Hyper-V is the 2nd generation of Microsoft’s Virtualization Server Technology of its predecessor Virtual Server 2005 that was originally introduced in September of 2004 which was supported on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2003 Host Platform Operating Systems (X86 and X64 CPU Architecture). Hyper-V was released in June – July time frame of 2008 as an add-on with certain x86-64 editions of Windows Server 2008 and the finalized version was released through Windows Update. Unlike Virtual Server 2005, Hyper-V requires a 64-bit system that has the current generation of 64-bit processors by Intel & AMD (For Intel Pentium Dual Core or Higher and AMD 64 X2 Series). You’ll also need a 64-bit version of Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard, Enterprise, Data Center Editions and when released Windows 8. Windows Server 2008 32 bit editions, IA64 editions, along with Web and Foundation editions of Windows Server 2008 are not supported. The target hardware will also need at a minimum of at least 4GB (8GB Recommended) of RAM. Hyper-V does support creation of both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems in the VMs. Since Hyper-V initial release it is now has a free Stand-Alone Version like its predecessor and has been upgraded to Release 2 (R2) Status.
About Hyper V
Hyper-V’s dynamic memory allows memory needed by the VM to be allocated and de-allocated dynamically (you specify a minimum and maximum) and share unused memory between VMs. You can run 3 or 4 VMs on a machine that has 4GB of RAM.
As for user experience with VMs, Windows provides two mechanisms to peek into the Virtual Machine: the VM Console (Very Similar to the VM Console in Virtual Server 2005) and the Remote Desktop Connection.
The VM Console (also known as VMConnect) is a console view of the VM. It provides a single monitor view of the VM with resolution up to 1600×1200 in 32-bit color. This console provides you with the ability to view the VM’s booting process. However, this can be very limited in user’s experience of the Virtual Machine.
For a richer experience, you can connect to the VM using the Remote Desktop Connection (RDC). With RDC, the VM takes advantage of capabilities present on your physical PC. For example, if you have multiple monitors, then the VM can show its graphics on all these monitors. Similarly, if you have a multipoint touch-enabled interface on your PC, then the VM can use this interface to give you a touch experience. The VM also has full multimedia capability by leveraging the physical system’s speakers and microphone. The Host OS (i.e. the main Windows OS that’s managing the VMs) can also share its clipboard and folders with the VMs. And finally, with RDC, you can also attach any USB device directly to the VM.
For storage, you can add multiple hard disks to the IDE or SCSI controllers available in the VM. You can use Virtual Hard Disks (.VHD or .VHDX files) or actual disks that you pass directly through to the virtual machine. VHDs can also reside on a remote file server, making it easy to maintain and share a common set of predefined VHDs across a team. Hyper-V VMs also have the ability to use attached ISCSI Disk connectivity.
Hyper-V’s “Live Storage Move” capability helps your VMs to be fairly independent of the underlying storage. With this, you could move the VM’s storage from one local drive to another, to a USB stick, or to a remote file share without needing to stop your VM.
Another great feature of Hyper-V is the ability to take snapshots (Something that was not available in Virtual Server 2005) of a virtual machine while it is running. A snapshot saves everything about the virtual machine allowing you to go back to a previous point in time in the life of a VM, and is a great tool when trying to debug tricky problems. At the same time, Hyper-V virtual machines have all of the manageability benefits of Windows. Windows Update can patch Hyper-V components, so you don’t need to set up additional maintenance processes. And Windows has all the same inherent capabilities with Hyper-V installed.
As with any other Virtualization product, features or applications that depend on specific hardware will not work well in a VM. For example, games or applications that require processing with GPUs (without providing software fallback) might not work well.
Why Bring Hyper-V into Windows 8 ?
Whether you are a software developer, an IT administrator, or simply an enthusiast, many of us need to run multiple operating systems, usually on many different machines. Not all of us have access to a full suite of labs to house all these machines, and so virtualization can be a space, money, and time saver.
In building Windows 8 Microsoft worked to enable Hyper-V that has been part of the last 2 releases of Windows Server (2008 and 2008 R2), to function on the client OS as well. So for Many of Small business and Home Consumers that cannot afford that hefty price tag for the big enterprise server operating systems making it available to in a client based operating systems like the upcoming Windows 8 help meets Microsoft’s Consumers Needs.
Hyper-V enables developers and the small business consumers to easily maintain multiple test environments and provides a simple mechanism to quickly switch between these environments without incurring additional hardware costs. For example, old versions of Internet Explorer to support web developers or running an obsolete application your business still depends on a Virtual Machine that runs on the operating system that will support the applications functionality. You also know that many of use virtualization to try out new things without risking changes to your own Network Environment that you do not want to accidently try on your working PC or Server but safely know if you screw something up that there are no consequences to pay.
In closing, I think Microsoft is making the right step incorporating their server virtualization technology in their next release of their Client/Desktop Operating System. This will help close the loop between their Enterprise and Small Business/Home office Consumers in Microsoft’s arsenal of varying products. This will also give Microsoft the competitive edge with VMware’s Workstation desktop virtualization appliance. Just think why a consumer would pay $190 dollars to put something on a Windows OS when starting with Windows 8 you can almost get the same product advantages for free with your Business or small Office Client OS. Granted $190 dollars is not that bad of a price tag for most people but for those IT Departments or even Home Office consumers that are pinching pennies Hyper-V maybe the most cost effective way to go in choosing what type Virtualization to go with, especially if it offers almost the same services as VMware Workstation.
Guest Operating Systems Legality
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain the legal licenses and genuine copies of any operating system that is used for the Virtual Machine on the Virtual Appliance. Even if the OS is not being installed on a physical machine the same legal rights do apply to all virtualized Guest Operating Systems.
I want to give a special thanks to our own Jim McCarthy from our UWHS staff in bringing this new addition into Microsoft’s next version of their Client/Desktop Operating System Windows 8 to my attention. I would also like to give a big thanks to Mr. Steven Sinofsky over at MDSN for his article breaking the news of Hyper-V making its way into Windows 8, much of what I wrote here is based on that article.
Virtual Server 2005 R2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_Server_2005_R2