A few weeks back, I declared the virtualization era and hypervisor wars to be over. Well, not quite "over" so much as "moved over" -- that is, pushed aside in favor of a new battle: the war of the cloud. The key combatants have changed from VMware, Citrix Systems, and Microsoft to Amazon Web Services, Google, and (still standing) Microsoft.
However, just because the fight has moved to the cloud doesn’t mean there aren't vestiges of a ground war still playing out in virtualization. The newest salvo comes from Microsoft, which will soon release the next version of Windows Server (2016) and with it, the next version of Hyper-V Server.
Here are the top new or improved features to look for:
Discrete Device Assignment (DDA). This allows users to take some of the PCI Express devices in their PCs and pass them directly through to the VM. This performance-enhancing feature allows the VM to access the PCI device directly, so it bypasses the virtualization stack. Two key PCI device types for such a feature are GPUs and NVMe (nonvolatile memory express) SSD controllers.
Host resource protection: Sometimes, VMs can be selfish and refuse to play well with others. With this feature, the VM will be prevented from using more than its allotted resources. If a VM is detected (by monitoring VMs for excess activity), it will be punished -- given fewer resources to ensure the performance of other VMs is not affected.
"Hot" changes to virtual network adapters and VM memory: These capabilities will let you add or remove the adapter (though only for Gen 2 VMs) without having to shut down and restart them, as well as let you adjust memory even if dynamic memory hasn’t been enabled (this works for both Gen 1 and Gen 2 VMs).
Nested virtualization: This allows you to run Hyper-V in a child VM, so it can be a host server. Ultimately you can have a Hyper-V Server running on top of a Hyper-V Server. This could be quite useful for development, testing, and training -- but I don't see it as something you'd want to do in production.
Production VM checkpoints: Previously known as snapshots, checkpoints in previous Hyper-V versions took, um, a snapshot of the VM's state, which is useful for dev/test restorations. But those "standard" checkpoints don't use the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), so they're not good for backup usage in production. The new production checkpoints work with VSS, so now you can run them in production.
Virtual TPM and shielded VMs. The virtual Trusted Platform Module (TPM) lets you encrypt the VM with Microsoft's BitLocker technology the same way that a physical TPM lets you encrypt a PC's physical drive. Shielded VMs run in fabrics and are encrypted with BitLocker (or other encryption tool), also using a virtual TPM. In both cases, VMs gain TPM's ability to prevent malicious access of the machine.
PowerShell Direct: This lets you remotely manage a VM running Windows 10 or Windows Server 2016 using PowerShell commands via the VMBus without worrying about the network configuration or the remote-management settings of the host or VM. The PowerShell scripting folks are going to love that.