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Hyper-V's High-Powered Debut

As Microsoft rolls out its new hypervisor, partners ponder the opportunities and challenges created by Redmond's giant leap into the virtualization arena.

Microsoft turned hype into reality in late June when it released the Hyper-V hypervisor, the core of its virtualization strategy and the company's first real shot across the bow of competitor and virtualization titan VMware Inc. Now partners are exploring opportunities related to the product's introduction.

Hyper-V is a bare-metal hypervisor, meaning it sits directly on hardware and controls the creation and operation of virtual machines (VMs). It's intended to compete directly with ESX, VMware's flagship hypervisor. Microsoft hopes to make inroads in the market by offering Hyper-V as part of Windows Server 2008; no additional licenses are needed. ESX, conversely, carries a hefty price tag. VMware, however, owns a huge share of the market-as much as 80 percent or more, according to most estimates-putting Microsoft in the unfamiliar role of underdog, trying to grab market share from the dominant player in the industry.

Microsoft will also offer a standalone version of Hyper-V, independent of Windows 2008. Called Hyper-V Server, it will retail for $28 and should be available in late 2008, officials say.

For many customers and partners that were running Hyper-V while in beta, the long-awaited, heavily publicized launch was more than just hype. In fact, Microsoft officials say, at least 1 million people have downloaded the Hyper-V beta and are using the product. Still, for those to whom Hyper-V had been mostly a series of press releases, the concept has become reality.

Sales Pitch
Hyper-V's introduction has Microsoft partners talking about the opportunities that the product will provide-and about its advantages over ESX. Partners can sum up the most important aspect of the Hyper-V sales pitch in one simple, powerful word: free. Because Hyper-V comes built into Windows Server 2008, clients have already purchased the product when they pay for a Windows Server 2008 license. And that, partners say, offers an enormous selling point over VMware.

"It's an easy sell because it's included and it's free," says Rand Morimoto, president and CEO of Gold Certified Partner Convergent Computing, a network consulting and design specialist based in Oakland, Calif. In addition, he says, "if you compare Hyper-V to VMware, they're identical."

And that's another thing: Functionality-wise, Morimoto says, customers won't lose anything in transitioning from ESX to Hyper-V, or in just implementing Hyper-V, period. But that transition might still prove to be a hard sell, Morimoto notes. VMware, after all, produces a popular set of products and has a presence in nearly every big company in the world -- and in a lot of smaller ones, too.

Providing Options
Morimoto, who sells VMware in addition to working with Microsoft, isn't necessarily out to change that. "The position that we have is that we have a lot of customers that are running VMware," he says. "We're providing customers the option. If a customer puts a foot down and says, 'We're a VMware shop,' we're not going to try to change them."

However, Morimoto says that he wants to consult his clients as to how they might save money down the road by transitioning to Hyper-V. Morimoto suggests a hybrid environment-or possibly a slow transition from VMware to what he calls the more cost-effective (read: "free with Windows Server 2008") Hyper-V.

"We're not asking you to throw [VMware] away, but we're saying think twice about continuing to invest," he says. "Depreciate initial investment [in VMware], and everything after that is free." And for shops that currently have no virtualization, Morimoto calls Hyper-V an obvious choice.

On the Fast Track

In June, Microsoft sponsored the Michael Waltrip Racing team in a Sprint Cup Series NASCAR race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. The team's famous #00 Toyota Camry sported the SBSC's bright blue logo in several locations, including its hood, rear quarter panel and spoiler, throughout the televised 400-mile race.

Meanwhile, a much slower vehicle -- a Microsoft Across America truck -- was parked at the speedway through the race weekend. On-site fans were invited to climb aboard for small business technology demos.

Microsoft officials described the event as an ideal chance to introduce thousands of NASCAR fans to the SBSC brand -- even though the #00, driven by Michael McDowell, ultimately came in 30th out of 43 contenders in that day's race.

Overall Strategy
Meanwhile, Zane Adam, senior director of virtualization in the System Center group at Microsoft, emphasizes that Hyper-V is just one part-albeit the core-of Microsoft's overall virtualization strategy. "We have solutions from the data center all the way to the desktop," Adam says.

Adam says that 85 percent to 90 percent of corporate infrastructures currently aren't virtualized, leaving Microsoft plenty of territory in which to compete with VMware. "That market for us is going to explode," Adam says. "There's such pent-up demand, all we're doing by bringing this to market is fulfilling that demand."

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