At this past TechED 2013 in New Orleans, Microsoft announced a number of significant enhancements to their virtualization and cloud products. For virtualization, Microsoft announced the release of Windows Server 2012 R2, which contained a number of significant enhancements to Hyper-V. Microsoft has also been making rapid changes to Windows Azure. Here are some of the important virtualization and cloud news.

Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V

Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V will include the following enhancements:

  • Automatic Activation of VMs—Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter will provide automatic activation of virtual machines (VMs) as long as the host is activated.
  • Live Migration compression—The new Live Migration compresses VM memory enabling up to a 2x performance improvement for live migration.
  • Live Migration over SMB Direct—Live Migration can also take advantage of Windows Server 2012 R2’s high performance SMB Direct feature for faster live migration on high speed networks.
  • Online VHDX resize—You can now increase and decrease VHDX files with no interruption of end users services. This new feature requires the new VHDX format.
  • Storage Quality of Service (QoS)—Storage QoS gives you the ability to throttle back I/O intensive VMs, making sure that one or two VMs don’t monopolize the host storage subsystems.
  • Extended Hyper-V Replica for DR—Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V will allow you to replicate a target VM that has been replicated from another Hyper-V. This allows a hosting company that might be acting as a Hyper-V Replica target to back-up the VM for redundancy.
  • Support for USB pass-through—USB pass-through allows you to attach a USB device to the Hyper-V host and then access that USB device from the guest VMs.
  • Generation 2 VMs—Generation 2 VMs are built exclusively to be run only as VMs. Generation 2 VMs are UEFI-based, have no BIOS, and no legacy devices.

Windows Azure

Some of the enhancements that Microsoft announced for Azure at TechEd are:

  • Windows Azure is based in Windows Server 2012—Windows Azure IaaS uses exactly the same virtualization as Windows Server 2012. This means there’s 100 percent complete compatibility for running VMs both on-premise and in Windows Azure IaaS.
  • Windows Azure Pack—The Windows Azure Pack will provide the integrated Azure management interface to the on-premise Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2.
  • No charge for stopped VMs—Microsoft will no longer charge for a stopped VM inside Windows Azure. They will only charge for the time the VM is running.
  • Microsoft is moving to a new per-minute billing model—Microsoft will prorate the number of minutes that you actually use the VM and will cease charging for VMs by the hour.
  • MDSN subscriptions—Microsoft is initiating a special arrangement for MSDN subscribers that allow you to use any number of VMs within Windows Azure for development and testing. MSDN subscribers also get up to $150 per month of free Windows Azure credits per-subscriber.

The Azure enhancements take effect immediately. Look for the Windows Server 2012 R2 release by the end of 2013.

Related: Top 10 Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V New Features