Posted by: kurtsh | May 24, 2006

NEWS: WinHEC Part 1 – “Windows Server virtualization”

Microsoft’s hypervisor-based solution is on track to be available with the upcoming Microsoft Windows Server “Longhorn” operating system.  Microsoft anticipates having a beta release of Windows Server virtualization by the end of 2006 and plans to release to manufacturing (RTM) within 180 days of Windows Server “Longhorn” RTM.
 
Q: What is Windows Server virtualization?
A: Windows Server virtualization, previously codenamed Viridian, is a hypervisor-based technology that is a part of Windows Server “Longhorn”. It provides a scalable, secure and highly available virtualization platform. It is part of Microsoft’s ongoing effort to provide our customers and partners with the best operating system platform for virtualization.
 
Q:  What is Windows hypervisor?
A:  A core component of Windows Server virtualization, Windows hypervisor is a thin layer of software between the hardware and the OS that allows multiple operating systems to run, unmodified, on a host computer at the same time. It provides simple partitioning functionality and is responsible for maintaining strong isolation between partitions. It has an inherently secure architecture with minimal attack surface, as it does not contain any third party device drivers. We expect the Windows hypervisor to be less than 100Kb in size. (As a reference, the driver for the trackpad in a laptop is about 260K in size).
 
Q: What benefits does Windows Server virtualization offer customers?
A:  Windows Server virtualization provides customers an ideal platform for key virtualization scenarios, such as production server consolidation, business continuity management, software test and development, and development of a dynamic data center.   
 
Windows Server virtualization provides key functionality which an ideal virtualization platform should provide – scalability, high performance, reliability, security, flexibility and manageability.  It provides scalability and high performance by supporting features like guest multi-processing support and 64-bit guest and host support; reliability and security through its hypervisor architecture; flexibility and manageability by supporting features like live migration of virtual machines from one physical host to another, dynamic addition of virtual resources and integration with System Center Virtual Machine Manager.
 
Q: When will Microsoft ship Windows Server virtualization?
A: We aim to have a beta by the end of this year (2006). Windows Server virtualization is targeted for RTM within 180 days of RTM of Windows Server “Longhorn”.
 
Q:  Will Windows Server virtualization be shipped as part of Windows Server “Longhorn?”
A:  The ship vehicle for Windows Server virtualization is still to be determined. 
 
Q: I understand Windows Server virtualization will require x64 bit systems with Intel or AMD virtualization technology.  Aren’t you limiting the market potential with these requirements?
A:  The expectation among industry analysts is for rapid adoption of those systems, but customers who do not have the newer hardware will be able to use Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 for server virtualization on 32-bit host systems.
 
Q: Will Microsoft continue to support Linux operating systems with Windows Server virtualization?
A: Yes, Microsoft will provide virtual machine add-in technology and technical support for customers running select Linux distributions as guest operating systems within Windows Server virtualization.
 
Q: Will software and hardware partners now need to certify their applications and systems for Windows Server virtualization?
A: Microsoft tests and supports Windows running in its current virtualization products, Virtual PC and Virtual Server. ISVs and IHVs work with Microsoft to certify that their applications and systems run with Windows, which covers both physical and virtual machines.  This will hold true with Windows Server virtualization, as well. 
 
Q: Can you provide a brief overview of Windows Server virtualization’s feature set?
A: Some of the capabilities of  Windows Server virtualization will include x64 host and guest support,  ability to run guest machines in a multi-processor environment, dynamic resource management, and ability to move running virtual machines with minimal downtime.
 
Q: How will customers migrate to Windows Server virtualization?
A: Customers who invest the .vhd file format – the format used by Virtual Server, as well as a multitude of vendor licensees – will have a clear path forward to Windows Server virtualization. Customers can work with Microsoft’s partners who provide solutions to conveniently migrate from VMware to Windows Server virtualization.
 
Q: What are the security implications with Windows Server virtualization?  Does it present a new surface to attack?
A: Windows Server virtualization has been carefully designed and architected with security as a key consideration. Windows hypervisor, a core component of Windows, has an inherently secure architecture with minimal attack surface as it does not contain any third party device drivers. We expect the Windows hypervisor to be less than 100Kb in size. (As a reference, the driver for the trackpad in a laptop is about 260K in size). In addition, Windows runs as a foundation role in the parent partition thereby providing increased reliability and security with removal of non-value add legacy and client components. 
 
Q: What benefits will Windows Server virtualization offer customers that they can’t already get now from VMware or Xen? 
A: Virtualization is a key stepping stone for customers toward dynamic systems that are independent of physical resources.   Customers need virtualization solutions that are secure, interoperable, manageable, supported, as well as appropriate licensing policies.  Microsoft’s strategy is to address all of these needs and Windows Server virtualization is a key element of that strategy. Windows Server virtualization is designed to provide integrated virtualization capabilities to Windows customers. Windows Server virtualization and the System Center product family will provide the most integrated, comprehensive and cost-effective virtualization solution for customers. The result will be a highly efficient and secure virtualization capability that will act as a building block for managing the next-generation datacenter. We believe the combination of virtualization platform and management capabilities can deliver business agility, dynamic resource usage and higher levels of efficiency.
 
Q: Are the  new hardware standards for I/O Virtualization competitive with Microsoft’s products?
A: Microsoft has been working with hardware partners on progressive complementary technologies that combine new hardware and software innovations.  As a matter of fact the next generation of virtualization products from Microsoft that we are talking about this week are actually dependent upon new industry hardware assists for virtualization.  Microsoft is further an active participant in the PCI-SIG IO Virtualization Working Group and is excited about how these new standards can further complement existing and future virtualization solutions from Microsoft.  We are cooperating in this industry forum to help ensure these standards enjoy optimal compatibility even with existing Windows Operating Systems and extend future complementary capabilities from virtualized devices.  These new device virtualization standards will help the industry provide more efficient and dynamic sharing of resources across blade systems even without a hypervisor, but with future Windows Virtualization even broader capabilities can be available through to individual virtual machines within a physical machine. 

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