For years, VMware users have been able to add and remove virtual storage on the fly without having to shut down a hypervisor or halt their workloads.
These hot-add and remove storage capabilities, as they're called, have been an expected part of many IT applications and platforms for quite a while.
Except, that is, if you use Microsoft's virtualization hypervisor, Hyper-V. Released last year, the original version did not include hot-add and remove capabilities -- a problem for users who wanted to make virtualized storage system changes as their hardware and applications continued to run.
With Hyper-V R2 -- an upgraded version of the original Hyper-V that is now available as a release candidate -- Microsoft will finally resolve that shortcoming. Microsoft is expected to make Hyper-V R2 generally available in October.
The hot-add/remove functions are among myriad new additions that could help Hyper-V garner a wider installed base and compete with VMware Inc. The only problem is that the new features arrive a bit late in the game for virtualization users, said analyst Steve Schuchart of Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis Inc.
"It's nice that Hyper-V can do it itself now, but … others have been doing it for a long time," Schuchart said. "It shows that Microsoft is evolving Hyper-V and that they're not just sitting on it. They're working on the storage side as well as the computing side."
For companies that have already deployed and use Hyper-V, hot-add and remove is "nothing but good," he added. And even though the technology is not groundbreaking these days, it gives other virtualization users more motivation to consider Microsoft, said Chris Wolf, an analyst at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group.
"The further along Microsoft gets in an innovation perspective, [the more] it gets them into the conversation … whereas in the past they might have been dismissed early on," he said.
But it still may not be enough to woo existing VMware customers.
The United Way of Orange County, Calif., is a VMware shop that has considered a Hyper-V migration earlier this year. Senior systems administrator C.J. Metz and his team decided against the move.
"VMware, at least for now, has the competitive advantage in that they were already there and are already working on the next great thing, which Microsoft will catch up with in two more years," Metz said. "I would rather buy into the company that is already running at the front, not trying to catch up."
Still, hot-add and remove is one of the features Microsoft needed to add to Hyper-V to be competitive with VMware, he said.
"Being a VMware customer for quite a while, I can tell you that hot-add and removal capabilities are extremely useful and assist in having an always-available network," he added.
The fact that Microsoft is playing catch-up to other vendors in an emerging market is nothing for the huge software maker, said Greg Schulz, a principal analyst at the StorageIO Group in Stillwater, Minn.
Schulz noted that Microsoft was not first to market with a graphical user interface or a Web browser, but the company followed the work of others and eventually became a leader with Windows and Internet Explorer.
"It's not surprising that they left [hot-add and remove] out originally," he said. "They were behind the curve on a lot of things, but they showed that they can catch up. Once they catch up, they have shown the ability to do very, very well."
That same strategy could be at play with Hyper-V, he said.
"People won't adopt it just because Microsoft ships it, though," he added. "They have to have those minimum features and functions" that users need.
One thing that Microsoft does have is customer loyalty, and that means a lot -- even though the company continues to add features to existing products in a crowded marketplace, said Wolf.
"If the business side of an organization has a good relationship with Microsoft, they don't really care as much about the technology" being cutting edge, Wolf said. "There's still a lot of organizations who will sacrifice some features … for the sake of staying with a vendor they have a good relationship with."
About the author
Todd R. Weiss is a longtime technology journalist and freelance writer. He worked as a staff reporter for Computerworld.com from 2000 to 2008. Weiss was also a daily newspaper reporter at The Lancaster New Era and The Times Herald in Norristown, eastern Pennsylvania.