Microsoft Says Hyper-V RC 1 Good to Go

Rushing to get into the increasingly profitable desktop virtualization market, Microsoft has made release candidate 1 (RC 1) of its Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V hypervisor available for download.

Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft’s server and tools business, made the announcement during his keynote speech at Citrix Synergy, held this week in Houston, Tex.

Hyper-V RC 1 is a “feature-complete version with three areas of improvement over the beta release, RC 0 — improved stability and usability, improved performance, and additional guest operating system and language support,” Microsoft said.

But already there are holes in this proclamation: Hyper-V RC 1 doesn’t work with Microsoft’s own virtual machine (VM) management software, and the only other guest operating systems it supports in addition to Microsoft’s are Novell SUSE Linux, which partners with Microsoft.

A beta version of Hyper-V was included with Windows Server 2008 when the latter launched in February, and Microsoft released RC 1 of the hypervisor in March. HyperV is scheduled for release to manufacturing, when it will be burned onto CDs, in August.

Microsoft warned that Hyper-V RC 1 is not compatible with the current beta release of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008, and that users who are testing SCVMM should continue doing so with Hyper-V RC 0, the previous release.

The problems stem from limited functionality in SCVMM 2008, though Microsoft said it will update the product later to support Hyper-V RC 1.

The two are on different development schedules because of Microsoft’s need to get Hyper-V out the door. “They want to push Hyper-V out the door as fast as they possibly can because they see the success of VMware and want to tap into that market,” analyst Mark Bowker, with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), told InternetNews.com

And while Microsoft won’t make any money with Hyper-V, getting it out quickly helps plant the the flag for future advances into virtualization.

“Hyper-V comes free with Windows Server 2008 or will be available for $28 for a standalone copy, so it’s no money-maker; Microsoft is betting on managing virtual machines and on applications,” Bowker said.

Instead of taking VMware on head to head in terms of hypervisors, Microsoft decided to bank on SCVMM, which “will be able to manage both Hyper-V and VMware’s ESX,” Bowker said, adding that this will be “a pretty big deal.” He characterized SCVMM as “a pretty impressive product.”

Bowker said SCVMM’s inability to work with Hyper-V RC 1 won’t matter to enterprise IT, which won’t be purchasing either product for at least six months. By then, “the two will synch up and be on the same page,” he added.

Late to the party

There’s no doubt that Microsoft is late to the virtualization party, but its strength on the ground is unbeatable, with its vast installed base. For instance, a survey of more than 700 companies conducted last year by the ESG showed that 20 percent of those, which had virtualized their systems, were using Microsoft for virtualization.

They were using Virtual Server 2005 R2 in production environments, not testing or development, according to Bowker.

Microsoft will catch up to the market leaders fast, and “there could be more production environments running Hyper-V than there are running VMware ESX in 12 to 18 months,” Bowker said, adding that, while VMware and Citrix will run higher-end applications such as SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange, “print and file servers are production workloads to many companies and I can see these running on Hyper-V.”

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Meanwhile, Microsoft’s claim that support for new guest operating systems has been added to Hyper-V RC 1 is true – if you discount the fact that all but two of the operating systems the hypervisor supports are Microsoft operating systems, and those two are versions of Novell SUSE Linux.

This is merely a tip of the hat to other vendors’ operating systems. Microsoft “wants to show that they can virtualize non-Windows environments, and their existing relationships with Novell mean it’s the best way to go to market with their product,” Bowker said.

Microsoft might later add support for Linspire, another Linux distributor that it has teamed up with, to the lineup.

While Microsoft has been trying for years to squash open source software, it has split the Linux market by teaming up with Novell and Linspire while at the same time threatening to sue other Linux vendors for infringements on more than 200 unspecified Microsoft patents.

The Linux community has accused Microsoft of dirty deeds.

The Linux market will probably remain closed to Microsoft’s efforts, because “the larger Linux shops will use Citrix XenServer or a Xen-based product or VMware instead of Hyper-V to standardize on server virtualization,” Bowker said.

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