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Hyper-V R2 matches VMware with 64-processor support

Support for 64 logical processors brings Hyper-V R2 up to par with VMware, but it's more a perk for existing Microsoft virtualization customers than a reason to migrate.

Microsoft's Hyper-V R2 will support 64 logical processors -- a big deal for existing Hyper-V users, but not enough to win over VMware customers, experts said.

For more on Hyper-V and hardware concerns:
Microsoft virtualization software generates Hyper-V, Windows 7 buzz

Support for 64 logical processors in Hyper-V R2 is a major upgrade over the existing version of Hyper-V, which supports only 16 processors. Initially, Microsoft said Hyper-V R2 would support 32 processors, but at May's TechEd 2009 conference, the company made a splash with its surprise announcement of 64-processor support.

Support for 64 logical processors is important for users because of coming advances in hardware, said Chris Wolf, an analyst at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group. IT shops want software that will let them get the most out of the latest hardware.

"The hardware is going that way, and the platform needs to have the capabilities to leverage all these CPU cores," Wolf said. "This is availability for the future. From an architecture perspective, you want to be ready for the future."

Catching up to VMware
It was even more important for Microsoft to include 64-processor support now because the company considers Hyper-V to be an operating system, and "you wouldn't want the hardware to be out, then have to wait for Hyper-V to support it," Wolf added.

This will let Microsoft catch up more.
Greg Schulz
principalthe StorageIO Group

Support for 64 logical processors will match what VMware Inc. offers in its hypervisor, which Microsoft needs to keep doing to gain market share. But this feature alone won't make the difference for Microsoft.

"If I'm already a Hyper-V shop, do I need to upgrade for 64 cores? That depends on your workload," said Steve Schuchart, an analyst at Current Analysis in Sterling, Va. "If you run Hyper-V and have run into a processor limitation, then obviously this will be great. But if you are a VMware shop and are heavily invested in VMware, is this a reason to go to Hyper-V? No, but it's a reason to keep an eye on Hyper-V."

One such VMware shop is the Orange County United Way in Irvine, Calif.

"In my environment, we will not be utilizing this feature in the near future, but it's great to see where they are going with this," senior systems administrator C.J. Metz said.

Most VMware customers won't have a real incentive to switch to Hyper-V until it offers a plethora of critical management features, like those found in VMware's new vSphere 4, which has 10 years of development, stability and maturity behind it, Schuchart said.

Wolf agreed that despite this upgrade, Hyper-V still lacks several important features that users can easily find in VMware and other products. Among them are the ability to cluster management server systems through a centralized virtual machine manager and the ability to share memory between multiple virtual servers using disk caching rather than actual physical memory, he said.

But analyst Greg Schulz, a principal at the StorageIO Group in Stillwater, Minn., said the addition of 64-processor support shows that Microsoft has gained momentum and could encourage wider use of Hyper-V.

"This will absolutely affect their standing in the virtualization marketplace in the future," Schulz said. "This will let Microsoft catch up more. It gives them features that make them more reasonable to look at for some users. This puts more pressure on VMware to continue to have new features."

It also helps that Hyper-V is integrally linked to the flagship Windows server and desktop operating systems by default, Wolf said. For users looking at virtualization for the first time, Microsoft is a less scary option because they are already comfortable with Windows, he added.

Another advantage Microsoft's products have in the virtualization battle is price, because "they're considerably cheaper," Schuchart said.

Microsoft is expected to release Hyper-V R2 in October.

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