Rushing to get into the increasingly profitable desktop virtualization market, Microsoft has made release candidate 1 (RC 1) of its Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V hypervisor available for download.
Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, made the announcement during his keynote speech at Citrix Synergy, held this week in Houston, Texas.
Hyper-V RC 1 is a "feature-complete version with three areas of improvement over the beta release, RC 0 improved stability and usability, improved performance, and additional guest operating system and language support," Microsoft said.
But already there are holes in this proclamation: Hyper-V RC 1 doesn't work with Microsoft's own virtual machine (VM) management software, and the only other guest operating systems it supports in addition to Microsoft's are Novell SUSE Linux, which partners with Microsoft.
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A beta version of Hyper-V was included with Windows Server 2008 when the latter launched in February, and Microsoft released RC 1 of the hypervisor in March. HyperV is scheduled for release to manufacturing, when it will be burned onto CDs, in August.
Microsoft warned that Hyper-V RC 1 is not compatible with the current beta release of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008, and that organizations testing SCVMM should continue doing so with Hyper-V RC 0, the previous release.
The problems stem from limited functionality in SCVMM 2008, although Microsoft said it will update the product later to support Hyper-V RC 1.
The two are on different development schedules because of Microsoft's need to get Hyper-V out the door. "They want to push Hyper-V out the door as fast as they possibly can because they see the success of VMware and want to tap into that market," analyst Mark Bowker, with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), told InternetNews.com
Although Microsoft will not make any money with Hyper-V, getting it out quickly helps plant the the flag for future advances into virtualization.
"Hyper-V comes free with Windows Server 2008 or will be available for $28 for a stand-alone copy, so it's a no money-maker. Microsoft is betting on managing virtual machines and on applications," Bowker said.
Instead of taking on VMware head-to-head in terms of hypervisors, Microsoft decided to bank on SCVMM, which "will be able to manage both Hyper-V and VMware's ESX," Bowker said, adding that this will be "a pretty big deal." He characterized SCVMM as "a pretty impressive product."
Bowker said SCVMM's inability to work with Hyper-V RC 1 will not matter to enterprise IT departments, which won't be purchasing either product for at least six months. By then, "the two will synch up and be on the same page," he added.
Late to the Party
There's no doubt Microsoft is late to the virtualization party, but its vast installed base gives it great strength on the ground. A survey of more than 700 companies conducted last year by the ESG showed that 20 percent of enterprises that had virtualized their systems were using Microsoft for virtualization.
For the most part, they are using Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 in production environments, not testing or development, according to Bowker.
Microsoft will catch up to the market leaders fast, and "there could be more production environments running Hyper-V than there are running VMware ESX in 12 to 18 months," Bowker said, adding that, although VMware and Citrix will run higher-end applications, such as SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange, "print and file servers are production workloads to many companies, and I can see these running on Hyper-V."
This article was originally published on InternetNews.com.