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What Hyper-V brings to Windows Server

Hyper-V offers much of the same functionality as its competitors, but its ties to Windows give it a unique position. Learn the three benefits Hyper-V can deliver to your Windows customers in Part 1 of a two-part series.

Service provider takeaway: Service providers should educate their customers about the benefits of Microsoft's Hyper-V to help them in their virtualization decision process.

Companies of all sizes worldwide are looking to virtualization as a seemingly game-changing technology. Server consolidation, simpler management and deployment and high availability are all tangible benefits to be gained from a move to virtual servers and virtually hosted services.

With Hyper-V, Microsoft has introduced an "in-the-box" virtualization solution that works for a lot of scenarios and environments. While much of the functionality of Hyper-V is also found in competitive products, Hyper-V holds appeal because it's built into the operating system (OS) and won't require an additional installation; later versions are expected to offer additional functionality. But your customers may not necessarily understand the product's key points right away. So what does Hyper-V mean for them? Here's a look at the three most important benefits of Hyper-V, in the first of a two-part series on Hyper-V.

  • Consolidation. Server sprawl is a big problem in many organizations; even small businesses suffer from it. Your customers might purchase one server, and then another to run their customer relationship management (CRM) solution, another to run their manufacturing line-of-business application, and on it goes. The sad fact is that most of these applications don't require anywhere near 100% of the total capacity of the system, meaning that customers have a lot of idle hardware they've paid good money for. Virtualization -- and Hyper-V -- allows you to wrap all of these disparate systems into one and increase utilization potential. This saves space, energy, support costs and more. The Server Core installation option new to Windows Server 2008 also supports Hyper-V, so you can squeeze even more utilization out of one box. So customers with multiple servers, each running one specific application, are perfect candidates for Hyper-V.
  • Simpler management and deployment. Virtualization allows your customers to become more nimble. No longer does testing a new service or solution require spec'ing out and acquiring new hardware -- simply provision a virtual machine and go. Products like Hyper-V Manager, which is built into Windows Server 2008, and add-on products, like Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager, make it easy to see how many virtual machines you have, their workloads, status and so on. Customers who like to try new services or wish to sandbox existing applications into their own environments will find Hyper-V, and virtualization in general, a valuable feature.
  • High availability. Part of the idea behind virtualization is not only to eliminate machine duplication and save on costs, but also to ensure that services are more available than they would be on unvirtualized servers. In that context, Hyper-V includes support for clustering across multiple guests, something not offered by other free virtualization tools. Additionally, you can cluster multiple physical machines running the Hyper-V component, so that virtualized instances can fail over to another host should a problem occur on the primary host. The final release of Hyper-V should integrate well with the built-in cluster function in Windows, whereas third-party virtualization tools have to work on top of it and make assumptions in the process.

    Finally, you can migrate virtualized guests from one physical host to another with little downtime. (Competitor VMware offers a product that allows for no downtime when moving a guest, virtualized OS from one host to another.) Beyond that, your customers will gain the freedom of copying VM disk files to a library, making for an easy backup solution. Plus, being able to create virtual machines with OSes and applications installed in a snap provides for quick recovery options. Customers who have significant uptime requirements may find that a clustering solution with Hyper-V provides quick provisioning and recovery from failure.

More virtualization resources
Why would you recommend Microsoft Hyper-V over VMware?

Deploying and using Windows virtualization

How VMware's Server ESX 3i is changing virtualization services

VMware vs. Virtual Server
So when can you get your hands on all of the features and benefits of Hyper-V? The good news is you can get started exploring the product today: There is a release candidate version available right now from Microsoft, with general availability scheduled for the third quarter. Note that you'll need Windows Server 2008 on a 64-bit machine.

About the author
Jonathan Hassell is an author, consultant and speaker residing in Charlotte, N.C. Jonathan's books include RADIUS, Learning Windows Server 2003, Hardening Windows and most recently Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual.

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