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Microsoft partners see Hyper-V catching on among SMBs

The Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 beta release failed to generate much buzz, but Microsoft partners at WPC 2010 still see growing interest in Hyper-V.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 beta adds new virtualization features, but they won't do much to attract new Hyper-V customers, several Microsoft partners said.

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Hyper-V to gain dynamic memory allocation

Instead, attendees here at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) said they see a growing market for Hyper-V for other reasons. Most customers in smaller-than-enterprise shops want something inexpensive and simple to use, attendees said.

"There's definitely a lot of growing interest in Hyper-V, particularly from small and medium-sized customers," said Carlos Carreras, vice president of business development for DataCore Software, an independent storage virtualization vendor.

Inside Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1

Microsoft announced the Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 beta this week. As previously reported, it adds Dynamic Memory for server virtualization and RemoteFX for desktop virtualization.

Dynamic Memory is Redmond's answer to the Memory Overcommit feature that has long been a staple of the VMware platform. Memory Overcommit lets users allocate more memory to a virtual machine (VM) than is physically able on the server. With Dynamic Memory, users pool available memory on the host and assign a minimum and maximum RAM value to each VM.

"The key there is you're not over-allocating resources," said John Kadianos, owner of Hyper Technologies, a Toronto-based systems integrator. "It ensures that all my VMs come up."

VMware proponents have held up the lack of advanced memory management as one of Hyper-V's biggest flaws. But Carreras and other Microsoft partners said they never got many complaints from their customers. Eric Courville, founder and chief operating officer of VM6 Software, a Toronto-based independent software vendor, said Dynamic Memory will help Microsoft and its partners compete in accounts where advanced memory management is an issue.

"Anything that adds value to Hyper-V, we'll leverage," he said.

On the desktop virtualization side, RemoteFX is designed to improve video quality for end users. An executive for a Microsoft desktop virtualization partner said RemoteFX is not a big deal, because most customers don't care about the underlying technology. They just want their infrastructure to work and to be easy to manage, and that's the solutions provider's job, this partner said.

Microsoft, partners highlight Hyper-V simplicity

Many partners said VMware is more advanced and needs to be to meet enterprise customer needs. But in the SMB market, cost and simplicity are more important than check-box features.

Over two days of keynotes and breakout sessions, Microsoft executives hammered home their pitch that Hyper-V is "the Windows you know." That's compared to VMware, which they labeled as an extra layer of complexity in the data center.

"It sounds like a marketing pitch, but the first time I installed Hyper-V, I instinctively knew what to do," Kadianos said. "It does resonate."

Then there's cost. In a presentation on the WPC floor, Gartner research director Chris Wolf noted that live migration and high availability -- the hypervisor features most small and midmarket organizations want -- are free in Hyper-V, but not in VMware vSphere.

Thanks to these two issues, Hyper-V's appeal among SMBs is paying off for Microsoft. Wolf said Microsoft's server virtualization market share is expected to reach at least 27% by 2012, up from 8% in 2008.

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