancing -Virtual machines can now be configured to run with Windows Network Load Balancing (NLB) Service to balance load across virtual machines on different servers. * New Hardware Sharing Architecture - Hyper-V provides improved access and utilization of core resources, such as disk, networking, and video. * Quick Migration - Hyper-V enables lets users rapidly migrate a running virtual machine from one physical host system to another with minimal downtime, leveraging familiar high-availability capabilities of Windows Server and System Center management tools. * Virtual Machine Snapshot - Hyper-V provides the ability to take snapshots of a running virtual machine so users can easily revert to a previous state, and improve the overall backup and recoverability solution. * Scalability - Users can now vertically scale their virtualization environment to support a large number of virtual machines within a given host and continue to leverage quick migration for scalability across multiple hosts. * Extensible - Standards-based Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) interfaces and APIs in Hyper-V enable independent software vendors and developers to quickly build custom tools, utilities, and enhancements for the virtualization platform.The impressive technical specs, combined with Microsoft's IT market clout, has lead many an expert to speculate a gloomy future for the rest of the virtualization competition.

The Implications of Hyper-V

Whether or not Hyper-V turns out to be a superior product may not be as much of a concern to virtualization vendors so much as the implications of Microsoft's involvement in the field of next generation virtualization.What competing vendors may have to fear most from Microsoft is its deep pockets and massive international marketing and sales capabilities. Companies like VMWare may also find themselves overshadowed by Microsoft's significant market penetration into major business markets both small and large. In short -- things could get ugly here. But of course, nothing is ever set in stone and for all we know, Hyper-V could indeed be all Hype no bite. As the general consensus pours in regarding Hyper-V's performance in the field, we'll have a better idea of how it will ultimately effect the virtualization landscape. Until then, hit up Microsoft for more info on Hyper-V and Windows Server 2008.