Microsoft dives into virtualization and fully supports it

by ron on September 8, 2008

VMware has almost held a monopoly on virtualization technology for the past few years.

Microsoft’s competing product has previously been Virtual Server 2005 R2, which really competes head on with VMware Server, rather than with VMware ESX.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 and VMware Server are products which are installed on top of Windows Server (or also Linux in the case of VMware Server). Both of these products are free, but are slowed down by the fact that the host needs to run a fairly bloated operating system just in order to be able to run the virtualization technology on top of it.

The new breed of virtualization technology don’t require a bloated operating system underneath. They simply run directly on top of the hardware, and are called hypervisors. Virtual machines can then run directly on top of the hypervisor, with no other software needed. This greatly improves the performance which can be obtained, and therefore translates to being able to run a greater amount of virtual machines per physical server.

VMware’s hypervisor product is called VMware ESXi, and Microsoft’s hypervisor is currently Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V or Hyper-V Server 2008.

Here is a table showing you the different flavors of Hyper-V (click the table for the full size image):

Microsoft have launched a whole suite of virtualization technologies, and will be attacking the virtualization market aggressively. I’m sure that VMware isn’t going to stand by and watch their huge market-share evaporate, but there’s not too many battles which Microsoft go on which they end up losing. So at a minimum you can expect to see Microsoft capturing a significant portion of the virtualization market.

The focus of this article is Hyper-V, but in future articles I’ll cover the other components contained in the suite of Microsoft virtualization products. Here are some videos of the recent ‘Get Virtual Now’ launch, which will give you further information on the virtualization products on offer from Microsoft.

The best news is that Microsoft have updated their product support policies such that major products such as Exchange 2007, SQL, Sharepoint and other Microsoft products are now supported inside a virtualization solution, such as Hyper-V or even VMware ESXi (and others within the Server Virtualization Validation Program). Here’s the formal announcement.

Note that you do have to sometimes read the fine-print. For example, support for running Exchange in a virtualized environment requires running Exchange 2007 SP1, installed on top of Windows Server 2008 (within the virtual machine guest), not running the unified messaging role, and other minor details you need to be aware of.

To be honest, I was expecting Microsoft to only support their own Hyper-V technology for major products such as SQL or Exchange, in order to use this as leverage to convince customers to leave VMware technology behind and come across to Microsoft Hyper-V.

The fact that they haven’t done so is excellent news for customers already running VMware….but this also means that VMware should watch out, since Microsoft seem confident enough that they can capture a large portion of the virtualization market without having to play dirty.

Competition is always a great thing for customers. Let the battle begin!

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