Test Center review: Microsoft's Hyper-V does the trick
Microsoft's next-generation server virtualization solution falls short versus VMware's VI3, but has the right stuff for less demanding, Windows-centric environments
Hyper-V is finally here – almost. With the recent delivery of Release Candidate 1, Microsoft is shifting from major engineering operations mode to cross-the-i's-and-dot-the-t's mode. The majority of the Hyper-V bits, including an ever-expanding list of supported guest operating systems, are now in place, and Microsoft customers can start migrating their test VMs into preproduction and production roles with a fair degree of confidence.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the company's uber-management solution for Hyper-V hosts and their VMs – namely, Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008. Only recently entering public beta, MSCVMM (a mouthful of an acronym) shows promise but is hindered by the inherent limitations of Hyper-V, especially by its inability to perform live VM migrations.
[ One of Hyper-V's advertised strengths -- the host partition's ability to work with generic Windows device drivers -- is also its greatest weakness: See "Hyper-V's Achilles' heel."
Read Tom Yager's review of Windows Server 2008.
Read Paul Venezia's review of VMware Infrastructure 3 with ESX Server 3.5 and VirtualCenter 2.5 ]
First, the good news: MSCVMM introduces a new, more streamlined UI for managing Microsoft's myriad virtualization environments, which now include Hyper-V as well as the legacy Virtual Server product line. The MSCVMM console provides quick access to common tasks while allowing you to filter the view in useful ways. Major functions, like controlling VMs and managing the asynchronous Jobs engine, are broken out into logical subgroups with Vista-esque Action panes appearing on the right side of the window according to the task being performed. Each subgrouping provides copious filtering options allowing you to focus, for example, on recently added hosts or VMs in a specific state. It's a simple mechanism but one that can make a world of difference when managing a large virtualization farm.
Also helpful is MSCVMM's library for storing VM images. The cornerstone of Microsoft's transition from workgroup VM also-ran to datacenter player, the MSCVMM library makes it easy to distribute and track VMs across a growing Microsoft virtualization infrastructure. Simply select the desired VM from the MSCVMM administrator console and assign it to the desired target host server. The MSCVMM library servers and agents take care of the rest, including copying the VM image (plus any snapshots) to the corresponding physical server and bringing it online. Combined with the new Quick Migration feature – which is basically a rapid snapshot-and-move operation, using the network as transport – MSCVMM's maturing library model should make it easier to scale Hyper-V to levels previously reserved for the VMware Infrastructure 3 product suite.