Microsoft's Hyper-V Beta Arrives Early

In a pre-Christmas surprise, Microsoft says it's shipping the first beta of its Hyper-V virtualization technology.

Microsoft announced Thursday it has released the first beta of its Hyper-V server virtualization hypervisor, previously codenamed "Viridian." It wasn't expected until early next year.

The first beta release runs on the x64 version of Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition. Microsoft released pre-beta code in the form of a community technology preview, or CTP, for what's now known as Hyper-V in September.

A hypervisor is a small, specialized operating system that sits on the server hardware and lets the server run more than one operating system above it, each within its own virtual machine (VM). There has been a lot of interest in hypervisor-based virtualization in recent years as IT shops look to make server loads more manageable and to help them consolidate partially-used servers for better efficiency.

Microsoft is coming late to the party, however. When it ships, Hyper-V will join an increasingly crowded, and competitive, arena, currently dominated by EMC's VMware followed by Citrix Systems' XenSource.

Microsoft gave the technology the Hyper-V moniker a month ago, at the same time that it identified packaging plans for Windows Server 2008.

"Microsoft Hyper-V will provide our customers and partners a great platform on which to build their virtualization solutions, and will provide the best value in the industry," Mike Neil, general manager of virtualization strategy in Microsoft's Windows Server Division said in a blog post on Thursday.

While Hyper-V will officially be a feature of three editions of Windows Server 2008 – Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter – the technology is not scheduled for general availability until 180 days after the servers ship. However, the early advent of this first beta – which wasn't expected out until early next year – bodes well for an on-time delivery for the final code, according to Microsoft statements.

Windows Server 2008 itself is currently in the "release candidate" stage of user testing and is slated to launch, along with SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008, at a gala the company has dubbed "Heroes Happen Here" on February 27 in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the beta release adds some features and capabilities not found in the September CTP. For instance, the beta supports what the company refers to as "quick migration," which will let administrators move a running virtual machine from one host server to another with minimal downtime.

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