Microsoft Raises Its Hypervisor

Vendor unveils Hyper-V, although there is still development work left to do

March 20, 2008

4 Min Read
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Microsoft fleshed out more details of its Hyper-V hypervisor today, pushing its storage features and announcing a bevy of partners who are pre-installing the software on their servers.

Despite today's flurry of marketing activity, Hyper-V is hardly the finished article, hence the somewhat bewildering description of the software as a "feature complete release candidate."

In layman's terms, this means that the vendor is still tweaking the Hyper-V code, although a Microsoft spokesman told Byte and Switch in an email that this will not affect plans to make the software generally available this summer.

"If we choose to deliver another release candidate, we believe we will still be on track to meet the goal of releasing it by August 2008," he wrote in an email, explaining that the software will cost $28 per server.

"We're continuing to make good progress on the development of Hyper-V," he added. "Further internal testing on the current release candidate will help us determine whether another release candidate is required."A beta version of Hyper-V, originally code-named Viridian, was included with the launch of Windows Server 2008 last month, although Microsoft describes today's offering as its "near-final" code.

At this stage, it is unclear just how much work Microsoft has to do before Hyper-V is made generally available, although the vendor is only too happy to bang its virtualization drum at the moment.

Microsoft execs, for example, are already pushing Hyper-V as a good fit for users' rapidly expanding storage infrastructures.

"A Hyper-V host is a server running Windows Server 2008 and it will support many different storage options of that OS," wrote Jose Barreto, a member of Microsoft's storage evangelism team, in a recent blog entry. "This includes directly attached storage (SATA, SAS) or Fibre Channel storage (Fibre Channel, iSCSI)."

Barreto also explained that Hyper-V offers a feature called "LUN passthrough," which lets users bypass the host's file system and access a disk directly. "[This raw disk] can be physical hard disk on the host or a logical unit on a SAN," he said.Touting Hyper-V as a "thinner" offering than hypervisors from rival vendors such as VMware and Citrix, Microsoft also unveiled this morning an array of virtualization partners, which included AMD, Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Intel, and IBM.

"Once final code is available, these partners plan to integrate support for Hyper-V into their virtualization," reads Microsoft's statement. "[This includes] pre-installation on servers, device support, solutions, and services."

Clearly, pre-installing hypervisors into servers is becoming something of an arms race for virtualization vendors desperate to extend their technology footprint. Last month, for example, VMware announced agreements to embed its ESX 3i hypervisor in servers from Dell, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, HP, and IBM; and Citrix also has deals in place with NEC, Dell, and Chinese technology giant Lenovo.

A clear shot across the bows of virtualization trailblazer VMware, Microsoft's strategy also offers users another option for virtualizing their infrastructure, according to Charles King, principal analyst of consultancy Pund-IT.

"Though the commercial release of Hyper-V has not been finalized, the new release candidate is likely to help answer both developers' and users' questions," he says. "The potential benefits virtualization brings to x86 solutions, where system utilization is all too often in the basement of single digits, are enormous for IT users."With today's release, Microsoft has also extended the list of guest operating systems supported on Hyper-V, which now includes Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows XP Service Pack 3. Support has also been extended to the 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2008.

Away from storage and servers, Pund-IT's King feels that Microsoft is also positioning itself to target a broader market for virtual products. "Virtualization has serious implications for IT solutions well beyond the data center, even eventually on consumer desktops and laptops," he says. "As such, it is perfectly understandable why Microsoft plans to play in the virtualization space."

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  • Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD)

  • Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS)

  • Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL)

  • Fujitsu Siemens Computers

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA)

  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

  • Lenovo Group Ltd.

  • Pund-IT Inc.

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Pund-IT Inc.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: JAVA)

  • SuSE Inc.

  • VMware Inc.

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