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Hyper-V 3.0 in Windows 8: New features emerge

The summer hypervisor season is in full swing, and three blockbusters are capturing the attention of fans and critics alike. We already know about the upcoming releases of VMware vSphere 5 and Citrix XenServer 6.0, and now word on Microsoft Hyper-V 3.0 has leaked out, too.

French publication PC INpact reported last year that the next version of Hyper-V would be part of the Windows 8 operating system, and that indeed appears to be the case. Early this morning, Windows Now blogger Robert McLaws posted several screenshots of what he said is a leaked Windows 8 x64 build, which show Hyper-V as a feature that users can turn on or off through the control panel.

(The name of the next version of Hyper-V isn’t set in stone anywhere; PC INpact called it “Hyper-V V3” in its report last year, but McLaws went with “Hyper-V 3.0,” although none of his screenshots use that name. We’ll stick with that for now, but beware that it may change.)

Microsoft already includes Hyper-V as part of the Windows Server OS, and it is apparently extending that strategy to the desktop in Windows 8. Adding Hyper-V 3.0 to Windows 8 opens the door for self-contained application virtualization — i.e., without relying on a virtual server back end — either through Microsoft App-V or Windows XP Mode, McLaws wrote.

Building Hyper-V into the Windows 8 client could give Microsoft a way to support legacy Windows applications despite changes in Windows 8’s underlying architecture,” wrote Mary-Jo Foley on her All About Microsoft blog. (For more on the application virtualization possibilities with Hyper-V 3.0, check out this article on MinWin and the Hyper-V client hypervisor.)

The Hyper-V 3.0 feature that’s gotten the biggest buzz so far is the new virtual hard drive file format, VHDX, which will support disks up to 16 TB in size, according to McLaws. (The limit for Microsoft’s current format, VHD, is 2 TB per disk.) Hyper-V 3.0 will also support larger VMs and denser hosts, which is a trend we’ve seen in both vSphere 5 and XenServer 6.0 as well.

Other new Hyper-V 3.0 features include a virtual Fibre Channel adapter, storage resource pools and hardware-acceleration enhancements. Windows 8 is not expected to hit the market until deep into 2012, and it’s unclear if Hyper-V will be included in that original release, or if it will come later. We also don’t know if the next Windows Server version of Hyper-V is on the same timetable or not.

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