Microsoft has announced that its Hyper-V hypervisor is finally available, but analysts have questioned whether large enterprises will adopt the product as their sole virtualisation technology.
Hyper-V, launched on Thursday, is not Microsoft's first virtualisation product, and will face competition from vendors such as VMware, the market leader in virtualisation.
Outlining the benefits of virtualisation, Microsoft's general manager of Windows Server marketing, Bill Hilf, said: "Customers who buy Windows Server 2008 are not only getting the scalability benefits, the high performance, reliability and all the great things that Windows Server is known for, but, as of today, they're also able to get the benefits of integrated virtualisation."
Rival VMware responded to the release of Hyper-V by claiming Microsoft has been attempting to bring out a hypervisor product to market for a long time, but Hyper-V doesn't deliver on the company's promises.
"Microsoft is now finally delivering a hypervisor product, albeit one which is considerably pared-down functionality-wise from that [which was] originally promised. Key features have been pulled from this first release, many of which analysts and customers view as the key features for a reliable virtualisation platform," said Reza Malekzadeh, director of products and marketing for Europe at VMware.
Microsoft has had some difficulty in getting Hyper-V to market. Previously code-named 'Viridian', it was originally due to be launched in February this year as an integral part of the launch of Windows Server 2008. However, Microsoft announced its intention to launch a standalone version of the hypervisor in October last year.
At the launch of Windows Server 2008, Microsoft said it would release Hyper-V within 180 days, a self-imposed deadline that the company has beaten by a comfortable margin.
Tony Lock of analyst firm Freeform Dynamics said that he expected users to welcome the launch of Hyper-V, which, he said, was "probably ready for the market". He also said he thought that Microsoft had dealt well with the key issue of performance, and that Hyper-V should be efficient.
Hypervisors add a performance penalty to operations, since they add another software layer to the operating system and thus slow all operations down, added Lock. For suppliers of hypervisor software, performance is a key issue that can make or break their products in the market, he added.
Many small and medium-sized companies will welcome the increased flexibility that Hyper-V will bring, but Lock said he believes it unlikely that large companies will use the product for all their virtualisation requirements. "The different hypervisors have different qualities," said Lock. "I think most larger companies will want to have that choice."
Vendors claim virtualisation offers customers the ability to separate software from the underlying hardware, and are pushing it as a potential way of cutting costs. However, recent research around attitudes to server operating systems, conducted by ZDNet.co.uk, reveals that many end users are still wary of implementing virtualisation.
With survey respondents asked to rank operating-system features in order of importance, virtualisation came last, in eleventh place, with scalability, high reliability and identity management taking the top three positions.