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Virtually Speaking: All Eyes on Hyper-V

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jul 1, 2008


Get the champagne out of the cooler, rev up the servers, Hyper-V has arrived. If you didn't break out in jubilation from the news, take heart. The general response from this vantage point was muted. So muted in fact, that perhaps the only element of surprise was the timing: Hyper-V was made available a whopping two months ahead of schedule. Unusual for any software product, but in the case of Microsoft, about which delayed ship dates is pretty much a running gag, it is unheard of and no doubt indicative of the urgency Redmond feels toward the technology.

Hyper-V is here. Will it live up to the hype?

Or perhaps, Microsoft hopes that Hyper-V's release will give Windows Server 2008 the kick it needs. For whatever reason, companies haven't jumped on the latest operating system since it's late-February launch.

Perhaps it's because, as Roy Illsley, a senior research analyst at Butler Group noted in the above-referenced article, "The codebase of Server 2008 is the same as Vista, and no one wants Vista ... Equally, there is no compelling case to implement Server 2008 just yet."

Add to that, Windows Server 2003 is humming along happily in most environments, and no company wants to be the first to deploy a new product into production.

But now Hyper-V, the most sought-after (and certainly hyped) feature in the OS, is here. Will companies chomping at the bit to virtualize jump? Bear in mind that this is a pretty deep and untapped pool — while some surveys estimate virtualization's penetration to be as high as 14 percent, the more frequently cited stats are between 2 percent and 5 percent. So VMware's current kingpin status is far less solid than it would like you to believe.

Hyper-V is an easy choice for those still sitting on the fence that want to go virtual. Given Microsoft's reach, and its eventual penetration (because let's face it, Windows Server 2008 will inevitably penetrate the majority of data centers eventually), the overlap between the unvirtualized and Windows shops is pretty massive. And that doesn't even take into account the likelihood of mixed environments, from a pure OS and hypervisor perspective.

Interestingly, though not surprisingly, it was the release itself, not the product, that made news last week. After all, anyone who's been awake this year has been treated to a rundown of the feature set, and drama behind it, ad nauseum. The majority of news outfits, InternetNews, included, opted to focus on the response to the release. From Microsoft competitors to partners, the sense seemed to be, "it's finally here, now we can really do battle."

VMware, not surprisingly, is wearing a stoic face. John Gilmartin, senior manager, product marketing, told ServerWatch he believes that at this point, Hyper-V is more in competition with VMware Server than ESX." He noted Microsoft's product is "just a hypervisor" and moreover is completely reliant on the OS.

Customers, he said, are "looking for functionality beyond the basic, beyond the hypervisor."

VMware's response to the release is to "make sure our offering brings compelling value to customers. Microsoft is a first-generation hypervisor product, which is what we've been doing from the beginning," Gilmartin said.

Not a whole lot new there, and it would certainly be a mistake for VMware to completely discount Microsoft. Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect and Netscape all had their place in the sun at one time. First to market or best technology doesn't guarantee a continued market share.

While many eyes focused on VMware, the other major virtualization environment was largely overlooked. Will Citrix XenServer and the various Xen-based offerings on the market be able to hold their own? At present, they lack both VMware's market share and marketing muscle and no doubt have the most to lose. Some tech bloggers have even made such seemingly wild predictions as, "Citrix will drop the open source Xen hypervisor for Hyper-V. The rest of the open source world drops Xen for KVM."

Let the games begin. Be sure to buckle up, because only one thing is for certain — it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

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