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

Microsoft Hyper-V's equivalent to VMware VMotion will be available in the next version of Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V R2, due out in 2010.

Later rather than sooner, a key differentiator between VMware ESX Server and Microsoft Hyper-V will be a thing of the past. On Monday, Sept. 8, at the Hyper-V launch event in Bellevue, Wash., Microsoft gave the first public demonstration of Live Migration, which will be released in the next version of Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V R2.

Live migration refers to the ability to move a virtual machine from one physical host to another without taking it down. VMware's equivalent, VMotion, is the foundational technology behind many of the company's high-availability and load-balancing products.

"There's no magic to VMotion," said Bob Muglia, Microsoft's senior vice president for the Server and Tools division. "It's just a feature, and we'll have that feature in the next release of Hyper-V and Windows Server 2008."

For more on Hyper-V:
Microsoft Hyper-V Guide

Migrating from Microsoft Virtual Server to Hyper-V

Optimizing Hyper-V performance: Monitoring tips

Judging from past Microsoft product launches, however, Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V R2 shouldn't be expected until 2009 at the earliest and, more likely, in 2010. Microsoft also announced Hyper-V Server 2008, a stripped-down version of Windows Server 2008 that features only the Hyper-V role and that will be available within 30 days at no cost. Previously, Hyper-V was priced at $28. The move puts Hyper-V on par price-wise with VMware ESXi, which VMware made free over the summer, down from $495.

Also, Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 will be generally available within 30 days.

No live migration, no deal
For data center managers, the ability to move workloads without incurring downtime is a central feature of VMware's ESX platform. Hyper-V's lack of live migration may explain managers' reticence to bring Hyper-V in-house, despite its low price point compared with VMware as well as its integration with Windows Server 2008 and other Microsoft tools.

Case in point, in a recent 2008 Purchasing Intentions Survey of 603 data center professionals currently using virtualization, 57% had no plans for Hyper-V in 2008. Another 25% said they planned to evaluate it, another 13% planned to test it, and only 5% said they would deploy it.

At the same time, many virtualization providers have high hopes for Hyper-V. VKernel, a virtualization management vendor that has publicly dismissed the possibility of supporting any Xen variants, plans on adding support for Hyper-V in the coming months and expects demand for it to come on strong.

"We definitely see a huge uptake and momentum for Hyper-V, even among organizations that already have VMware" said Alex Bakman, VKernel's founder and CEO.

Judging by the number of partners that participated in Microsoft's Hyper-V launch event, Bakman is not alone in his estimation of Hyper-V. More than 40 partners flanked Microsoft at the event, with announcements coming from AMD, Compellent, Hewlett-Packard, NetApp, Sun Microsystems, Emulex, Dell, and SteelEye, to name but a few. All told, nearly 30 companies opted to take advantage of the launch to make announcements in support of the nascent platform.

The reason for their enthusiasm? "The No. 1 objection people have to VMware is cost," and Microsoft has created a "good enough" product whose cost is effectively zero, Bakman said. "Instead of buying VMware licenses for test and dev or remote offices, they'll get [Hyper-V's] good-enough functionality for free."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Alex Barrett, News Director. And check out our Server Virtualization blog.

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