Lately I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries from customers asking about the capabilities of Microsoft’s latest version of Hyper V. They are wondering if Hyper-V is finally a truly valid contender to run in their enterprise. The short answer – Yes. Let’s explore the reasoning why I’m confidently able to state this.
With the release of Hyper-V 3.0 last fall, the scalability was drastically increased and many new capabilities were added to the product. Now, based on v-next (R2) Windows Server product announcements coming out of TechEd and other media outlets, we are again seeing extremely significant advancements being made to Hyper-V. It has reached a point of product maturity that truly places it as an industry leading technology for x86 virtualization. Microsoft’s primary competitor in this space offers a great product and has been the industry leader for years. It has become the foundation of datacenters around the world. With this in mind, any considerations for possibly changing this architecture to Hyper-V should be considered very carefully. However, as we have seen in the past with other technologies, past success doesn’t guarantee future certainty. Therefore here are some facts that we may all want to consider.
Obviously no organization anywhere on the planet has unlimited dollars to spend on IT services without giving a reason why. If you do know of one, please let me know as I would love to chat with them. In any event we all need to be conscious of the money that we spend. Hyper-V as a technology that supports extremely advanced virtualization capabilities is absolutely free of charge. Some will suggest that you have to purchase Windows Server licensing, making it not free. Please understand that you have to do that anyway, regardless of hypervisor, so there is no additional cost. Having access to an extremely reliable and scalable hypervisor that not only virtualizes x86 hardware, but also networking and storage (and does it at no cost) is pretty significant.
This is where the real significance sits. No cost/low cost, all that doesn’t matter if a product doesn’t actually deliver on the capabilities that are required. The news here is that Hyper-V delivers on every aspect necessary: Performance, Reliability, and Scalability. I could go into detail about every aspect of these, but Hyper-V has been around for many years now. It’s a rock solid product that just works. It’s also interesting that it seems people are not running (or not publishing) in-depth performance metrics comparisons between hypervisors, probably because the fact of the matter is that there are no significant findings to report. I would love to see some evidence to prove me wrong, but I’ve been involved with virtualization for years, and I just don’t see one hypervisor significantly outperforming another. It could also be that some aspects of virtualization scalability have evolved to such extremes, that testing of VMs at the highest scale are now out of the reach for most lab environments.
Hyper-V supports VM’s with 64 vCPUs and 1 TB of RAM. It also supports virtual disks up to 64TB in size and clusters of up to 64 Hyper-V host nodes running up to 8000 VM’s. I guess that type of scale is what is needed when you have to support running Xbox Live, Hotmail, Bing, Office 365, microsoft.com and all of the computing for the millions of customer sessions that runs atop of Microsoft’s Azure Cloud. Which just so happens to be powered by Hyper-V.
So what are some of the other capabilities that will really matter to the typical organization? Simplicity is what most will find right away. Hyper-V is a role inside of Windows Server that can be enabled with the click of a checkbox in the Add Roles and Features applet of Control Panel. And administration can be performed thru basic MMC framework plug-ins, just like every other aspect of Windows Server. Of course a hypervisor has to have specific virtualization functionality and Hyper-V definitely supports a multitude of functions including:
- Concurrent Live Migration with network compression
- Live migration across separate hosts/clusters (shared nothing)
- Live Storage Migration
- Live Storage resizing
- Virtual Fiber Channel for VMs
- Storage QoS
- Storage encryption (of live virtual disks)
- VM HA failover
- VM restart prioritization
- VM affinity and anti-affinity
- Guest clustering without limitations
- Network L2/L3 virtualization
- Network QoS
- VM replication and DR failover/failback
- And many more…
Pretty much any virtualization related function or capability that is available in the industry today, is available with Hyper-V. Features and functions are sometimes implemented differently than one may expect, and it seems that Microsoft has some confusion on which tools it creates to administer which functions. What Microsoft has done (as with most current Microsoft Server software), is ensured that PowerShell is the base standard for being able to perform any available administrative function. But don’t fret too much, for GUI based administration, the Hyper-V Manager MMC plug-in supports the basics for administration of Hyper-V hosts on an individual basis. The Failover Cluster Manager MMC plug-in supports everything that Hyper-V Manager supports and additionally supports administration of the failover features of Hyper-V and clustering. This is actually a very nice tool and widely used by most Hyper-V admins. For Enterprise deployments, Microsoft System Center offers the most scalable datacenter administration tools on the market that not only provide for Management of virtualized environments, but physical infrastructure as well.
And if you’re still thinking that Hyper-V can’t support running non-windows virtual machines, you may need to think that again as well. Microsoft has significantly contributed to the Linux Kernel and now provides support for most major distributions. And just recently Microsoft and Oracle announced a partnership that provides for Oracle to be fully supported running on Hyper-V.
So is Hyper-V right for you? From a technical or functional perspective there should be absolutely no reason to think that it is a less capable or less reliable product. If your goal is cost effective virtualization, then you really need to consider Hyper-V. If you’ve built an entire enterprise infrastructure including process and procedure around other virtualization technologies, then certainly it may be a bit more difficult to justify a change. But rest assured, Hyper-V should be somewhere within your future plans as well. I hope you’ll check back in the coming weeks as we dive deeper into Hyper-V configuration topics such as HA clustering, networking, storage and more. I would love to know which hypervisor you’re currently using. Leave a comment below.