Hyper-V release candidate due for availability today

When Microsoft really is on track with something, it likes to march to a very loud drumbeat. This time, it appears the Hyper-V virtualization platform project is going well, and with the latest milestone, the company's trumpets are blaring.

Holding true to its schedule of final release within six months of the launch of Windows Server 2008, Microsoft this morning advanced the first genuine release candidate of Hyper-V, the built-in virtualization hypervisor for the OS that utilizes the new, underlying virtualization platforms in both AMD and Intel server CPUs.

This morning, Microsoft said it would work to make download links available by 10 am PST; at the time of this writing, they had yet to be made active.


Among the guest operating systems being added today to the "cleared" list are Windows Vista SP1 and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP1. They join the much anticipated Windows XP SP3 and Windows Server 2003 SP2. The inclusion of SUSE Linux in this list is especially important, since a separate set of Linux Integration Components has had to undergo a separate beta process, upon which the success of the entire hypervisor product line depends.

At last month's "Heroes Happen Here" launch event, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made clear the fact that high-class Linux integration is a principal feature that his company had to simply knuckle down and get done, otherwise it wasn't worth bothering with.

"I think it's well known, we're not the market leader in server virtualization," Ballmer admitted. "And you told us virtualization despite the fact that everybody is benefiting nicely from some of our work to work of the market leader...you told us it's too hard, it's too tough, it's too expensive."

So his company's goal, to coin yet another entirely new phrase, was to "democratize virtualization" -- to expand its reach in one fell swoop to between 90% and 100% of servers rather than the current 5% to 7%.

"Now, people said, 'This can't be a big compromise, Steve,"' Ballmer continued. "'You're going to still have to give us the kind of high scalability, high memory, good performance that the market leader [VMware] does. You're going to need to really work hard to make sure that you continue to maintain minimal footprint, because some of the advantage of virtualization is to have fewer moving parts in the market.' They said if you're going to do virtualization, do it right from the get-go. Your virtual machine [had] better run Linux instances, and your management tools [had] better work well, not only with your own virtual machines but with VMware's, with XenSource's, etc. 'But get that all integrated with us, and don't give us a different set of management tools for virtualization and virtual machines than you give us for everything else."'

BetaNews spoke further about that goal with Windows Server Marketing Group Senior Director Bob Visse, who recalled instances where customers came to his team demanding some hard specifications for the kind of server consolidation they'd be likely to receive from Hyper-V.

"We'll see a large bank come to us and say, 'We've got two, three thousand servers, we want to try and consolidate that down to 600. How can we do that?'" related Visse. "This consolidation trend that you see is true. It doesn't mean they're going to build all new apps, and that it's going to be all new software for them. What they're trying to do is minimize the total number of data centers they have...A lot of companies now are being asked to go footprint-neutral, so there's whole environmental aspects to driving this consolidation of the data center, as a reflection of [the fact that] power becomes a very part of the overall cost equation for running a data center."

Earlier that day, a luminary panel that convened at the launch event, featuring Microsoft SVP Bob Muglia, openly discussed the possibility that the very nature of applications themselves might need to change in the wake of virtualization such as Hyper-V changing the nature of the data center. We related some of that discussion to Visse.

"I think there's a fair amount of thinking that needs to happen," he remarked. "I don't think it's an isolation of virtualization, if I can abuse a couple of terms. We talk a lot about having a 'process-oriented development model,' where we focus on insuring that the process of the organization is thought [about] all the way through the development and the deployment of the application...Then we have real standards -- not protocols and APIs, but standards of delivering applications and business intelligence and information to the end user.

"All of this is in vain if, at the end of the day, the end user that you're trying to enable can't get the insight and the business data that they need to go and make decisions," he continued. "That's why part of the focus of what [Ballmer] talked about today was, as we moved to this dynamic infrastructure and being able to add more resources with virtualization, and be able to quickly deploy new Web sites...you'd better have on the front end of that a great way to use and manipulate data, and enable end users to take advantage of that, or it's kind of all in vain."

Microsoft's plan remains not to release Hyper-V as a separate product, but rather as part of a separate package for WS2K8 with a price tag just $28 higher.

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