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Microsoft claims Hyper-V will leapfrog VMware

The next version of Hyper-V promises management and storage features that VMware can't touch. VMware disagrees.

By , Network World
October 27, 2011 12:38 PM ET

Network World - After years of playing catch-up to VMware the upcoming version of Hyper-V is wowing the Microsoft faithful with unique new features -- and gaining the attention of VMware users, too, one consultant says.

Hyper-V will get an overhaul as part of the release of Microsoft's Windows Server 8. Microsoft has not announced a ship date for Windows Server 8, although roadmap documents released some time ago pegged it for 2012 (earning it the nickname of Windows Server 2012). A developer's preview of Windows Server 8, including Hyper-V, was made available during Microsoft's BUILD conference in Anaheim, Calif., in September.

BACKGROUND: Windows Server 8 First Looks

The new Hyper-V is "at least on par and in some ways better than VMware," says Aidan Finn, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional working as an IT consultant in Dublin, Ireland. The MVP program honors individuals who share knowledge about Microsoft products but are independent of the company. Finn is the author of "Mastering Hyper-V Deployment" [Sybex, November 2010].

"Certainly, at the moment, Hyper-V is a better value for the money. When you start looking at some of the new features, it catches up with vSphere, and users are also getting some stuff that vSphere only does at top end," Finn says.

Finn says Hyper-V exceeds VMware in three areas: support for cheap server-attached storage and Just A Bunch Of Disks (JBOD) with features such as Share Nothing Live Migration; site-to-site failover for disaster recovery with a feature called Hyper-V Replica; and virtual networking with a feature called Hyper-V Extensible Switch. In addition, Hyper-V now scales to massive sizes, supporting more logical processors and allowing each virtual machine access to more virtual CPUs.

Mike Schutz, Microsoft's senior director of Windows Server and virtualization, contends that Hyper-V adds features that none of its competitors have.

CLOUD-BOUND: Windows Server 8: To the Cloud!

Most of Hyper-V's gains over VMware start with storage, Finn believes. Hyper-V no longer requires a NAS, SAN or cluster. "VMware has had vMotion and high availability features, [but] they've been treated as the same thing in the Hyper-V world," he says.

No more.

Right now, "you have to store virtual machines on a SAN," Finn says. Ergo, if you want to give Hyper-V a try, you have to have a SAN or be willing to buy one. That's a very expensive thing to do, even on the low end. This changes in Windows 8. Hyper-V will be able to store virtual machines on a file server. Microsoft invested in remote direct memory access (RDMA) and built a new version of the Server Message Block file server protocol, dubbed SMB 2.2, which uses RDMA. This lets Hyper-V access files on another machine's file server, and allows users to build an active/active cluster between server-attached storage devices. So if a file server fails, it automatically fails over to another one, Finn says.

Live Migration will be supported between the server-attached storage devices, too, a feature Microsoft calls Share Nothing Live Migration. This is something "no one else in the market is really able to do today," Schutz says. Share Nothing allows a virtual hard drive and a virtual machine to be transferred between server-attached disks over a network connection.

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