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Mailbag: Hyper-V More Than Hype?

On Monday, Doug posted a letter from reader Mark who was less than enthusiastic about Hyper-V. Here are some more of your thoughts on the Microsoft hypervisor:

Sounds like he has a axe to grind. Hyper-V demonstrates a much more mature software product than the pre 1.0 that the reviewer exclaims. I have found Hyper-V to be an extremely stable and flexible product with a full Windows 2008 install or with a Server Core, the latter being much more locked down and hacker-safe.

In the next year or two, this product will have "world-class" written all over it.

The issue at hand is that everyone (including Microsoft) is comparing this product to VMware ESX. Just because they strip the Start menu out of the OS to make Server Core, doesn't mean this is a bare-bones hypervisor. It's merely an evolution of Virtual Server allowing deeper penetration into VMware-entrenched territory. Now with the use of clustering, you can perform cold migrations and have the ability to use a ridiculous amount of processors in a VM.

There are other more glaring problems than killing a host through the parent partition -- like not being able to over-commit the level of RAM or iSCSI-only support. Hyper-V is a good ESX 1.0 competitor but no one will take it seriously until you get those two limitations straightened out, along with Live Migration.

I have been using Hyper-V for about two months with few problems except for the following:

  • NO support for wireless adapters. Yes, you may argue that there is no place for wireless in a server environment, but what about us developers who emulate the complete client system on our laptops? I have been told that the reason is that Microsoft can not clone the MAC address of the wireless -- but it worked with Virtual PC!
  • Still no USB support.

As to running out of resources on the root/parent machine, that has never been a problem. I have configured it as core and not used the core machine for anything (other than Hyper-V). Bottom line, I think it is a good product and will become even better when Exchange 2007 is certified to run on Hyper-V.

VMware Enterprise has many very cool features that Hyper-V lacks, but the reality is that Hyper-V is version 1 and really cheap to buy and use! For a test environment, it works great and is easy to use and set up. Heck, VMware now gives some of its products away for free in reaction to/anticipation of Microsoft's entry to the virtualization market.

The writing is on the wall for VMware. By the time Hyper-V is in rev 3 or 4, it will be able to support enterprise virtualization very well. Why pay 5K a processor for VMware Enterprise when you can get it much cheaper in Windows? Why hire a VMware OS expert when anyone that can admin Windows can admin Hyper-V?

I'm planning to try Hyper-V as a small computer science experiment so that I can run Vista and XP in parallel. Toward this end, I built a new machine. I've installed Vista Ultimate on this machine while waiting for the Hyper-V RTM and discovered that it does a good job of supporting the hardware the Vista analyzer said wouldn't be supported (Epson Perfection 1650 scanner and ATI HDTV Wonder). But even so, I want to continue with my experiment to see what happens and possibly write up my experience for the benefit of others. This is going to be a budget project; I got Vista Ultimate and a one-year Windows 2008 trial from Microsoft for free. Now my wait for Hyper-V is over and I'm ready to start.

But where to start? This is the purpose of this e-mail. Do I have to build a new system from scratch, starting with Win08, reinstall Vista, etc.? Or can I "import" an existing installation of Vista and install a new version of XP? And what do I do with the downloadable images Microsoft provides? Should I use a core Win08 60-day trial and just extend it three more times as Microsoft suggests? Then can I update that install with my one-year trial product key? Can I extend my one-year trial three times? Does virtualization share peripheral hardware (i.e., NICs) or do I really need to have two machines worth of hardware on one motherboard? It doesn't seem likely that two OSes can share the same MAC/IP address, I must admit, but that would be quite a problem if I wanted to run 12 OSes as "astute reader Mark" desires to do.

Keep the info coming. I'm indeed about as giddy as Mark suggests but I'm not going to let his comments spoil my buzz. I can see from his comments why an actual server administrator might be a bit less than over-enthused by Hyper-V 1.0. If I can get just XP Pro and Vista Ultimate to coexist, I'll be one happy camper.

And after Doug's announcement that he's once again manning the Redmond Report column full-time, Gordon wanted to get just one thing straight:

Not THIS purple dinosaur?!

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Posted by Doug Barney on July 02, 2008