Although VMware is still the clear leader in enterprise virtualization there’s no doubt that Hyper-V has been gaining traction. According to an IDC 2011 study Hyper-V adoption grew 62 percent last year. Other research by Gartner predicted that Hyper-V would have 27 percent of the virtualization market by the end of 2012. Gartner also predicted that 85 percent of businesses with less than 1,000 employees will use Microsoft Hyper-V. Hyper-V’s low-cost alternative to vSphere has let it find its way into organizations for lab and testing purposes, SMB and departmental virtualization, and even as a low-cost way to implement disaster recovery sites.

This trend is sure to continue as the upcoming Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V essentially draws even with vSphere in feature parity. For scalability, Server 2012 Hyper-V supports 320 cores and 4TB of RAM per host. It will also support 64 vCPUs and 1TB of RAM per VM. Other important new capabilities will include 64-node clusters, shared-nothing Live Migration, Hyper-V Replica, and built-in NIC teaming.

Server 2012 Hyper-V will continue to be provided as a part of Windows Server 2012, and it will also be available in the free standalone Hyper-V Server 2012 product. With the upcoming Server 2012 release, Microsoft has changed the editions and their support for virtualized instances.

  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter – unlimited virtual instances on local hardware
  • Windows Server 2012 Standard – two virtual instances on local hardware
  • Windows Server 2012 Essentials – no virtualization support
  • Windows Server 2012 Foundation – no virtualization support

To learn more about the new Server 2012 editions, check out Paul Thurrott’s Windows Server 2012 SKUs Revealed.

A free version of Server 2012 Hyper-V will also be available in the lesser-known Hyper-V Server 2012. Hyper-V Server 2012 has very near feature parity to the version of Hyper-V in Server 2012. The differences are that Hyper-V Server 2012 will have a minimal command-line interface and will provide no guest OS licensing provisions. To find out more about the new Hyper-V Server 2012, check out Sean Deuby’s article Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 Release Candidate Now Available

By the way, you might also want to check out the really cool Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Component Architecture Poster for a quick summary of the new Server 2012 Hyper-V capabilities.