Q&A: Microsoft positions Hyper-V for cloud-minded IT

Is the hypervisor war already over? Probably not, but Microsoft contends that its shift toward an app management approach to virtualization will put it ahead of VMware in the end.

At this year’s Microsoft Management Summit there was a shift in focus away from virtual machines and onto the applications that run on them. Throughout a number of new System Center product demos, Microsoft reps stressed that adopting a more service-level view of IT is critical to both meeting business needs today and moving to the private cloud tomorrow.

Of course, most business apps will continue to run in on-premise data centers when products like System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2012 ships, and virtualization remains a more tangible subject for IT pros to grasp than the ever-evolving cloud. Still, by focusing more on the applications themselves, Microsoft feels it’s in the best position to cash in once investments in cloud computing gain steam.

In this Q&A, Dave Greschler, director of virtualization and cloud strategies, and Edwin Yuen, senior product manager at Microsoft, discuss how the company’s virtualization and cloud computing strategies intersect and how the current version of Hyper-V stacks up to its greatest rival.

Over the past few years we’ve seen Hyper-V and Virtual Machine Manager grow together almost in lockstep, with SCVMM 2008 R2 updates for the latest Hyper-V features being a recent example. How does the upcoming release of SCVMM 2012 now affect Hyper-V?

Edwin Yuen: We just had a release of the [Hyper-V 2008 R2 SP1]. I always remind people that this is our third version of Hyper-V in four years, and now our fourth version of [SCVMM] in five years. But we’re seeing a point where Hyper-V today with R2 SP1 really fulfills a significant majority of almost every feature and scenario that customers want. We’re going to look to extend upon that in future versions, and Virtual Machine Manager will take advantage of that, but this a really good matchup with SCVMM 2012 and Hyper-V SP1.

Microsoft has talked in the past about the benefits of using Hyper-V for virtualization with Microsoft server applications, even if organizations already have VMware running in other parts of their environments. What are you seeing in that regard?

David Greschler: If you have a problem with Exchange Server, then you want that [Microsoft stack] all the way down. It’s running on Windows Server [you already have Hyper-V], so that’s the way to go, and I think more and more customers understand that. And frankly, that’s the way they’re going to get the kind of support they need.

EY: And it’s not just that. With the performance numbers we have, and as we’re going out with some best practices and examples from working with our OEMs, they just show that Hyper-V is there. It’s at that point, it’s ready to go.

DG: And then you combine it with this deep app insight and orchestration of System Center, and it just makes sense if you’re going to virtualize SQL Server, Exchange or SharePoint to do it as a package and then move it up to a private cloud. And then you also have the option to move it to the public cloud; all those workloads have corresponding options for public cloud with SQL Azure and Office 365. So there’s a picture emerging here.

EY: The key is getting people ready – moving to the public cloud mindset but using things like System Center 2012. It’s not just about moving into the public or private cloud. It gives them great benefits today in the data center, and then it also sets them up to move whenever they want, into that “other room”, so to speak.

You seem pleased with the level Hyper-V has reached, but not everyone agrees. What do you say to folks who think it still doesn’t measure up to VMware’s hypervisor technology?

DG: First and foremost, I would say that they’re probably running Windows Server, because about 85% of all virtualized OSes are Windows. They probably have Hyper-V -- they don’t have to pay for anything more -- so I would just say to start virtualizing. And if you are using System Center, you can continue managing whatever you have on VMware because we support VMware from a management perspective. But going forward, just start using Hyper-V and I think you won’t find a performance difference.

For the fanboys? All I ask is take a workload and put it on Hyper-V. Give SP1 a try, and really ask yourself, do you really see a difference? Then ask yourself, what’s the price difference?

EY: There’s another level, too. It’s hard to convince certain people because they always focus on what [Hyper-V] can’t do. So for a couple years we’ve added more features, and it’s basically checking off a box of “can’t-dos”. Now I think we’ve addressed almost all of the can’t-dos.

DG: And I think the other question is, are you just going to stop with virtualization, or are you going to continue on to the private cloud? If you are going to continue to the cloud, which implies a mix between private and public, then again you’re going to want that consistency throughout.

EY: And it’s also not a mutually exclusive thing -- it doesn’t have to be a Cold War. It’s about using the products that best work. I think we’re at a point where we are offering a product that from a feature capability standpoint provides almost everything [organizations] need. And to bring up the price again, yes they’ve invested in VMware, but they’ve also invested in Windows. And when you really think about it, even if you’re buying fresh, there’s a significant cost differential.

But honestly, most people already own the products they need; they just need to go ahead and try it. If people know virtualization, picking up Hyper-V is just not that difficult. It’s a role, and if they know Windows and they know virtualization, they can really pick up Hyper-V very quickly. It’s not like transitioning from Novell to Windows where there was a dramatic shift in things, or when people went from not having virtualization and having to understand all the concepts.

The majority of IT pros and admins have the two critical skills that they need for Hyper-V, which are understanding virtualization and understanding Windows. Now they’re simply applying it.

For more information on Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager, visit our server virtualization topic page. You can also follow SearchWindowsServer.com on Twitter @WindowsTT.

This was first published in March 2011

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