It's official: Microsoft Hyper-V now available

Microsoft on Thursday released its Hyper-V virtualization technology, a day after it was widely reported the software was about to go into final release.

People can now download Hyper-V for Windows Server 2008 on Microsoft's Web site. The technology allows people to run multiple OSes -- including Linux -- using one physical hardware running Windows Server, and is available slightly ahead of the latest schedule Microsoft had for the software.

Even so, Windows Server users have been waiting a long time for Hyper-V. The technology originally was supposed to be a part of the Windows Server 2008 release, which itself was pushed back more than once but finally got to users at the end of February.

Hyper-V was expected to be available 180 days, or about six months, after that release, which would have meant by the end of August.

Microsoft ended up delaying the release of Hyper-V, originally code-named "Viridian," because the company opted to pull out some originally planned features.

Virtualization is becoming a key way companies are driving costs out of the data center by running OSes in virtual machines (VMs) rather than physically on servers. Microsoft aims to catch up to virtualization leader VMware in providing this technology for hardware systems not only running on Windows, but also Linux and other OSes.

The company has said it aims to make virtualization a key part of its system-management strategy going forward, and is also expanding beyond hardware into desktop and application virtualization.

According to Microsoft, more than 250 customers have participated in the early adopter programs for Hyper-V, including Land O'Lakes, HotSchedules and The SCOOTER Store.

Hyper-V features a 64-bit kernelized architecture, and is key to Microsoft's plan to move customers from 32-bit to 64-bit versions of Windows Server. Indeed, customers have said the technology should drive this shift, which Microsoft also is pushing by offering some versions of its business software -- such as Exchange Server -- as 64-bit only.

Other features of Hyper-V can include support for up to four multiple processors in a VM environment so multi-threaded applications can be virtualized, Microsoft said. The technology also includes new virtual switch capabilities so VMs can be configured to run with Windows Network Load Balancing Service to balance VM loads on different servers.

Additionally, Hyper-V has a new virtual service provider/virtual service client architecture that allows hardware to access and utilize core resources more effectively, and also is optimized to migrate VMs from one physical host to another with minimal downtime, Microsoft said.

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