Microsoft virtualization software generates Hyper-V, Windows 7 buzz

Microsoft Hyper-V's new Live Migration and a unique solution to incompatibility problems stirred Microsoft virtualization software users at TechEd 2009.

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LOS ANGELES -- Microsoft's improved virtualization software is generating more user interest in Hyper-V as well as the Windows 7 operating system.

For more on Microsoft virtualization:
Hyper-V vs. VMware: Which is cheaper?

With Live Migration, Microsoft Hyper-V inches closer to VMware ESX

With Hyper-V's clustering and storage, who needs HA?

Hyper-V R2, the upcoming release of Microsoft's server virtualization hypervisor, will for the first time offer live migration, support for 64 logical processors and hot-add/remove capabilities for storage. And Windows 7 will utilize Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) technology so users can run incompatible applications on virtual Windows XP machines right on their desktops. Both products are available as release candidates now.

Users embrace Hyper-V's Live Migration
Attendees at the Microsoft TechEd 2009 conference said new features will make it easier to manage their virtual infrastructures. One of the most anticipated capabilities in Hyper-V R2 is its Live Migration feature, which enables administrators to move a running virtual machine (VM) from one physical host to another without incurring downtime.

Microsoft's Live Migration in Hyper-V is identical to its VMware counterpart.
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"That's a big plus," said Andy Ludden, a systems administrator at Olean General Hospital in Olean, N.Y.

Jeff Woolsey, the principal group manager for Windows Server Hyper-V, said Live Migration in Hyper-V is identical to its VMware counterpart, which is called VMotion. Hyper-V currently offers Quick Migration, which typically means about 20 seconds of downtime for Ludden.

That isn't a huge deal most times, but when there's a disaster, "it would be nice if they [migrated] without going down," Ludden said.

The current version of Hyper-V supports 16 logical processors. R2 was expected to support 32, but Microsoft said this week it will support 64 instead. A public-sector IT staffer from the East Coast said he was "very excited" about that news.

"You can have so many different apps running in a smaller environment, and that's tremendous," he said.

Ludden agreed.

"Going up to as many [processors] as it will handle will always help," he said.

Hot-add/remove fills management void
Another new feature in Hyper-V R2 is hot-add/remove, which allows users to reallocate storage to a VM as needed, using Virtual Hard Disks (VHDs), without having to stop a VM. VHD support will let users bundle the apps and data they need and use them wherever, said Lindsey Mundy, corporate vice president of IT at Tectura Corp., a Microsoft solutions provider based in Redwood City, Calif.

VHD support was high on the Hyper-V R2 wish list at Tectura and that of many of its customers, Mundy said.

Brian Hicks, a systems administrator at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said he and his team are considering Hyper-V to run the back end of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Cost, ease of management and green IT are their biggest concerns.

"By using thin clients instead of full PCs -- and from a server perspective being able to move away from big boxes -- cost savings is huge there," he said.

Windows 7 piques interest
Hyper-V isn't the only product benefiting from new virtualization features offered by Microsoft. There was lots of buzz at TechEd about the MED-V technology in Windows 7. Mark Russinovich, a technical fellow at Microsoft, demonstrated the technology during Monday's keynote.

First, he tried unsuccessfully to open an incompatible application in Windows 7. Then he enabled MED-V, and the application opened in a window with a red border around it. The red border signaled the application was actually running on a VM that was running Windows XP (a compatible operating system for that program).

The technology also works on incompatible Web applications by opening earlier versions of Internet Explorer. Application incompatibility was a major problem with Windows Vista, and MED-V goes a long way toward addressing those concerns, Ludden said.

"I think it's awesome," he said. "I can definitely see us going to the Windows 7 operating system. We're mostly on XP now. That right there will let us use some apps that we couldn't go to Vista because of."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Colin Steele, Site Editor.

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