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5 min read

Viridian features update; beta planned for Longhorn RTM

Here we are on the eve of WinHEC 2007. This show is always a fun industry event for me to engage with a broad spectrum of partners. Perhaps none better than last year, when we demo’d Windows Server virtualization (codename Viridian) for the first time in BillG’s keynote, and presented technical content of the new architecture. Both the demo and technical sessions drew accolades and a ton of excitement.

Now almost a year later I’m proud to say we’ve made good progress with Windows Server virtualization:

  • we’re taking customer nominations for the technology adoption program (TAP)
  • we have interop agreements with both XenSource and Novell
  • partners have provided productive input on the platform APIs
  • VHD image format available via the Open Specification Promise
  • a beta version will be available with the RTM version of Windows Server “Longhorn” in H2

This last item is particularly exciting for me, my team, and is important for customers and partners. Last month we adjusted the public beta milestone for Windows Server virtualization. Now that the beta will be available with the RTM of Longhorn, we will be able to help drive broad ecosystem support for virtualization. This will allow a broad group of customers and partners to test workloads and applications on a pre-production version of Windows Server virtualization with the final version of Longhorn. And the corresponding version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager will be available 60-90 days afterward for customers to test deployment and migrations.

From the outset we’ve designed Windows virtualization products with broad customer adoption in mind, and to provide a compelling solution for core virtualization scenarios. IDC says that only 5% of hardware servers are virtualized, which I agree with. But it contradicts others’ claims about virtualization is everywhere. Reality, it’s not yet adopted by the masses. For example, we’ve had nearly 1 million downloads of Virtual Server 2005 in the past year, and we’ve had over 1.5 million downloads of Virtual PC 2007 since its release. That’s good today, but downloads and adoption will be much broader in two years.

I believe Windows Server virtualization will be appealing for the core virtualization scenarios, from the mid-market and large organizations to the enterprise. Especially for mid-market customers, they have the greatest need for a virtualization solution that is reliable, offers integrated management tools, has world class technical support, and allows employees and partners to leverage their existing skill sets.

To give you a sense of this, the following are what I believe to be some of the key features of Windows Server virtualization within the core virtualization scenarios.

Server consolidation:

  • “Hardware-based virtualization”: Windows Server virtualization is designed to fully utilize the virtualization capabilities built into microprocessors from AMD and Intel, unlike today’s binary translation hypervisors.
  • 64-bit hypervisor: with a 64-bit hypervisor, Windows Server virtualization can access much larger amounts of physical memory.
  • Server Core: Windows Server virtualization will be available as a role with a Server Core installation of Longhorn, which provides a minimal parent partition and reduces the system resources required by the parent partition as well as the attack surface.  This will provide customers with a better performing and more secure virtualization solution.
  • Large virtual machine memory support. Windows Server virtualization provides support for virtual machines with greater than 32 GB of memory per virtual machine.

High availability / business continuity:

  • Clustering: Windows Server virtualization will include native support for Microsoft Cluster Service so when customers build their virtualization solutions they can do so with high availability at the onset.
  • Geo-clustering: Windows Server virtualization natively integrates with Microsoft Cluster Service, which includes integrated geo-clustering support that is new in Longhorn. Coupled with MS clustering services, customers have an easy to use business continuity platform.
  • VSS: Window Server virtualization includes native support for industry standard Volume Shadow Services (VSS), which allows customers to easily interface with backup and replication solutions for business continuity.  Customers benefit from being able to backup running guests from the host with data integrity and no downtime.
  • Virtual SCSI:  Windows Server virtualization provides support for virtual storage adapters that support up to 256 virtual hard disks per virtual storage adapter through its new Virtualization Service Client for storage with support for up two storage adapters. This means you can attach up to 512 virtual hard disks to a Windows Server virtualization virtual machine.
  • Network Load Balancing: Windows Server virtualization includes new virtual switch capabilities. This means virtual machines can be easily configured to run with Windows NLB to balance load across virtual machines on different servers.

As a reminder, Windows Server virtualization will accommodate both planned and unplanned downtime, just as we do today with Virtual Server 2005 R2 – except that Windows Server virtualization offers native support for clustering. This host clustering capability offers minimal downtime (< 5 seconds) depending on the speed of storage and amount of memory assigned to a virtual machine. This approach offers customers tremendous value in that it is storage agnostic, comes with the OS, and is a high-availability solution for both planned and unplanned downtime. And the story only gets better with System Center Virtual Machine Manager, which will offer tools for high availability migration.

Test and Development:

  • VM snapshot: Window Server virtualization provides the ability to take snapshots of a running virtual machine so you can easily revert to a previous state.
  • Enables testing of large scale enterprise applications with support of  > 32 GB of RAM
  • Self-provisioning of Virtual Machines through System Center Virtual Machine Manager
  • Guest-to-Guest clustering
  • Support for both 32-bit and 64-bit guests.

Dynamic datacenter:

  • New Hardware sharing architecture: Windows Server virtualization provides a new high performance hardware sharing architecture that greatly improves performance.
  • Industry standard management APIs:  Windows Server virtualization supports the WMI interface, which is based on the industry standard management APIs being developed by the DMTF.
  • System Center: Windows Server virtualization is a key platform technology, but as customers look to benefit from the agility of virtualization, management tools become a key differentiator. With Microsoft System Center management tools, customers can now take advantage of a common set of tools and practices for deployment (physical and virtual workloads), P2V migration, health and monitoring, data protection and business continuity and enforcing business policy ultimately leading to a dynamic IT.

But with all this progress comes the occasional tradeoff. Earlier this week we had to come to grips with some universal truths about product development:

  • Shipping is a feature, too.
  • The quality bar, the time you have, and the feature set are directly correlated.
  • The mythical man-month – resources are not infinite and even if you could add more it does not help get more done faster.

So we had some really tough decisions to make.  We adjusted the feature set of Windows Server virtualization so that we can deliver a compelling solution for core virtualization scenarios while holding true to desired timelines. Windows Server virtualization is a core OS technology for the future, and we chose to focus on virtualization scenarios that meet the demands of the broad market – enterprise, large organizations, and mid-market customers. We continue to offer great technology and successful strategies for enterprise customers by broadly investing in the several areas.

So we are making the following changes, and postponing these features to a future release of Windows Server virtualization:

  • No Live migration
  • No hot-add resources (storage, networking, memory, processor)
  • Support limit of 16 cores/logical processors (e.g., 2 processor, quad-core systems is 8 cores; or 4 processor, quad-core system is 16 cores)

I wanted to share this information this week with partners and customers so that no one is surprised at WinHEC when we demo all the other innovations in Windows Server virtualization.

Speaking of, next week we have 6-7 sessions and panels on virtualization. Stop by if you’re attending the show, and come see a demo in the Microsoft pavilion. I am very excited to have you all try out Windows Server virtualization and hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Mike Neil

GM, virtualization strategy