Redmond Kicks Virtualization into Hyperdrive with Hyper-V


Hyper-V Arrives, One Million Downloads Later

On Thursday, Microsoft released its Hyper-V virtualization product for Windows Server 2008 as a manual download ( KB950050 ; for other downloads needed to manage Hyper-V, see Craig Swartz's blog ). Hyper-V is Microsoft's second-generation virtualization for servers ( Virtual Server 2005 is Microsoft's original virtualization product). Hyper-V, like Virtual Server, is a free download, and has been downloaded over a million times since its beta release in February.

Virtualization 101

Virtualization has been around for several years, both in servers and in desktops . A virtualized environment enables a single physical server or PC to host multiple guest virtual machines (VMs), enabling each guest to run the same or different operating systems and use host resources in isolation from other VMs running on the same system. Virtualization enables a single physical server or desktop to do the work of several, and many companies, including VMWare and Citrix among others, have already staked out major sections of virtualization territory. So, what makes Hyper-V such a big deal?

Why Bare-Metal Hypervisors Beat Hosted Virtualization Solutions

Virtual Server and its desktop counterpart, Virtual PC, use host-based virtualization. In host-based virtualization, the computer loads the host operating system first, then loads VMs into memory. Because the host operating system uses a substantial amount of system resources, VMs run much more slowly than they would if they were installed directly on the physical hardware.

Hyper-V, on the other hand, is an example of a so-called "bare-metal" hypervisor virtualization technology, in which a control program runs on the physical hardware and controls virtual machines. A control program like Hyper-V requires far less hardware and memory resources than a host operating system. According to a Microsoft news release , Windows Server 2008 + Hyper-V can perform at speeds reaching 90% or more of a physical (non-virtualized) system. For more details, see the chart in this article .

Hyper-V, unlike its predecessor, also supports multiple-processor VMs. And, as ZDNet's Between the Lines blog points out , Hyper-V has a huge economic advantage over VMWare - it's free! For more information about Hyper-V, see the official FAQ .

Can You Run Hyper-V on a Desktop System?

Actually, yes - assuming your desktop is running Windows Server 2008 with a processor that supports hardware-assisted virtualization (Intel VT or AMD-V). To learn how to optimize Windows Server 2008 for desktop use, see this multi-part series at MSDN's "The Way I See It" blog, or this article at

Hyper-V Virtualization Tips

To learn how to enable the appropriate BIOS settings needed for Hyper-V support, see John Howard's article . Wondering if your current PC could run Windows Server 2008 (and Hyper-V)? Visit Gibson Research Corporation's SecureAble website to check your system.

Graphic courtesy of Between the Lines .

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