Microsoft Virtualization Questions


Hi!

Through the awesomeness that is Twitter, I’ve managed to connect with some of the Virtualization experts who work at Microsoft HQ in Redmond. They’ve very kindly offered to answer any and all questions that you guys can think of…as long as it related to Microsoft virtualization ;-)

The main thing people think of with this is Hyper-V and, while that will be a big part of this, there are other elements too. Things such as:

  • Application Virtualization (App-V)
  • Presentation Virtualization (TS/RDS)
  • Desktop Virtualization (VDI)
  • XP Mode
  • MED-V
  • Virtual PC

However, as well as product/feature specific questions, if you’re wondering about Microsoft’s long term strategy etc-please ask too.

This is a great chance to get your feedback directly to MS HQ and to get those burning questions answered straight from the horses’ mouth :-) We’re hoping to get this Q & A done by the end of this month (August) so please, add your questions in the comments below and we’ll get started!!!

Cheers

Rich

Virtualization-what is it and why bother?


Microsoft & VMWare are the two big names in Virtualization at the moment, and it’s a topic everyone is talking about. Manufacturers, resellers, consultants, analysts, end users, Jeff down the pub..they’ve all got something to say about Virtualisation. There are all kinds of facts and figures going around, some of which seem contradictory but as with most things it all depends on viewpoint..

You might be wondering why I think it’s time to add my voice to the crowd so let me tell you. At work I see a number of people, our sales guys and our customers, who know the should be thinking about virtualization and talking about virtualization, but they don’t know what they’re supposed to think and say..they know that people can virtualize..but they don’t know why, or how. They know it reduces costs but if someone asked them, the would have to hope that “Err, erm, well..” translates into something better in one of this world’s many languages!! ;-)

So in a nutshell, I hope this post/blog will become a safer, calmer haven for people to take a look at virtualization without the often deafening clamour of their colleagues, bosses and suppliers. I’ll say straight away that I’m a Microsoft Partner and supporter so I will lean towards Hyper-V but I will aim to keep everything well balanced and as neutral as possible :-)

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization has been around since the Mainframes of the 70′s but has only become a general topic relatively recently (around 2005 it really took off).

A very common, entry level example of Virtualization is hard drive partitioning. You have one physical drive, but you can divide it up into 2 or more virtual drives and that’s what the computer sees.

The big buzz around Virtualization is…

Server Consolidation.

These days, many companies suffer from “Server Sprawl”, where they have large numbers of servers, often performing just a single task (Exchange Server, File Server etc) and wasting a lot of internal resources such as RAM, storage space and processing power as well as external resources like floor space, cooling and power.

This is where Server Virtualization comes in. Tools such as Microsoft Hyper-V, VMWare ESX, Citrix XEN and more all allow you to consolidate these various servers onto one physical server running multiple virtual instances or Virtual Machines (VM’s).

Each VM has it’s own Operating System (OS) and applications installed on it and is completely separate to the other VM’s, just like physical servers. (The “One Point of Failure” discussion is later..). It’s widely accepted that most physical servers are running at about 10% utilization, so each server is wasting 90% of it’s storage, RAM, processing power etc..all things that you’ve paid (and are still paying) for. This means you could put say 7 of those servers onto one box, and that machine would then run at around 80% utilization…immediately increasing your Return on Investment (ROI). If you can go from 7 to 1, you can go from 70 to 10 which all of a sudden is a huge difference…

Getting rid of all those servers will reduce the amount of cooling and power you use in your server room/data centre too. This leads us to..

Green IT:

Gartner say that the average company spends 4%-7% of their total IT budget on energy costs such as power and cooling. If your budget is £500,000 that’s £20,000-£35,000 a year, so if you can reclaim say 40% of that and add £8000-£14000 back into your budget straight away, that’s got to be a good thing. With the continued increase of energy prices at the moment, just this aspect on it’s own can be a compelling reason to move to a virtual environment.

A virtual infrastructure can be a lot easier to manage as well. It reduces the amount of time administrators spend on repetitive tasks such as provisioning & configuring servers. If you need a new server quickly, you can simply boot up a pre-configured Virtual template and you have a new machine up and running in minutes.

There are a number of management tools such as VMWare Virtual Center and Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager which make administration even easier.

Virtualization, the Mr T way


I found this Mr T does Virtualization video on Youtube earlier and it is an absolute classic! It’s actually an advert for Hitachi Network Virtualization but a lot of what T says can easily apply to Hyper-V :-)

Check it out here

“You talkin about Storage Tiers? Hitachi are so good they bring their competition to tears”..Mr T does Homophones..

Symantec and Citrix working together


Veritas Virtual Infrastructure (VxVI) is the new product forged from the combined fires of Symantec & Citrix as their entry into the world of virtual server management. This combination of Veritas Storage Foundation & Citrix XenServer is able to manage 1000′s of VM’s and all their associated storage from a single interface.

It will offer “direct control of block storage from a guest virtual server, block storage functionality, including mirroring across heterogeneous arrays, and SAN-based multi-pathing for data availability.” XenServer enables the sharing of common boot image across multiple virtual servers to help streamline the provisioning process.

“We worked with Citrix at the engineering level to make VxVI more than just a collection of bundled stand-alone products,” says Sean Derrington, Symantec’s director of storage management and high availability.

VxVI will allow users to manage servers and storage from one screen and perform advanced management tasks, including mirroring and striping LUNs, dynamic reconfiguration of layouts, or copying and moving volumes around from subsystem to subsystem.

Veritas Virtual Infrastructure should be available in Q4 2008 and is expected to cost $4595 for a dual processor server.

More info on this, and related subjects can be found at InfoStor

Microsoft Hyper-V: Virtualization


Virtualization is a hot topic (as Partridge would say) and Hyper-V is the new kid on the block. He’s not quite as big as the other lads nor quite as mature-but he’s handy where it counts and is constantly working out until he can take them all!

Their entry into the Virtual world wasn’t the smoothest (delays on release dates, missing features etc) but ever since Codename “Viridian” was announced-people have been talking and wondering how much of a difference it would make. Yes it was a little late coming out and it wasn’t quite what we were expecting feature wise, but it’s still a damn good product that has already, in just a few short months, shaken up the industry in a way that only the Redmond Giant can.

Here @ Bechtle, we’d gone down the VMWare route and trained up our guys (sales & technical) to push VMWare to those people looking at virtualising their infrastructure. We were doing well, generating interest and making sales..but how that Hyper-V is here, I’m hearing a lot more excitement when I talk to customers.

The big attraction with Microsoft Hyper-V is that it is built in to Windows Server 2008, reducing your outlay substantially straight away. It’s a Microsoft product so it’s familiar to the vast majority of IT techs out there today, it’s easy to use and it’s full of great features.

The biggest criticism Hyper-V receives is that it doesn’t do “Live Migration”, that is moving a Virtual Machine (VM) from one server to another without any downtime at all..and it’s true, it doesn’t. However Hyper-V’s “Quick Migration” gives only a few seconds downtime until everything is back as it was before. I understand that for some organisations (namely Fortune 500′s, large finance etc) even a few seconds downtime is too long and for now, until Hyper-V R2(?) is released, VMWare should be their product of choice.

However, for all those customers who don’t require 100% uptime I’d seriously suggest looking at Hyper-V when you implement Virtualisation. I’ve put together a number of Hyper-V proposals, some on their own and some to compete with VMWare, and people are very happy with what is on offer.

Microsoft have a ton of great info available online and a good starting point is:

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/hyperv-overview.aspx

If you want to take a look at Hyper-V in a trial environment, then head over to:

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/trial-software.aspx

You can get Windows Server 2008 trials and the Hyper-V add-in. There are a couple of extra requirements on top of those for running Win Svr 2008, these are:

  • A 64-bit system with hardware-assisted virtualization enabled and data execution prevention (DEP) is required.
  • It is also recommended to ensure that you have a clean install of x64 edition of Windows Server 2008 to be able to use the Hyper-V technology.

Microsoft’s other key weapon is their System Center Management family, particularly Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) which I think is worthy of a separate post-so keep your eyes open!

Cheers

Rich