Microsoft made tremendous strides forward with Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and now, with the upcoming release of Hyper-V with Server 2012 R2, it’s clear that Microsoft has continued to push its virtualization technologies forward at a surprising pace. To give you an idea of the rapid advancements that you can expect to see in the next release of Hyper-V, here are the top 10 new features in Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V.

Related: Getting Started with Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012

1. Generation 2 VMs—I think the most forward-thinking enhancement in Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V is the new Generation-2 virtual machines (VMs). These new Generation 2 VMs are built exclusively to be run only as VMs. They leave all the legacy VM baggage behind. There’s no BIOS and no legacy devices. The new VMs are UEFI-based. They can boot off virtual SCSI or network adapters. The new Generation 2 VMs can run only the Windows 8 or Server 2012 x64 OSs or later.

2. Full Remote Desktop support—The new release of Hyper-V also provides full remote-desktop capabilities—even when the network isn't available. It does this by integrating the Remote Desktop support into the Hyper-V management console. The connection to the VM is made over the VMBus interface.

3. Automatic Activation of VMs—It was a hassle when Microsoft first implemented it, and activation remains a hassle today. However, the new Hyper-V makes life for guest VMs a bit easier by providing automatic activation.

4. Faster live migration—The new Hyper-V release also features two ways to achieve faster live migrations. First, it enables the VM memory and data to be compressed when performing the live migration. This compression can enable up to a 2x performance improvement for live migration. In addition, live migration can take advantage of the high-performance SMB Direct feature for improved performance on high-speed networks.

5. Online VHDX resize—Another nice improvement is the ability to increase and decrease the size of VHDX files with no interruption of end users' services. This new feature is limited to the new VHDX format and isn’t available for the older VHD format.

6. Storage Quality of Service (QoS)—Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V introduces the ability to provide Quality of Service (QoS) for storage. Storage QoS gives you the ability to throttle back I/O-intensive VMs, making sure that one or two overly active VMs don’t monopolize the host storage subsystems.

7. Live VM export—The new Hyper-V also provides the ability to perform live exports of running VMs. This feature can help you more easily clone and move VMs. The export process takes a snapshot of the VM’s current state.

8. Extended Replica for DR—Hyper-V Replica is one of the most popular features in Server 2012. With Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V, you can now replicate a target VM that has been replicated from another Hyper-V instance. This allows a hosting company that might be acting as a Hyper-V Replica target to back up or replicate the VM for redundancy. In addition, Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V lets you control the interval by which the replication logs are sent from the source to the replica target.

9. Support for USB pass-through—Although USB pass-through isn’t a huge deal, it’s definitely something that almost every Hyper-V administrator has wanted for a long time. USB pass-through allows you to attach a USB device to the Hyper-V host and then access that USB device from the Hyper-V guest VMs. This functionality can be very handy for installing software or quickly copying data into your Hyper-V VMs.

10. Windows Azure IaaS compatibility—Windows Azure IaaS uses exactly the same virtualization as Server 2012. Therefore, there’s 100 percent complete compatibility for running VMs both on-premises and in Windows Azure IaaS. If you have network virtualization in place, you can even seamlessly live migrate your on-premises Server Hyper-V VMs to Windows Azure and back again.