Do Hyper-V's Improvements Make It a Stronger VMware Rival?

Hyper-V, part of the Windows Server 2008 R2 platform, provides some improvements that were absolutely necessary for Microsoft to even think of competing with VMware's latest offerings. Are they enough? eWEEK Labs' early look at the new Hyper-V shows that Microsoft still has a lot of ground to cover.

Microsoft released Windows Server 2008 R2 with a newly improved version of Hyper-V. Even so, VMware is still miles ahead in terms of the features and innovation that lay the foundation for sustainable virtualization for midsize and large enterprises.

In fact, I think VMware-with its just-released vSphere 4-has raised the bar so high that Microsoft's best hope is to be the low-cost leader. But while cheap, "You get what you pay for" products might work in a consumer category, they won't play too well in IT shops that depend on high-performance data operations to stay in business.

That said, here's what's new and compelling in Hyper-V.

The previous version of Hyper-V had Quick Migration to move virtual machines from one physical host to another. Now, Quick Migration is gone and Live Migration is here.

Click here for a look at improvements in the Hyper-V implementation.

In the weeks ahead, I'll be conducting extensive Live Migration tests on the Labs' Hewlett-Packard and Sun Xeon 5500 ("Nehalem")-based systems. But, for now, let's just say that Quick Migration was so inferior to VMware's VMotion that Microsoft had to shore up this function in Hyper-V.

I suspect that Live Migration has some catching up to do with similar VMware features that have been in field use for several years. When it comes to failover, high availability and load balancing, there is no substitute for production experience. This is one area in which cheap and OK is trumped by market-priced and reliable.

Cluster Shared Volumes are also improved in this version of Hyper-V and play an important role in making VMs highly available. The fact that these clustering enhancements support Live Migration makes them important, but they are no means innovative.

Included among the improvements is a best-practices tool to help ensure proper system configuration. I'm anxious to get started putting a clustered Hyper-V environment together here in the lab. I'll be making extensive use of this tool to see how helpful it is in putting my storage and computing resources into correct alignment.

Microsoft does have a leg up on VMware in at least one area.

Sometime in the next couple of months, Microsoft will release the next version of its System Center Virtual Machine Manager. Microsoft has years of experience in managing large numbers of Windows systems, as well as an almost equal number of years in working with third-party tool makers. Even though most of Microsoft's management experience is with Microsoft-only tools, this could be the edge it needs to win over the virtualization hearts and minds of IT managers, who will soon be measured on how well they manage their virtualized data centers (if they aren't already).

Look for my review of Hyper-V as part of eWEEK Labs' extensive coverage of the Windows Server 2008 R2 platform and Windows 7.

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at [email protected]