Hyper-V: To VMM or not to VMM, that is the question

Hyper-V comes with its own manager, but System Center Virtual Machine Manager R2 may be what your VMs really need

This week I'm at the Connections conference in Las Vegas, and the buzz is all about the release of Exchange 2010 (congrats to the Exchange team on that going live this week) and SharePoint 2010 (coming soon). But still hanging on as the No. 1 subject is virtualization. The performance differences between Microsoft's Hyper-V and EMC VMware's ESX seem to be all that folks want to talk about in the "tastes great/less filling" world we live in. However, I believe people should focus on how Hyper-V works, using the Hyper-V manager and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM), so here's the core of what I'll be telling the Connections attendees in my seminar tomorrow.

The key question about VMM is when should you use it. On one hand, I have administrators running four or five host servers with three or four guest machines each who use only the built-in Hyper-V Manager. They might better manage their environment with VMM, but they cannot justify its expense. So when should you begin thinking about using VMM for your environment?

[ Get more insight from InfoWorld's J. Peter Bruzzese on Hyper-V. | Paul Venezia explains how to take full advantage of VMware's no-cost hypervisor. ]

First, let's be clear on what VMM 2008 R2 offers. It's a management tool focused on taking advantage of the new Windows Server 2008 R2 virtualization features, including:

  • Live Migration: This lets you move your VMs from one host to another while still online. This is a big feature enhancement from the first release, which included only Quick Migration capabilities with Hyper-V, requiring downtime while the VM state is frozen and moved over.
  • Hot addition/removal of storage: This lets you add and remove virtual hard disks (VHDs) and iSCSI pass-through disks.
  • Networking optimization: Using two technologies -- Virtual Machine Queue (VMQ) and TCP Chimney -- this provides enhanced network throughput without increased CPU load.
  • Quick storage migration: This enables migration of a VM's storage both within the same host and across hosts while the VM is running, with minimal downtime.
  • Live migration queuing: This lets you perform multiple live migrations without needing to keep track of other live migrations within the cluster.
  • Physical to virtual (P2V) conversion: The enhancements in R2 let you do the P2V conversion through a simple wizard, which uses an agent that gets pushed out to the physical machine to perform the conversion.
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