Windows Server 8 to get hypervisor boost

Microsoft plans to at least quadruple the processing power available to virtual machines in the forthcoming update to its server OS, and to provide better VM replication
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Virtual machines in Windows Server 8 are getting a processor power boost, to allow customers to run more demanding applications such as business intelligence tools.

For the next version of the server OS, Microsoft is adding to the core count of virtual machines built using its Hyper-V hypervisor, bringing the maximum number of cores to 16, up from four. Windows Server 8, which will follow on from Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, is generally expected to arrive late in 2012, though no launch timing has been announced.

"[Windows Server 8] is what we see as the next step in private cloud computing," Amy Barzdukas, general manager of communications for the company's server and tools business, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday. "Our goal in server and tools is to cloud-optimise every business."

Clouds tend to be virtualised, and so by improving the fundamental technology of virtualisation — the hypervisor — Microsoft is aiming to help its customers create more powerful cloud deployments.

In the virtualisation sector, Microsoft is to VMware as AMD is to Intel. It lags behind VMware on virtualisation performance but is aggressively developing the technologies necessary to attain hypervisor parity.

"The hypervisor we have in Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 significantly closed the gap in terms of the competition," Barzdukas said.

Our goal in server and tools is to cloud-optimise every business.
– Amy Barzdukas, Microsoft

However, on Tuesday VMware announced an advance in its own virtualisation technology. VMware introduced its ESXi 5.0 hypervisor, which will be the core of its vSphere 5 virtualisation suite. ESXi 5.0 can support virtual machines with up to 32 cores; its predecessor, vSphere 4, can support only eight.

Microsoft may increase the number of cores it expects to support in Hyper-V before the release of Windows Server 8, Barzdukas said.

"Why do we even bother with a hypervisor?... [Because] we believe we are more cost effective for customers already using Windows in their shop," she said. "We are aware many customers have VMware in their environment, which is why System Center manages multiple hypervisors. We think the management layer is absolutely critical."

System Center is a management framework for Microsoft's server products, such as Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. The next update to the software, System Center 2012, is expected to tie into Windows Server 8.

Further details on Windows Server 8 emerged at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The update will come with a new feature called Hyper-V Replica, according to Jeff Woolsey, Microsoft's principal program manager for Windows Server virtualisation.

The feature will provide "asynchronous virtual machine replication", Woolsey said, according to ZDNet UK's sister site ZDNet.com. This will allow data to be replicated immediately after it is stored or at a pre-set time. For example, businesses could copy virtualised databases to off-site datacentres for added redundancy.

Microsoft is expected to share further information on Windows Server 8 at its Build/windows conference in California in September.

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