With a tip of the cap to Francis Church’s famous 1897 editorial, I’m very proud that the team has come through just like St. Nick. Today we announced the public availability of a beta of Hyper-V, the hypervisor-based virtualization feature in Windows Server 2008.  You can download it today with Windows Server 2008 Enterprise (x64) edition and let us know what you think of it.

Before I get into some of the new features in Hyper-V beta, I first want to talk about what I see coming in 2008. I always want to make sure customers and partners know what’s important with our virtualization plans. And hopefully what you’ll read isn’t too different than what I wrote in February.

  • Platform: virtualization is becoming a feature of the server OS across the industry and this is the path to mainstream adoption. There’s really only one dissenting opinion in the industry to this premise. Microsoft Hyper-V will provide our customers and partners a great platform on which to build their virtualization solutions, and will provide the best value in the industry.  One area I expect to see much more activity in 2008 around virtualized and centralized business desktops as employers aim to better manage employee computing. The datacenter won’t necessarily become the home for all desktops, but more mainstream server virtualization technology and management tools will lead to more trials of virtualized desktops.
  • Management: I spend much of my time nowadays thinking about better management for virtualized computing. Customers want a single pane of glass for servers and desktops, physical and virtual, configuration and backup, OS and applications, security and compliance.  We’re heads-down working on the next version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager. We’re aiming for deep management functionality for both Hyper-V and also VMware ESX/VI3. The new version looks really exciting. But before that, in early January, mid-market customers should look for the availability of SCVMM 2007 Workgroup edition. You can manage up to 5 physical host servers and an unlimited number of virtual machines. Along with Virtual Server 2005 R2, it’s a great way to start consolidating servers and provides an easy migration to Hyper-V.
  • Applications: The adoption of SoftGrid, and new functionality scheduled for Application Virtualization 4.5 [the new name of SoftGrid], has been tremendous. Customers have acquired 2.7 million seats of SoftGrid so far, and I hear new deployment scenarios from customers and partners on a regular basis. Application virtualization is complementary to virtualized desktops as IT professionals still struggle with application deployment in a virtual machine.  Using our Application Virtualization technology, administrators can have a single application delivery solution for physical machines, Terminal Server environments and virtualized desktops.
  • Interoperability: In my eyes, interop is as important as the management aspect of virtualization. From technical collaboration with Novell, Xen and Sun, to open virtualization and management specifications. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. We’ll add a new wrinkle next year with technical support, when the Server Virtualization Validation Program launches in June. This program announcement got lost amongst the busy virtualization news in November, but given the proliferation of virtualization software across the industry, this program may well prove to be unique. It represents an industry leading step by Microsoft to provide customers validation of 3rd party virtualization solutions running the Windows OS.  This program is a major forward step when others in industry are taking a step back.
  • Licensing: this area continues to be a big challenge across the industry. And it’s not just customers, but also partners. To which, at a recent Gartner conference, a Gartner analyst made the following points when we were talking about licensing for virtualization:
    • Most ISVs do not have virtualization licensing policies; Microsoft does and is an industry leader in this area
    • More inquiries are with ISVs, not end customers, to help them understand the impact of virtualization
    • Lack of monitoring tools necessary to track usage of virtualized software, which is needed for new licensing models

We’ll continue to evaluate virtualization licensing in the year ahead. Customer feedback to the Windows Server OS licensing has been very positive. So much so that a Windows Server 2008 Standard license will grant one virtual instance (this isn’t the case with WS 2K3 standard). And in short time, the System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise is proving to be the type of progressive licensing that customers want when managing an ever-expanding virtualized infrastructure. SQL also provides an unlimited virtualization license with SQL Server 2005 Enterprise and customers have been very happy with it.  During 2008, we’ll continue to work with customers to refine our polices and also work more closely with the ISV community to help provide leadership and direction for the industry.

With that said, below is a partial list of some of the cool stuff inside Hyper-V beta. And I recommend you register and attend a webcast with me on Dec. 18 at 12:30pm PST [3:30pm EST] about Hyper-V beta. I’ll discuss technical information and answer your questions.

  • Quick Migration and cluster high availability – for migration of VMs for planned and unplanned downtime. BTW, don’t forget that Windows Server 2008 now includes support for up to 16 nodes! (up from 8 in WS 2k3)
  • Hyper-V is now included by default in Windows Server manager, which means enabling virtualization is as easy as installing any other role.
  • Support for running Hyper-V with Server Core in the parent partition
  • Volume Shadow Services support
  • VHD Tools support (compaction, expansion and inspection)
  • Hyper-V MMC only installation. The Hyper-V MMC can be installed on Windows Server 2008 without installing the complete Hyper-V role enabling remote management of Hyper-V servers
  • Support for up to 4 virtual SCSI controllers per VM, with 255 VHDs per controller; see demo
  • Support for multiple network adapters per VM; see demo
  • Support for up to 64 GB of memory per VM
  • Note that Hyper-V beta is an English-US only release. The first localized releases will be available prior to RTM.
  • We have made numerous performance, scalability and stability enhancements since the CTP release.  We are quite proud of the quality of this beta release, but it is beta, so please send any issues you might find.

Hyper-V beta includes integration components for the following (guest) operating systems:

  • Windows Server 2003 x86
  • Windows Server 2003 x64
  • Windows Server 2008 x86
  • Windows Server 2008 x64

Integration components for other operating systems will come in future updates to Hyper-V before RTM.  And integration components for Linux are available in beta form today. Once you log-in, enroll in the Linux Integration Components for Microsoft Hyper-V program.

Finally, you can move VMs (i.e., VHDs) from to Hyper-V beta from the September 2007 “Viridian” community technology preview.

  1. Perform complete reinstall of Windows Server 2008 to get the latest version of Hyper-V (upgrades not supported from CTP to beta)
  2. Install Hyper-V Role in Server Manager
  3. Re-create configuration files for each virtual machine (assign memory, assign procs, assign NICs, attach VHDs, etc.) Note: Good idea to record the down configuration information before you reinstall…
  4. Virtual hard disks (VHDs), including all data inside, do not need to be re-created. Integration Components (ICs) must be upgraded.  This is an in-place upgrade and does not require uninstall/reinstall

Happy holidays,

Mike Neil, GM of virtualization strategy