Microsoft made the feature-complete Release Candidate for Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V available to customers and partners March 19, as the company moves to meets its own August deadline to deliver the final code.
“This is a key milestone signaling that Microsoft is on track to deliver Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V virtualization by August 2008,” Bill Hilf, the general manager of the Windows Server division, said in a statement.
The release candidate, which can be downloaded here, includes an expanded list of tested and qualified guest operating systems, including Windows Server 2003 SP2, Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP1, Windows Vista SP1, and Windows XP SP3.
Host server and language support has been expanded to include the 64-bit standard, enterprise and database versions of Windows Server 2008, but only English, partial German, and partial Japanese language options are currently available, while performance and stability has been improved for scalability and throughput workloads.
“This milestone is important to the hundreds of customers and partners in the early adopter programs, and those of you trialing Hyper-V on your own, because it is feature complete, better performing than the beta, and you’ll have a better experience using it,” Mike Neil, Microsoft’s general manager of virtualization strategy, said in a blog post.
The three most common Windows Server 2008 roles early adopters are running within Hyper-V are IIS, application server and Terminal Services, he said, adding that the four most deployed Microsoft applications are SQL Server 2005 and 2008, Exchange Server and Forefront.
“More than half of the customers are running an antivirus/security application, nearly 50 percent are running a backup appliance at this point, and around 75 percent of the customers are running Hyper-V with some attached storage. At the same time we’re starting to see more ISV partners announce plans to support Hyper-V so, overall, we’re seeing good enterprise uptake of Hyper-V, Neil said.
But Hyper-V is late to the game, with both major Linux vendors Red Hat and Novell’s SUSE already shipping server operating systems that include an integrated Xen hypervisor.
VMware is dismissive
Market leader VMware has also been dismissive of Microsoft’s upcoming product, with Bogomil Balkansky, VMware’s senior director of product marketing, telling eWEEK in December 2007 that its ESX Server is a comparable, but better, product.
“Hyper-V is Microsoft’s hypervisor, while ESX Server is ours. But I don’t think you can really compare Microsoft’s new offering and our product, which has been available for seven years,” Balkansky said.
“Customers want stability, maturity, robustness and resilience from their virtualization products, and we have the benefit of having it proven in production all around the world, with customers running mission-critical applications on ESX Server,” he said.
Microsoft has also released a Knowledge Base article about the Hyper-V release candidate, which says this provides improvements in security, stability, performance, user experience, forward compatibility of virtual machine configurations, and in the programming model.
It also recommends that “all users of the Hyper-V role are encouraged to apply this update,” but points out that if those virtual machines created on the Hyper-V beta build do not start after the Hyper-V role is updated to a later version, they can use the existing virtual hard disk file.
“However, the virtual machine configuration settings must be re-created. If the virtual machine is running a prerelease version of Windows Server 2008, the virtual machine configuration settings and the operating system .vhd file must be re-created.”
Microsoft executives are also trying hard to position the company’s virtualization offerings as cost-effective, reducing complexity, and covering all the ground from the desktop to the data center.
“This positions us to take advantage of significant growth opportunities in the virtualization space … the availability of the near-final code and the seamless migration path to the final code for Hyper-V brings Microsoft one step closer to making virtualization a reality for customers,” Hilf said.