Hyper-V live migration boosts Microsoft's server virtualization play

Microsoft's adding live migration to Hyper-V 2.0. Will that be enough to close the gap with VMware in the server virtualization market?

Microsoft's server virtualization push will get a major boost when the company adds new features to Hyper-V, including live migration, according to solutions providers and end users.

But is that enough for Microsoft to pull even with VMware Inc.? That's up for debate.

Microsoft released the beta version of Hyper-V 2.0, its virtualization hypervisor, earlier this month. It is available as part of the Windows Server 2008 R2 beta or as a standalone product. By including live migration, Hyper-V 2.0 provides Microsoft's answer to VMware VMotion, which lets users move virtual machines (VMs) between physical servers with no downtime. Hyper-V 2.0 also offers quick migration, which reduces but does not eliminate such downtime.

"That was the one thing that was keeping some people away from [Hyper-V]," said Janssen Jones, associate director of auxiliary information technology infrastructure at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. "I feel fairly certain that you'll see a mass adoption toward it now."

IU is primarily a VMware shop, but Jones' department went with Hyper-V because of its compatibility with Microsoft System Center. As Microsoft works to undercut VMware on price as well -- the company eliminated Hyper-V's $28 price tag this fall -- Jones said he expects more users to make the same decision.

"If it can get anywhere near parity, that's what people are going to use," he said.

Jones expects Microsoft to release Hyper-V 2.0 to manufacturing in September or October. Most users won't even start testing it until then, so it will be at least a year before Microsoft and partners reap the benefits of Hyper-V live migration, he said.

Hyper-V live migration will help Microsoft's server virtualization play, but VMware still has the better offering, said Jack Kaiser, vice president of sales and marketing for International Computerware Inc., a VMware partner in Marlborough, Mass. The key for solutions providers that sell VMware will be to fight the buzz that Microsoft is generating, he said.

"Microsoft is an amazing marketing machine, and there's no doubt we can't ignore them," he added.

Microsoft's partner-friendliness, at least compared to VMware's, is another advantage, said Betsy Topel, practice manager for Presidio Networked Solutions, a VMware partner in Woburn, Mass.

"VMware has an immature channel model compared to Microsoft," she said. "Microsoft's never going to compete with partners."

But she agreed with Kaiser that VMware is still in the lead. By combining high availability (HA) with other advanced features, only VMware has a true business continuity offering, she said.

Presidio's engineers have tested the Hyper-V live migration features, and they like it, Topel said. At IU, Jones did run into some trouble, because his servers did not have the recommended number of network cards (four; one each for the host, the guest, live migration traffic and the clustered shared volume file system). But he said his department should get the additional network cards and have Hyper-V live migration up and running by next week.

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