Welcome to Hyper-V 2012 R2 (Part 1)

If you would like to be notified when Scott Lowe releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our Real-Time Article Update newsletter.


At TechEd 2013, Microsoft made major announcements regarding the next version of Hyper-V, which will ship with Windows Server 2012 R2. Microsoft executives indicated that we can expect Windows Server 2012 R2 to ship by year’s end, along with updates to Windows 8 (now dubbed Windows 8.1), and System Center 2012 R2. This amounts to full-on upgrade of the data center and desktop trifecta with a whole lot of new capabilities for organizations to consider. In this article, I will focus on the virtualization aspects of what’s coming in this new release.

Hyper-V has come a long way

Although Hyper-V 2008 R2 was considered very, very entry-level enterprise grade virtualization, Microsoft pulled out all the stops in their efforts to prove their enterprise muster when they released Hyper-V 2012. Hyper-V 2012 was Microsoft’s effort to catch VMware and they did that and, in some ways, surpassed the virtualization giant at their own game. Personally, I feel that, if Microsoft simplified the administrative side of the Hyper-V equation, they’d be a killer play, but I digress.

With Hyper-V 2012 R2, the Redmond giant continues to position Hyper-V as a go-to platform for the enterprise and not just in the way that has traditionally been done. When coupled with the new System Center 2012 R2, Microsoft is aiming to make it a simple exercise to leverage both public and private clouds in a seamless way that simply makes sense for many Microsoft-centric organizations.

Windows Azure integration

Microsoft is working hard to remain the default “go to” company for basic infrastructure. The company has enjoyed massive market share majority for many years. Without a cohesive cloud strategy, Microsoft risked watching other cloud providers eat its services while Microsoft remained on the sidelines. With Windows Azure, Microsoft has both a platform and a strategy for maintaining its dominance. Windows Server 2012 R2 along with Hyper-V 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 provide customers with ways to migrate running virtual machines between Microsoft’s Azure cloud and an on-premises data center. This allows an organization unprecedented flexibility using Hyper-V as a virtualization platform and can enable new business opportunities. In fact, the virtual machines on Azure and Windows Server 2012 R2 are fully compatible with one another.

Benefit: Organizations can now directly target the cloud using familiar management tools and without having to modify running workloads.

New virtual machine format

If you look back at the history of virtualization, the focus has been on creating software-based instantiations of physical virtual machines. From a compatibility perspective, this has been a good thing as its allowed organizations to simply migrate their physical assets into the virtual environment and into a container that looked just like a real physical machine, complete with a BIOS. In Hyper-V 2012 R2, Microsoft is introducing what the company refers to as Generation 2 virtual machines. These virtual machines are intended to be run at virtual machines only. They cannot be run on physical hardware and they leave all of their legacy trapping behind, including BIOS and legacy hardware devices.

Generation 2 virtual machines eschew BIOS in favor of UEFI and they can boot from synthetic network adapters or from SCSI. Further, these virtual machines can support Microsoft’s Secure Boot, which adds additional security to the environment by preventing unauthorized code to run at boot time. Gen 2 virtual machines will initially support Windows Server 2012 or greater and Windows 8 or greater operating systems only, and only the 64-bit editions.

The table below provides you with a look at the device changes that happen when running Generation 2 virtual machines. It’s obvious that some services will not work with Gen 2 VMs, but it’s nice to see forward progress in this space!

Legacy   Devices Removed

Replacement   Devices


IDE Controller

Virtual SCSI Controller

Boot from VHDx (64TB max size, online   resize)



Hot add/remove

Legacy BIOS

UEFI firmware

Secure Boot

Legacy NIC

Synthetic NIC

Network boot with IPv4 & IPv6

Floppy & DMA Controller

No floppy support


UART (COM Ports)

Optional UART for debugging

Faster and more reliable

i8042 keyboard controller

Software based input

No emulation – reduced resources

PS/2 keyboard

Software based keyboard

No emulation – reduced resources

PS/2 mouse

Software based mouse

No emulation – reduced resources

S3 video

Software based video

No emulation – reduced resources




Programmable Interrupt Controller (PIC)

No longer required


Programmable Interrupt Timer (PIT)

No longer required


Super I/O device

No longer required


Table 1: Source: TechEd 2013 session slides

Benefit: Smaller, nimbler virtual machines increase density and should boost overall performance.

Workload migration improvements

When it comes to flexibility in a virtualized environment, workload migration almost always comes up as the number one feature. After all, the ability to just shift a running virtual machine to a new host in a way that is transparent to the user is pretty great flexibility! Until Hyper-V 2012 hit the scene, VMware had the capability locked up as Microsoft’s implementation was weak, at best. However, with Hyper-V 2012, Microsoft shot past VMware for a period of time with new and enhanced functionality, including what the company referred to as shared nothing Live Migration.

In Hyper-V 2012 R2, Microsoft is working hard to make Hyper-V’s workload migration services even stronger and more robust. To this end, Microsoft has made the following improvements in the upcoming R2 release

Enabled by default compression

This compression techniques leverages the assumption that hosts often have excess compute power to use (and they usually do), which can be used for other purposes. By compressing a virtual machine, an organization can see Live Migration results that are more than twice as fast as they are today.

Figure 1:
Source: TechEd 2013 session

SMB improvements

With Windows Server 2012, Microsoft made significant improvements to SMB and introduced SMB 3. In Hyper-V 2012 R2, Microsoft allows administrators to leverage some of these storage investments – such as SMB multichannel – to massively enhance the performance of Live Migration operations.

Benefit: Live workload migrations are really a cornerstone feature in the world of virtualization and, as such, these significant performance enhancements will have a positive impact on overall operations.

Linux enhancements

One area in which vSphere has remained light years ahead of Hyper-V is in support for Linux, where vSphere pretty much treats Linux virtual machines as equals to Windows ones. While Microsoft has provided some support for Linux in Hyper-V, when R2 hits, Microsoft will bring a number of new capabilities as well, including:

  • Dynamic Memory. Dynamic memory is a technique that allows Hyper-V to borrow memory from virtual machines when it is not in use. With Dynamic memory, organizations can increase the number of virtual machines running on a host.
  • Live resize of VHDX file. Hyper-V allows administrators to resize VHDX files even while a virtual machine is running. This helps administrators maintain higher levels of availability even when routine administrative tasks need to be performed.

Benefit: Many organizations run both Linux and Windows. By continuing to elevate Linux to “first class” status in the virtualized data center, Microsoft is expanding the usability of Hyper-V and expanding their overall market for the hypervisor tool.


Hyper-V 2012 R2 is a big step forward in virtualization. We will continue the journey of discovery in the next part of this series.

If you would like to be notified when Scott Lowe releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our Real-Time Article Update newsletter.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Scroll to Top