What the hell is Hyper-V?

Hyper-V
    Photo by striatic

Since I had to rebuild my workstation I decided now was a good time to rebuild my development server with Windows Server 2008. The main purpose of the server is to run virtual machines for testing, so I was very interested to try out Microsoft’s Hyper-V (short forHypervisor.) Though I must say that I just don’t understand the Hypervisor name. I know it dates way back to mainframe days, but does it in anyway conjure up an image of what it does? It sounds more like something the accounting department would use. But I digress…

I had been using 
VMWare Workstation for this purpose, which is a nice product but has some drawbacks when running on a server. It can’t run in the background like the much more expensive VMWare server products, so in order to work with virtual machines I had to be logged into the console. It’s only a minor inconvenience for me, though, since the machines are only for testing. A production environment wouldn’t want to deal with it.

So, I was interested in trying out Hyper-V, which is based on technology Microsoft got with their purchase of Virtual PC a few years ago. It not only allows the virtual machines to start and stop with the host computer automatically, but it allows access to the machines using Server Manager on another computer. I wasn’t able to get it running on my release candidate of Windows 7, but that’s okay, I’m used to using Remote Desktop for this type of thing.

It’s clearly designed to run a server farm of virtual machines instead of run a collection of workstations, though. VMWare has a lot more options for dealing with various types of virtual hardware and guest operating systems. For example, it’s possible to install Vista but there are some features missing if Vista isn’t patched to at least Service Pack 1. VMWare works just fine with unpatched Vista, so in that regard it works better for my testing usage. This wouldn’t be a problem for most production uses of Hyper-V, though.

I didn’t bother gathering any benchmark data, but it does seem to feel a bit faster to me. This could be the difference between Server 2003 and Server 2008 for the host, though, so I won’t read much into it. It is certainly nice to have it start and stop virtual machines automatically, since rebooting is something I need to do quite a bit.

I’ll be keeping my VMWare handy for those times I need to test something that isn’t supported by Hyper-V, but for the most part I’m going to stick with it. It’s got about 90% of what I need. If I had a need to run a production environment of virtual machines, I would certainly give it a look.