Microsoft Virtualization Questions


Through the awesomeness that is Twitter, I’ve managed to connect with some of the Virtualization experts who work at Microsoft HQ in Redmond. They’ve very kindly offered to answer any and all questions that you guys can think of…as long as it related to Microsoft virtualization ūüėČ

The main thing people think of with this is Hyper-V and, while that will be a big part of this, there are other elements too. Things such as:

  • Application Virtualization (App-V)
  • Presentation Virtualization (TS/RDS)
  • Desktop Virtualization (VDI)
  • XP Mode
  • MED-V
  • Virtual PC

However, as well as product/feature specific questions, if you’re wondering about Microsoft’s long term strategy etc-please ask too.

This is a great chance to get your feedback directly to MS HQ and to get those burning questions answered straight from the horses’ mouth ūüôā We’re hoping to get this Q & A done by the end of this month (August) so please, add your questions in the comments below and we’ll get started!!!



Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 Released

Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 has been¬†Released To Manufacturing (RTM’d)!

An evaluation version can be downloaded here.

Zane Adam, Senior Director of Virtualizatio Strategy over at MS Redmond said:

“They are seeing the many cost reduction and management simplification benefits of Hyper-V and the SCVMM 2008 integration with the rest of System Center.¬† ¬†Now that RTM is official, I fully expect the rate of Hyper-V deployments to further accelerate.¬† Through the SCVMM 2008 console, administrators can see the entirety of their data center infrastructure ‚Äď physical or virtual. SCVMM 2008 facilitates key functions like P2V (physical to virtual) migration, Intelligent Placement (selecting the best virtual host for a VM), and managing Hyper-V host clusters, to name just a few.¬† SCVMM 2008 works closely with its siblings ‚Äď particularly SC Ops Mgr ‚Äď in identifying consolidation candidates and in Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO), a new feature in which SCVMM 2008 can alert and recommend solutions to administrators about failing virtual machines or hardware.¬† As I mentioned above, this comprehensive view extends throughout the data center as SCVMM 2008 is capable of seeing and managing VMware ESX infrastructure through Virtual Center.”

The full transcript is here.

This is really great. SCVMM is always an integral part of conversation I have with customers artound Hyper-V and once the new version is available (1st of November 2008) I agree that many projects will start moving and being implemented.

Watch a silverlight demo and see the features yourself.

I saw this via Clive Watson’s blog.

What will SCVMM 2008 do over SCVMM 2008?

Virtual Machine Manager can manage multiple VMWare ESX VirtualCenter licences from one place, something that even VMWare can’t do !VMWare are working on it but it will be just a web console and not as fully featured as Microsoft’s VMM.

Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO) is another key feature that puts VMM over ESX. Matt McSpirit explains it well:

“Take an example of a virtualised Exchange Server.¬† If a service crashes inside that VM, and that service is an Exchange related service, and that service crash results in a CPU spike.¬† The VM is still running, but now, it‚Äôs consuming more resource, so DRS chooses to move it.¬† It does the same on it‚Äôs new host, so DRS moves it again.¬† SC Operations Manager would identify the crash as being an Exchange issue, and fix the crash, rather than move the VM, even if that VM is running on a VMware infrastructure”

Virtualization-what is it and why bother?

Microsoft & VMWare are the two big names in Virtualization at the moment, and it’s a topic everyone is talking about. Manufacturers, resellers, consultants, analysts,¬†end users, Jeff down the pub..they’ve all¬†got something to say about Virtualisation. There are all kinds of facts and figures going around, some of which seem contradictory but as with most things¬†it all depends on viewpoint..

You might be wondering why I think it’s time to add my voice to the crowd so let me tell you. At work I see a number of people, our sales guys and our customers, who know the should be thinking about virtualization and talking about virtualization, but they don’t know what they’re supposed to think and say..they know that people can virtualize..but they don’t know why, or how. They know it reduces costs but if someone asked them, the would have to hope that “Err, erm, well..” translates into something better in one of this world’s many languages!! ūüėČ

So in a nutshell, I hope this post/blog will become a safer, calmer haven for people to take a look at virtualization without the often deafening clamour of their colleagues, bosses and suppliers. I’ll say straight away that I’m a Microsoft Partner and supporter so I will lean towards Hyper-V but I will aim to keep everything well balanced and as neutral as possible ūüôā

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization has been around since the Mainframes of the 70’s but has only become a general topic relatively recently (around 2005 it really took off).

A very common, entry level example of Virtualization is hard drive partitioning. You have one physical drive, but you can divide it up into 2 or more virtual drives and that’s what the computer sees.

The big buzz around Virtualization is…

Server Consolidation.

These days, many companies suffer from “Server Sprawl”, where they have large numbers of servers,¬†often performing just a single task (Exchange Server, File Server etc) and wasting a lot of internal resources such as RAM, storage space and processing power as well as external resources like floor space, cooling and power.

This is where Server Virtualization comes in. Tools such as Microsoft Hyper-V, VMWare ESX, Citrix XEN and more all allow you to consolidate these various servers onto one physical server running multiple virtual instances or Virtual Machines (VM’s).

Each¬†VM has it’s own Operating System (OS) and applications installed on it and is completely separate to the other VM’s, just like physical servers. (The “One Point of Failure” discussion is later..). It’s widely accepted that most physical servers are running at about 10% utilization, so each server is wasting 90% of it’s storage, RAM, processing power etc..all things that you’ve paid (and are still paying) for. This means you could put say 7 of those servers onto one box, and that machine would then run at around 80% utilization…immediately increasing your Return on Investment (ROI). If you can go from 7 to 1, you can go from 70 to 10 which all of a sudden is a huge difference…

Getting rid of all those servers will reduce the amount of cooling and power you use in your server room/data centre too. This leads us to..

Green IT:

Gartner say that the average company spends 4%-7% of their total IT budget on energy costs such as power and cooling. If your budget is ¬£500,000 that’s ¬£20,000-¬£35,000 a year, so if you can reclaim say 40% of that and add ¬£8000-¬£14000 back into¬†your budget¬†straight away, that’s got to be a good thing. With the continued increase of energy prices at the moment, just this aspect on it’s own can be a compelling reason to move to a virtual environment.

A virtual infrastructure can be a lot easier to manage as well. It reduces the amount of time administrators spend on repetitive tasks such as provisioning & configuring servers. If you need a new server quickly, you can simply boot up a pre-configured Virtual template and you have a new machine up and running in minutes.

There are a number of management tools such as VMWare Virtual Center and Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager which make administration even easier.

Microsoft WinHec 2008 sessions

Microsoft WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) 2008 starts November 5th (05/11/08) and as with the PDC, Windows 7is a big focus.¬†WinHEC attendees will also get an alpha copy of Microsoft’s next desktop OS, but WinHEc is fast becoming the forgotten sibling!

The Session list for PDC¬†gave us some interesting tidbits to speculate over such as Windows Strata, so I’m hoping the¬†WinHEC listing will too. Here’s what I’ve spotted so far:

Windows 7 Device Experience Overview – CON-T531:

It summarizes the new Windows features for portable devices such as mobile phones and cameras, printing and imaging devices, and networked consumer electronic devices like media servers and digital picture frames.

Windows 7 Device Services for Media Transfer Protocol – CON-T568:

“Device services are the building blocks that enable new extensibility opportunities for Windows-compatible portable devices and align new experiences for portable devices in Windows 7″

The two sessions above give a good indication of some of the new features, and the general direction, of Windows 7.

The Manycore Shift: Microsoft Makes Parallel Computing Personal – COR-T522:

“We’ll highlight efforts in Visual Studio and Windows as examples of how Microsoft is addressing the problems that concurrency introduces through rich support in future tools and operating systems for threading, synchronization, scheduling, and resource management.”

This links in with other info we’ve seen that MS are doing what they can do increase parallel computing in Windows 7 without changing the kernel. Interesting to see Visual Studio mentioned too..

Directions for Virtualized I/O in Windows – ENT-T590:

This session discusses areas of technologies that are being investigated for future Microsoft virtualization offerings. These include PCI Single-Root I/O Virtualization, those technologies that enable it, and their implications to the Windows Driver Model. Improving storage area network (SAN) support and other I/O-related virtualization capabilities are also discussed.

Improving Networking Performance for Hyper-V Virtual Machines – ENT-T589:

Windows Server 2008 R2 will deliver new networking features and enhanced support of stateless and state-full offload technologies to Hyper-V virtual machines.

Microsoft Hyper-V – ENT-T587:

This session includes¬†highlights of “selected features in the next release of Hyper-V.”

The three¬†sessions above all point towards there being a clear(ish) definition of the features for Hyper-V R2..I’ll be interested to see what these are and how much closer Hyper-V gets to VMWare in terms of enterprise features…Live migration ala VMotion anyone?!

**Update** Seems everyone’s wish is coming looks that Hyper-V 2.0 will have Live Migration…see more here

Windows Server Support for More than 64 Logical Processors – ENT-T554:

This session discusses the architecture and support of more than 64 logical processors in Windows Server 2008 R2.

This is a big advance for the Enterprise level/HPC end customers.

Windows Boot from One Image Format – ENT-T606:

“This session discusses native support of VHD in Windows Server 2008 R2” which “creates opportunities for lowering operational costs by enabling customers to use a single image creation, deployment, and maintenance process and toolset across virtual and physical environments.”

Windows 7 Network Optimization for Branch Offices – ENT-C659:

“ capabilities in Windows 7 that reduce wide area networking link usage and provide the potential reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO) by reducing WAN link usage, providing faster downloads in the branch office, and requiring no networking infrastructure changes”.

This is an interesting sounding sessions and I’d bet that these features will speed up the adoption of WIndows 7 into corporate environments upon it’s release.

There are also a number of sessions about Multi-Touch.

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 released

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 has been released.

“What are you talking about? It’s been out for months!” you say…nearly but not quite.

This is the standalone Hyper-V server, so while it includes the core parts of the kernel as related to Hyper-V, there are no other roles available for installation. This is a pure Hypervisor that site on bare metal, and allows you to run up to 192 VM’s on a single machine!!

It doesn’t have much of a GUI (Graphical User Interface)-bit of an old school vibe but hey, that’s cool! Also, you can manage it from a Windows Server 2008 installation or indeed a Vista SP1 machine with the Remote Server Admin Tools Pack installed.

Microsoft expect the main uses for this product to be:

  • Test and Development
  • Basic Server Consolidation
  • Branch Office Consolidation
  • Hosted Desktop Virtualization (VDI)
  • You can download HYper-V Server 2008 here


    More info can be found over at Matt “VirtualBoy” McSpirit’s blog here

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