Over a month before its expected ship date, Microsoft today released its Windows Server 2008-based virtualization solution, Hyper-V, to manufacturing. This product rollout does not include a related product, Microsoft Hyper-V, which is a standalone version of the company's virtualization technology that does not include Windows Server 2008. Instead, it includes the versions that are bundled directly with Windows Server 2008. Currently, a prerelease version of Hyper-V is included with that product.

"This week we are releasing Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V to manufacturing," Microsoft senior product manager Jeff Woolsey told me in a recent briefing. "We are meeting our commitment to ship this technology within 180 days of Windows Server 2008, so we're about one and a half months early. The overwhelming amount of feedback we've gotten from various channels tells us we've bet the quality bar. We've got numerous customers running Hyper-V live in production, and key Microsoft Web infrastructure is already running on Hyper-V as well."

Woolsey said that with Hyper-V being finalized this week, the company was ready to talk performance. And the results were much better than expected. "We've seen substantial performance increases since the beta, especially around networking and storage," he reported, citing independent performance analysis from companies like Intel and Q Logic. Hyper-V is able to achieve between 88 and 100 percent of the performance of physical server systems with regards to saturating IO on iSCSI and fibre channel-based storage, according to these tests. And the technology delivers linear scalability for network traffic and disk IO when you move from two- to four-socket systems. For its own part, Microsoft tested Exchange Server 2007 on Hyper-V and found that virtualization doesn't change the install or best practices requirements, meaning that companies will be able to virtualize their messaging servers without any onerous extra requirements.

In addition to the performance improvements, Microsoft has made a number of other Hyper-V gains since the beta. The technology now supports nearly 50 guest operating systems, which are the systems that are run in a virtualized state within Hyper-V. These include all variants of Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2, including x64) and SP3, all variants of Vista with SP1 (x64 and x86), all variants of Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Windows Server 2000 with SP4, and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 with SP1 or SP2.

Additionally, Microsoft is reporting that key portions of its internal infrastructure and public-facing Web properties are already running on pre-release versions of Hyper-V, and the company will be switching more over to the technology over time. Currently, both the MSDN and TechNet Web sites, each of which average over 2 million hits per day, are running fully virtualized under Hyper-V.

I'll have a more detailed report about the Hyper-V RTM soon on the SuperSite for Windows. My understanding is that Windows Server 2008 customers who wish to upgrade to the final release will be able to do so through a Web download in the near future, though Hyper-V will likely end up on Windows Update as well.
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