Thursday, February 12, 2009

An Introduction to Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008

There has been quite a lot of talk about virtualization recently, and most of the discussion is specifically about server virtualization. This is one of the most exciting trends in the industry and one that has the potential, over the next few years, to change the paradigm of how IT systems are deployed. But server virtualization will not only change how IT administrators and architects think about servers and system utilization, it is also going to affect the processes and tools used to manage what will certainly become an increasingly dynamic environment.
Virtualization has actually been around for some time now, but the technology is still evolving. In fact, the word itself still means different things to different people. In broad terms, however, virtualization is about abstracting one layer of the technology stack from the next layer, like storage from servers or the OS from the applications. Abstracting the different layers, in turn, enables consolidation and better manageability.
As a concept, virtualization applies to storage, networks, servers, applications, and access. When you look at storage and networks, the goal of virtualization is to aggregate a set of different devices so the total pool of resources looks and acts like a single entity. For example, you can configure a 40TB storage solution instead of a set of 20 2TB storage devices. But with other components, virtualization acts in the opposite direction, helping you to make a single system appear as though there are multiple systems. The most common example of this is server virtualization, where you host multiple OS instances and environments on a single server.
Microsoft has approached virtualization at several different levels, extending from the desktop to the datacenter with solutions for server virtualization, application virtualization, presentation virtualization, and desktop virtualization. The common thread across all of these is the management piece with Microsoft System Center. For this article, I am focusing on the server virtualization component and specifically on how Hyper-V, a key feature of Windows Server 2008, fits into the equation for a dynamic datacenter.

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