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Will Microsoft Hyper-V public beta sway IT shops?

The Hyper-V beta gives testers a chance to play with Windows Server 2008's Quick Migration feature and Server Core role integration.

On the heels of a significant update from its archrival in virtualization, VMware Inc., Microsoft has released the first public trial of its own hypervisor technology, called Hyper-V. But whether or not IT managers in Windows shops will be anxious to get their fingers on the technology is another matter entirely.

Last week, VMware released ESX version 3.5 with some significant updates, like Storage VMotion, which lets administrators move a virtual machine to another server in this environment while the VM is still running.

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Microsoft followed up by releasing Hyper-V -- a little earlier than originally promised. The original due date was first quarter of 2008.

"It's interesting that just a few days after VMware released ESX 3.5, Microsoft decides to put its hypervisor out there earlier," said David Payne, virtualization expert and CTO at integrator Xcedex LLC in Minneapolis. "It seems a little like the vendors are trying to take some thunder away from each other," he said.

But an early beta release may do little, for now, to change a corporation's virtualization plans, said Payne, who was at a large customer site when Microsoft released the Hyper-V beta. "This is a company with 10,000 desktops that's looking at its desktop and server virtualization strategy," Payne said. "VMware already has a foothold and they said not to bother looking at other technologies like XenSource or Hyper-V [for this project] because the technology still is not proven."

That is not to say that Microsoft will not win over corporations down the line or put some competitive pressures on VMware, particularly when it comes to pricing.

Payne said, "I don't see VMware being able to keep charging $5,750 for two processors. "If you look back at VMware's GSX product, they had similar pricing pressures. Where it [had] cost $3,000, now the product is free."

Microsoft may hit a roadblock. A hypervisor alone is not a big selling point for large companies, but all the features that come along with it are, such as live migration, high availability and a distributed resources scheduler. Those are features that VMware has now, and Microsoft is working on.

"They mention high availability in this [hypervisor public beta] release, but I'm not sure what that is yet in Microsoft's product," Payne said.

The Hyper-V beta is available as part of the Windows Server 2008 release candidate 1 download. The software was released early to give users a chance to start testing out the new technology as the final release of Windows Server 2008 creeps closer to its planned debut in February 2008, Microsoft said. The beta is available for the Windows Server 2008 64-bit Enterprise Edition and includes such features as Quick Migration, which lets IT managers switch a virtual machine to a different physical host with little downtime.

Support is also included for Server Core roles and Server Manager integration. Server Core is a bare bones installation of such features as Active Directory or the File Server in Windows Server 2008, and Server Manager is a central way to manage a server's identity and system information.

Microsoft reintroduced its hypervisor technology, once code-named Viridian and referred to as Windows Server virtualization, as Hyper-V last month. At the time, the software company also made Hyper-V available as a standalone server. Up until then it was only available as a feature within Windows Server 2008.

The final version of Hyper-V is still planned for release 180 days after the release to manufacturing of Windows Server 2008.

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