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Hyper-V Continues on the Fast Track

Microsoft, famous for its product delays, has taken a different approach with its latest virtualization offering: instead of multiple delays, it's pushing up delivery deadlines.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company announced this morning that Hyper-V, its much-anticipated virtualization hypervisor, is at the release candidate (RC) stage, and can be downloaded as of 1 p.m. ET today. Products at the RC phase are generally feature complete, and generally availability usually follows shortly thereafter.

That would put Hyper-V on a fast track to final release, which Microsoft has consistently maintained would be available about 180 days after the release of Windows Server 2008, which was made available early this month. Windows 2008 included a beta version of Hyper-V.

The surprise announcement follows a similar early release for the first public beta of Hyper-V, which was expected to be part of the Windows 2008 release. Instead, the beta came out last Dec. 13, months ahead of Windows 2008. The RC offering means that the final version of Hyper-V could be out much sooner than its originally promised date.

That has to be good news for IT departments evaluating Hyper-V. The hypervisor comes free with 64-bit copies of Windows 2008, giving admins a chance to test-drive it and see if it's a fit for their operations.

Hypervisors specialize in separating software from the underlying hardware, allowing activities like loading multiple operating systems of the same kind, or multiple different operating systems, on one physical server. Currently, most IT shops have one server OS, with one application, sitting on one server. Server virtualization, also known as hardware-based virtualization, allows much greater usage of a server's capacity, saving money and datacenter space.

Until now, Microsoft's only server virtualization product was Virtual Server, which is a "Type II" hypervisor. That means it's hosted inside an OS such as Windows Server 2003. That architecture has kept Virtual Server limited mostly to non-enterprise use and smaller-scale settings. Hyper-V, by contrast, is a "Type I", or bare-metal, hypervisor. It sits on the hardware, between the metal and the OS. This gives it significant speed and scalability advantages.

Hyper-V is an attempt to move into more into the virtualization mainstream, dominated by VMware and its bare-metal offering, ESX Server. Other hypervisors that Hyper-V will compete with include XenServer from Citrix; Virtual Iron; Parallels; Sun; Red Hat; Oracle and others.

The RC of Hyper-V includes a number of additions from the last beta, although they are all minor in nature. They include support for more guest OSes, including:

  • Windows Vista SP1
  • Windows XP SP3
  • Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10
  • Windows Server 2003 SP2

In addition, more language support has been added, along with more hardware configurations. Microsoft also states in a press release that performance and scalability improvements have been made.

The Hyper-V RC is available here.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization Review.

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