Microsoft Claims Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V Will Win Converts From VMware

Microsoft touts enhancements in Hyper-V and Windows Server 2012 with more secure multi-tenancy, higher performance and flexibility. A migration software vendor says this could move VMware users to Hyper-V.

Enhancements to Microsoft's Windows Server 2012 beta, including to Hyper-V, are a match for VMware's capability and could give data center operators reason to switch from market leader VMware, experts said at a Microsoft IT workshop in Silicon Valley.

Hyper-V in Server 2012 improves security and isolation in multi-tenant cloud environments, allows the migration of virtual machines from one physical server to another without any downtime, enables network virtualization and boosts performance on several metrics, said Chris Avis, senior IT evangelist at Microsoft, who led a daylong IT Camp on Server 2012 May 17 at the Microsoft campus in Mountain View, Calif.

The performance improvements in Server 2012 over the current version, Server 2008 R2 SP1, are numerous. They include increases in the number of logical processors on server hardware, to 160 from 64; in the amount of physical memory, to 2TB from 1TB; in the number of virtual processors per host server, to 1,024 from 512; in the number of virtual processors per virtual machine, to 32 from four; in the amount of memory per virtual machine, to 1TB from 64GB; in the number of active virtual machines, to 1,024 from 384; in the maximum number of virtual nodes in a single server cluster, to 64 from 16; and in the total number of virtual machines, to 4,000 from 1,000.

"What I think it does is it really levels the playing field with VMware," Avis said in an interview. "Raising our game so that we support a similar amount of processors, a similar amount of RAM and to be able to do the same amount of live migration scenarios levels the playing field of Hyper-V, versus VMware."

The audience of about 60 data center IT professionals attending the workshop seemed to agree, as comments such as "wow!" were heard frequently from various people as Avis described new features and capabilities.

"This is very impressive technology," said Don Heinsen, a consultant and Microsoft Certified Professional Systems Engineer. "It's clear that Microsoft is investing tremendous amounts of time, resources and R&D effort in developing the technology."

Multi-tenant security and isolation is improved with the addition of a Hyper-V Extensible Switch, which handles network traffic between virtual machines, within the external network and in the host server operating system. The system can also create a private virtual local-area network (PVLAN), to isolate virtual machines from each other and create communities of virtual machines that can exchange data packets with each other.

Hyper-V, introduced by Microsoft in 2008, also enables network virtualization, an emerging capability in data center environments. Virtualization has been widely adopted in server and storage environments, but the network has until recently been an impediment to optimizing the benefits of virtualization. The Hyper-V enhancements also improve migration of virtual machines from one physical server to another without any downtime for the application involved.

"Downtime is not an option," Avis said during his presentation. "If Angry Birds is not working, the world comes to an end."

Vision Solutions is a software company with a product called Double-Take Move, which manages migration of physical to virtual machines, virtual to physical, old to new hardware, and one hypervisor to another. David Paquette, a product manager for Vision Solutions, who also presented at the workshop, admitted his firm has had few migrations from VMware to Hyper-V, but the Hyper-V enhancements coming in Server 2012 could convince some people to switch. Paquette specifically cited the scalability improvements coming in Hyper-V that should make it "a lot more compelling" to customers.

"There were a lot of limitations with Server 2008, so we anticipate a lot more customers looking at Hyper-V as a very serious hypervisor platform for virtualization," Paquette said.

Windows Server 2012, which had previously been dubbed Windows Server "8" beta, is in beta release except for evaluation and purchase to create private clouds. It will be widely available later this year.