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As a version 1 product, Microsoft Hyper-V does not include some of the advanced features you'll find in its competitors' products, but it does support all of the basic functions you would expect in a hypervisor.

For example, you can run virtual machines on Hyper-V in production environments, something few if any administrators did with Microsoft Virtual Server. You can also create powerful host servers that will manage multiple virtual machines (VMs), and run as many VMs on a host as the host's resources will allow -- the usual hard limit is the amount of RAM on the host.

In order to access all of the features you require for a host, such as high availability and virtual machine failover, organizations moving to Hyper-V should install it on top of the Server Core version of Windows Server 2008. In test environments, you can even run the free Hyper-V Server, but you'll want to keep it in the lab for several reasons. First, Hyper-V Server does not include the high availability features that Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V does. In addition, when you buy a license for Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, you automatically get some free virtual machine licenses for the same operating system. This includes one for the Standard Edition, four for the Enterprise Edition and an unlimited number of VMs for the Datacenter Edition.

Looking for more info on Hyper-V licensing?

Check out the Microsoft Server Virtualization Licensing Calculator

While these licenses apply whether you use Hyper-V to run the VMs or not, , the very fact that Hyper-V is included in the Windows license will make it easier for many to adopt it as their hypervisor of choice – even for those using VMware ESXi or Citrix XenServer.

Microsoft Hyper-V will also be the hypervisor of choice for many small- to medium-sized organizations. As overworked as many systems administrators are, many will opt for Hyper-V because they know Windows Server and Hyper-V is just another Windows Server role.

If you find yourself among the people who want to go ahead with Hyper-V, remember to take a phased approach, like the one outlined here:

Phase 1: Begin with your test and development environments. If possible, start by converting your entire lab to server virtualization if you haven't done it yet.

Phase 2: Move on to simple workloads in production, like Web servers, domain controllers and other workloads that are often redundant in nature.

Phase 3: Work your way up to the more complex workloads and when you feel ready, begin to look at business continuity strategies. These strategies are highly simplified with virtual infrastructures because all you really need to do is implement a replication technology -- something that none of the hypervisor vendors offer on their own right now -- to copy the contents of the VMs you run in production to another site.

Phase 4: Finally, when you feel ready and Microsoft Hyper-V has matured a bit more, you can move on to the dynamic data center, one where your virtual workloads are all policy driven and your host servers assign resources to VMs on an as needed basis.

If you are in a larger organization, you may want to look to Hyper-V for the implementation of server virtualization in branch offices. After all, a branch office does not need as complex a hypervisor infrastructure as a main data center would. This would let you run a more mature hypervisor in your data centers and a different hypervisor in your remote offices.

Hyper-V is not the market leading hypervisor, but with the resources Microsoft has at its beck and call, it will definitely improve with time. One thing is for sure -- Hyper-V is here to stay. It may not dethrone other, more established hypervisors, but it will most certainly find its own niche in this developing market.


THE BIG QUESTIONS SURROUNDING HYPER-V
 Can Microsoft really make an impact with Hyper-V?
 What does it have to offer?
 How does Hyper-V rate?
 Can it meet high availability requirements?
How does it fit in the dynamic data center?
 The bottom line

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest are IT professionals specializing in systems administration, migration planning, software management and architecture design. Danielle is Microsoft MVP in Virtualization and Nelson is Microsoft MVP in Windows Server. They are authors of multiple books, including the free Definitive Guide to Vista Migration for Realtime Publishers and Windows Server 2008: The Complete Reference for McGraw-Hill Osborne. For more tips, write to them at info@reso-net.com.

This was first published in February 2009

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