REDMOND, Wash. – June 26, 2008 – Following the launch of Windows Server 2008, Microsoft reached another milestone today with the release of Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, the hypervisor-based virtualization technology that is a feature of select versions of Windows Server 2008. The nearly 1.5 million copies of the Hyper-V beta version that have been distributed demonstrate how customer interest in virtualization is moving from evaluation to production environment deployments.
Virtualization can help companies maximize the value of IT investments, decreasing the server hardware footprint, energy consumption and cost and complexity of managing IT systems while increasing the flexibility of the overall environment. Microsoft's strategy and investments in virtualization — which span from the desktop to the datacenter — help IT professionals and developers implement Microsoft's Dynamic IT initiative, whereby they can build systems with the flexibility and intelligence to automatically adjust to changing business conditions by aligning computing resources with strategic objectives.
Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V supports virtual machines with up to four virtual cores, 32-bit as well as 64-bit operating systems, and up to 64 GB of RAM.
Hyper-V offers customers a reliable, scalable and high-performance virtualization platform that plugs into customers' existing IT infrastructures and enables them to consolidate some of the most demanding workloads. In addition, the Microsoft System Center product family gives customers a single set of integrated tools to manage physical and virtual resources, helping customers create a more agile and dynamic datacenter.
"Customers who buy Windows Server 2008 are not only getting the scalability benefits, the high performance and reliability, and all the great things that Windows Server is known for; as of today they can benefit from integrated virtualization with Hyper-V," said Bill Hilf, general manager of Windows Server Marketing and Platform Strategy at Microsoft.
Customers Going Virtual
More than 250 customers have participated in the early adopter programs for Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. Land O'Lakes, HotSchedules and The SCOOTER Store were some of the first customers to deploy Hyper-V and experience its benefits firsthand.
Minnesota-based Land O'Lakes suffered from a common IT challenge resulting from tremendous growth through mergers and acquisitions. The agricultural cooperative's datacenter was packed with a compilation of aging servers running at an average utilization rate of just 3 percent, putting a considerable strain on IT resources.
IT pros call the condition "server sprawl," and Land O'Lakes had a bad case of it. "We faced a combination of underutilized and aging hardware, applications running on outdated operating systems, and rising datacenter power and cooling costs," said Jason Nord, the company's server administrator.
To counter the problem, Land O'Lakes did what an increasing number of similarly challenged companies are doing: It turned to a virtualization solution. Specifically, it became an early adopter of Microsoft virtualization technologies, including Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V.
The company's IT team initially rolled out a Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 in its test and development environment, in which four physical servers each hosted 10 to 13 virtual machines, with each virtual machine running one application. During 2008, the team plans to migrate this environment to Hyper-V and to move an additional 10 to 15 new applications directly into virtual machines in the production environment, thus saving the cost of hardware servers.
"Our Microsoft virtualization solution is a key part of a business strategy we have at Land O'Lakes called Best Cost Initiative," said Tony Taylor, the company's director of IT services. "It's not just about cutting costs, but about looking where our money is being spent and finding ways to leverage our investments across the company. Virtualization holds a lot of promise in helping us maximize the value of our IT investments."
The Integrated Approach
To accompany Microsoft virtualization technologies such as Hyper-V, the System Center family of solutions delivers management tools to configure, operate, deploy and backup physical and virtual servers from the datacenter to the desktop — all from a single pane of glass. With proper management tools and processes, customers can control the power of virtualization and become agile, while still maintaining control. This can help prevent such issues as "virtual server sprawl" — one of the challenges that can be introduced by the increased use of server virtualization.
Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V's easy-to-use Virtual Machine Creation wizard allows administrators to quickly create and provision new virtual machines.
Ironically, this virtual equivalent of physical server sprawl stems from the ease with which virtual machines can be created. Some IT teams have allowed multiple groups within the organization to create their own virtual machines, only to lose track of them later. This kind of uncontrolled usage can lead to legal and security concerns.
"To truly see the full benefits of virtualization, it is critical to have the right processes and tools in place," Hilf said. "That's why management tools are so important — they are the glue that holds it all together and helps deliver the real benefits of virtualization."
The ability to centralize server management was a key factor in The SCOOTER Store's quest to find the right virtualization solution. The New Braunfels, Texas-based company is a leading provider of power mobility devices such as power chairs to help people with mobility challenges lead full, self-sufficient lives.
To manage the recent rapid growth and stay in compliance with ever-changing government mandates for documentation, reporting, consumer safety and patient privacy, the company must maintain agile and flexible IT systems.
To that end, The SCOOTER Store is virtualizing its server environment and centralizing server management using Virtual Server 2005 R2 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007. As part of its overall virtualization strategy, the company is evaluating Hyper-V to increase the performance of its existing environment.
"Hyper-V is very exciting for us because it is integrated and designed into the operating system," said Barrett Blake, The SCOOTER Store's infrastructure architect. "I expect Hyper-V to be even easier to use, faster, and more efficient."
By year's end, the IT organization expects to increase the number of applications by 50 percent compared with its previous infrastructure, while reducing the number of physical servers required to host those applications by about 60 percent.
"We had a vision of a dynamic datacenter, and Microsoft technologies gave us a holistic approach to achieve it," said Jay Greene, The SCOOTER Store's senior vice president of IT and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) security officer. "By optimizing our environment with virtualization and centralized management, we deliver more functionality at lower cost, and we make IT a strategic contributor to the growth of the company."
Scalability, Cost and Performance Benefits
Scalability and cost were prime considerations for Ray Pawlikowski as he sought a virtualization solution for his rapidly growing company, HotSchedules. The Austin, Texas-based company specializes in online labor scheduling, offering employees of clients such as The Cheesecake Factory, Outback Steakhouse and P.F. Chang's access to their work schedules on the Web, text messaging, e-mail and the ability to pick up and release shifts, among other benefits.
With nearly a quarter-million users and 4 million logins per month, the 10-year-old business has doubled in size each year for the past couple years and shows no sign of slowing down. Like Land O'Lakes' IT team, Pawlikowski signed up for the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) to test Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V and is glad he did. "By virtualizing everything, we have been able to increase our server utilization by a factor of 10, providing dramatic opportunities in consolidation and power savings," he said.
Hyper-V's scalability derives from its support for multiple processors and cores at the host level and improved memory limits at the host and guest level within virtual machines. This enables customers to scale their virtualization environment to support a large number of virtual machines within a given host and to take advantage of quick migration for high availability across multiple hosts.
HotSchedules is running 40 physical servers, and Pawlikowski wants to reduce that number by 50 percent to 75 percent. The IT organization is also running 14 virtual machines with applications running faster on the virtual servers than they did on the physical servers used previously. This is a critical benefit that keeps the company's Web-based application responsive.
Customers are not the only ones benefiting from the increasing demand for virtualization. Microsoft storage partner QLogic today published a benchmark for I/O throughput for storage devices going through Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. At 180,000 I/Os per second on a system running Hyper-V, virtual machine connections are just 10 percent shy of native performance. This benchmark demonstrates Hyper-V's ability to bring the advantages of virtualization to the most demanding datacenter.
Meanwhile, Microsoft itself has been using Hyper-V in production environments, including heavy-traffic Web properties such as MSDN, TechNet and Microsoft.com. MSDN has more than 3 million average page views per day, TechNet averages more than 1 million per day, and Microsoft.com averages more than 38 million per day. By the end of June, Microsoft.com is targeted to be 50 percent virtualized with Hyper-V.
A Familiar Platform
A major differentiator for Hyper-V is the familiarity of the Windows platform. For example, HotSchedules' Pawlikowski looked at a number of other virtualization technologies, including VMware ESX Server, but his company has strong ties with Dell, which made a compelling case for Microsoft's early-adopter program.
"Not only is Hyper-V faster, it's also faster to get up to speed with," Pawlikowski said. "It's integrated with our existing platform and with the familiar roles in Windows Server 2008, so our knowledge base didn't have to change too much and I didn't have to re-tool our IT staff to move forward with virtualization."
Microsoft's Hilf says that's a particularly compelling reason for customers to choose Hyper-V. "It's been designed as a Windows feature, which our customers know, so those with Windows Server certification will be familiar with it; the people who have all the in-house skills on Windows Server will know how to use it."
To help both customers and partners assess whether their existing servers are good candidates for virtualization using Hyper-V, Microsoft has released the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit 3.1 Beta to help accelerate virtualization planning and deployment. The final release of MAP 3.1 is expected in July and will be available for free at http://www.microsoft.com/MAP. MAP belongs to a family of Microsoft Virtualization Solution Accelerators including Infrastructure Planning and Design guides and the Offline Virtual Machine Servicing Tool.
In addition, more than 130 independent software vendors (ISVs) have certified a total of 150 applications on Windows Server 2008. Symantec, Diskeeper and IBM are the first three vendors to achieve the new Certified for Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V designation. This designation identifies applications that have been independently tested to exploit Hyper-V capabilities and meet mission-critical expectations in a virtualized environment.
Microsoft continues to work with its partners to meet customers' needs for interoperable solutions. The alliance with Citrix Systems in the areas of VDI and virtual machine portability between the Xen Hypervisor and Hyper-V provides customers with broader deployment scenarios. Additionally, the extensive collaboration with Novell enables customers to take advantage of virtualization in mixed Microsoft and SuSE Linux environments.
Along the same lines, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vendors such as Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., HP, IBM, NEC, Sun Microsystems and Unisys are already qualified to ship and create systems with Hyper-V. In all, 250 systems from server and white-box vendors are already logo-qualified for Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V. More information can be found at http://www.windowsservercatalog.com.
The Road Ahead
Customers can now download the final version of Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V.
"There have already been over 1 million evaluations of Hyper-V, and with this release IT organizations everywhere can move it from the lab to production to fully experience the benefits that Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 can bring," Hilf said. He added that customers can also use System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, now in beta, to help them best configure and deploy their hypervisor-based environments.
New customers and partners can download Hyper-V at http://www.microsoft.com/Hyper-V. Customers who have deployed Windows Server 2008 can receive Hyper-V from Windows Update beginning July 8.