Understanding Windows Server 2008 – Windows Server Virtualization (WSV)

by [Published on 20 Dec. 2007 / Last Updated on 20 Dec. 2007]

What you need to know about the new Windows Server 2008 Virtualization (WSV), how to install it, and how it compares to VMware ESX.

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Microsoft and VMware will be battling for market share in the virtualization market space. On the high end enterprise side, VMware has the majority of the market with their VMware ESX Server. With Windows Server 2008, Microsoft will offer their new Windows Server Virtualization (WSV) option. Let’s find out what WSV is and how it can help you…

What is Windows 2008 Hyper-V?

Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V is a new role in Windows 2008 that allows you to create and manage a virtualized server environment.  You can run multiple servers inside of one server. This feature will allow you to consolidate many servers onto fewer servers. Like other virtualization products, Hyper-V can provide more efficient use of hardware and administrative resources.

Keep in mind that Windows 2008 Hyper-V is much different than running Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. Virtual Server is an application that is installed and run – providing virtualization services. As Hyper-V is a feature built into the operating system, it is more efficient and offers more features than Virtual Server.

What are the key features of Windows 2008 Hyper-V?

  1. Support for Virtual LANs.
  2. Large amount of memory for the virtual machines,
  3. Ability to run 32bit and 64bit machines at the same time,
  4. Up to 32GB of RAM and 4 CPUs in each guest OS,
  5. Support for either one processor or multiple processor support for the virtual machines,
  6. Support for Snapshots, used to capture the state of a virtual machine at a certain times. You can revert back to that snapshot at any time.
  7. Support for quick migration - allowing you move a virtual machine from one server to another without having shut down that virtual machine (not to be confused with live migration where there is no host downtime, comparable to VMware’s VMotion),
  8. Support for network load balancing between the virtual machines,
  9. Future integration with Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) as its centralized management platform.

What do I need to know before installing Windows 2008 Hyper-V?

If you are looking into installing Windows 2008 Hyper-V you will need to check your hardware first as you will need is a x64 based processor. It will also require you to have Hardware Data Execution Protection enabled.

Another thing that you will need to do before installing the virtualization role on Windows 2008 is to install two updates. Both of these updates are located in the <systemdrive>\windows\wsv folder. Inside this folder you should find two updates. One of the updates is Windows6.0-KB939854-x64.msu and the other update is Windows6.0-KB939853-x64.msu. You can install these updates in any order that you like. If you do not install these updates windows server virtualization will not be an option when you try to add the virtualization role.

How do I install Windows Virtualization Role on Windows 2008?

  1. First you need to Click on Start -> All Programs- > Administrative Tools -> Server Manager.


Figure 1: Server Manager

  1. After you have Server Manager open you need to click on Roles on the left pane.
  1. Then you need to click on the Add Roles at the top right of the screen.


Figure 2:
Add Roles button

  1. After you have clicked on the Add Roles button then the Add Roles Wizard should come up.


Figure 3:
Add Roles Wizard

  1. Click on the Next button.
  1. Select Windows Server Virtualization.


Figure 4:
Select Server Roles

  1. Click on Next.


Figure 5:
Windows Virtualization Setup Screen

  1. Click on Next.
  1. Select the Network card that you want to use for the Virtual machines and then click Next.


Figure 6:
Windows 2008 Virtual Network selection


Figure 7:
Setup Confirmation Screen

  1. Click on Install.


Figure 8:
Setup Results Screen

  1. Click on Close and then Reboot the server.

How does Windows 2008 WSV compare to VMware ESX Server?

Windows 2008 Hyper-V and VMware ESX are two competing virtualization solutions.  There are some features that both of them have. There are also some advantages of using Windows Server 2008 WSV. Of course, there are also advantages to using VMware ESX.

A similarity between Windows 2008 WSV and VMware ESX is that they are both meant to be enterprise virtualization platforms that work at the OS layer. No more do you have to compare Microsoft Virtual Server to VMware ESX Server.

Both products provide huge performance advances over using Virtual Server or VMware Server.

One of the major advantages that Microsoft has over VMware is that, once released, Microsoft WSV / Hyper-V is a free feature that is included with Windows 2008 Server Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter Editions. Another advantage of using Microsoft’s Hyper-V is the support for more hardware. Current VMware has a list of hardware that it is capable of using and that is it. With Microsoft as long as the hardware is recognized in Windows 2008 you can use the hardware for virtualization. There are always new updated drivers coming out for Windows so even if the hardware does not support Windows 2008 yet it will support it later down the road.

The advantage of using VMware ESX is that it has many more features than Microsoft and ESX is overall a much more mature product. For example, ESX offers VMotion which does migrations of virtual guests from one host to another without any downtime. ESX offers VMHA and instantly moves all virtual guests from one host to another if the virtual host fails. With VMware, you will likely use their Virtual Center centralized management console, which is far advanced, compared to Microsoft’s virtual machine manager. Additionally, VMware offers their consolidated backup product (VCB) to allow you to do live backups of VMs. With ESX Server 3.5 and ESX 3i about to come out in December 2008, VMware is already increasing the number of features offered with ESX & their Virtual Infrastructure Suite before Microsoft ever gets the features above out of “release candidate zero”.

Summary

I have gone over all the things that are similar in VMware and Microsoft’s Windows 2008 Virtualization. I have listed the advantages of using VMware. I have also listed the advantages of using Microsoft’s Windows 2008 Virtualization. What it really comes down to is if you really have a need for all the features of VMware and the money to purchase VMware then VMware is the product you. But if you are on a tight budget and just need some of the basic features for virtualizing a server then go with Microsoft’s Hyper-V. Now that you know the features of VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V has you should be able to decide on what product would be right for you.

For more information on Windows Server Virtualization, see the following links:

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