Posted by: kurtsh | December 1, 2005

RELEASE: Virtual Server 2005 R2

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 "went gold" last week and is slated to be available for you to download from the Volume Licensing Web Site ( Friday Morning, Dec 2nd.  If you need help obtaining it, please let me know.


Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 is a major revision of the Virtual Server product line and has some pretty impressive improvements made to it:
Virtual Server 2005 R2 can be installed on x64 host systems running Windows Server 2003 x64 Enterprise Edition and take full advantage of the x64 memory space, meaning that virtual machines can now carve up the massive addressable memory available to x64 processors and are no longer limited to the x86 addressable memory limitations.  Right now, guest operating systems may only be x86 or 32-bit versions of the OS’s however we are working on providing
Virtual Server 2005 R2 has been optimized greatly for the Windows Server 2003 SP1 environment and can provide 50%-100% performance improvements over original Virtual Server 2005  implementations.  Much of these improvements will depend on the workloads that are being carried out by the machines however it is safe to say that there are big performance gains to be had by using R2.
Clustering for Virtual Machine availability is now available in two flavors on the Virtual Server 2005 R2 platform.  "Guest Clustering" (clustering between Virtual Machines using Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition in each VM) is possible by establishing a cluster two separate virtual machines connected to a data store using Microsoft iSCSI.  This provides failover between applications on different virtual machines.
The second type of clustering available is "Host Clustering" (clustering of the host operating system to failover the entire Virtual Service to another physical host server) which is possible by establishing a cluster between the physical host server and another physical host server with Virtual Server 2005 R2 installed on it both connected to a data source through a SAN, iSCSI, or Direct-attached storage.
Linux is now supported as an operating system on Virtual Server 2005 R2.  We provide virtual machine additions for various flavors of Linux for customers that want to run Linux on Virtual Server 2005 R2.  We also provide support for failover for other operating systems like Linux when using host clustering with Virtual Server 2005 R2.
– PRICING ($99/$199):
Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 is now $99 for the Standard Edition (up to 4 processors).  It is $199 for Enterprise Edition (up to 32 processors) making the product very cost efficient for individuals looking to reduce cost of ownership through virtualization and consolidation.

In mid 2006, we will release a version of Virtual Server 2005 R2 that will support Intel’s VT virtualization support and AMD’s Pacifica virtual machine management support.  By partnering with both Intel and AMD, we will have leveraged these new on-chip capabilities that greatly enhance the experience and performance of virtual machine implementations. 
For example, instead of having software constantly saving & loading the state of each individual machine before processing is allocated to each and doing this over and over, the hardware provides this support on chip greatly minimizing the overhead necessary to ‘switch machine contexts’ when multple VMs are configured on a server. 
Additionally, while traditional processor-OS models involve 4 rings of execution (0 through 3) Intel VT will provide additional ‘rings’ of execution specifically for virtual machine technology, enabling a separation between Ring 3 processes and virtual machines without placing the virtual machines themselves in Ring 0.  This enables an natural priority to exist in hardware for virtual machines over conventional ring 3 processes again enhancing the performance of virtual technology without requiring additional software-based machine management.
This technology will be available at no additional cost to existing Virtual Server 2005 R2 users.

We are building a technology called the "Microsofft Hypervisor" into the Windows Longhorn Server product slated for 2007.  Microsoft Hypervisor will be an ultra thin layer of management code that coordinates security and resource allocation between guest virtual machines running on Longhorn Server.  (In case you didn’t know, Virtual Machine serving technology will be built into Longhorn Server) 
This will have the following benefits for Virtual Server customers:
– virtual machine access will be secured using Active Directory credentials, monitored using Perfmon, logged using Eventlog, and instrumented using COM.
– leverages existing Windows drivers; no need to obtain custom compiled hypervisor drivers such as those required by VMware ESX
– ultra thin architecture to ensure minimum overhead; shares higher level security services of Windows while running VMs at a lower level of execution enabling superior performance to the VMnix layer that exists in VMWare ESX, where security, instrumentation and other processes run in the same level of execution as VMs
– multiprocessor affinity between virtual machines enabling static allocation of processing power to each VM
– original virtual machine file format enabling a seamless migration from Virtual Server 2005 R2 to Windows Hypervisor
– built in to OS, minimizing cost of licensing



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