Data Centers Microsoft

Microsoft Hyper-V: The smart person's guide

This resource guide covers essential Hyper-V information, including features, system requirements, and how Microsoft's virtualization platform impacts the enterprise and its server infrastructure.

Image: iStock/Andrew Ostrovsky

Since its first release alongside x86-64 editions of Windows Server 2008, Microsoft's native hypervisor Hyper-V has been included with every version of Windows client and server. This hardware virtualization component is capable of creating and running virtual machines (VMs) through either the optionally installed Hyper-V role as part of an existing Windows Server installation or as the self-contained Hyper-V Server OS installable on bare-metal servers.

For the latest information about Hyper-V, check this guide periodically--we'll update it when Microsoft releases new information throughout Hyper-V's development lifecycle.

SEE: All of TechRepublic's smart person's guides

Executive summary

  • What is Hyper-V? Microsoft's Hyper-V is a virtualization component that allows for the creation and management of hardware virtualized computing environments through the use of VMs to run multiple operating systems on one physical server.
  • Why does Hyper-V matter? Hyper-V's capability to virtualize computing environments allows for administrators to effectively and efficiently manage resources on a host server to consolidate multiple systems into one.
  • Who does Hyper-V affect? Businesses of all sizes that manage multiple servers may be able to consolidate multiple physical servers and the resources they utilize by shrinking the footprint of their data centers, thereby lowering the total costs associated with managing their systems.
  • When will Hyper-V be available? The latest version of Hyper-V is currently available as a part of Windows Server 2016 or as the standalone Hyper-V Server 2016.
  • How do you get Hyper-V? Hyper-V is included with your Windows Server 2016 license when purchased directly from Microsoft or a third-party reseller. Hyper-V Server 2016 is available free of charge by downloading it directly from Microsoft's website.

SEE: Virtualization Policy (Tech Pro Research)

What is Hyper-V?

Initially released as an installable server role available on Windows Server 2008, the finalized version of Hyper-V was released on June 26, 2008. Hyper-V was developed by Microsoft to address the growing interest in virtualization technology, which allows for multiple operating systems to be installed on one physical server by pooling the available resources of the host server to consolidate existing infrastructure into a higher-density environment with a smaller physical footprint.

With each release of Windows Server that followed, Hyper-V continued to be included as a role that could be installed optionally. This method required that the full Windows Server OS be installed on the physical server, which in-turn required that some resources be allotted to the host OS in order for it to remain stable. Microsoft has addressed this concern by making Hyper-V Server available. Hyper-V Server consists of the Windows Server Core and the Hyper-V role, which provides a PowerShell (PS) command line interface (CLI) to configure the hypervisor and OS settings; this simplifies configuration and provides a small footprint that allows more hardware resources to become available for hosted VMs.

Minimum requirements

Hyper-V on Windows:

  • Windows Server 2008 (or later for server operating systems)
  • Windows 8 (or later for client operating systems)
  • 64-bit processor for Second-Level Address Translation (SLAT)
  • CPU support for VM Monitor Mode Extension (Intel VT or AMD-V)
  • Hardware-enforced Data Execution Prevention (DEP or NX bit)
  • 4 GB of RAM

Hyper-V Server 2016:

  • 64-bit processor for Second-Level Address Translation (SLAT)
  • CPU support for VM Monitor Mode Extension (Intel VT or AMD-V)
  • Hardware-enforced Data Execution Prevention (DEP or NX bit)
  • 4 GB of RAM

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Why does Hyper-V matter?

With computers becoming faster, and the CPU, storage, and RAM count increasing exponentially between generations, the possibility of running multiple systems with multiple OSes and providing multiple services-- all from one physical device--is very real.

Also, as more applications switch to service models and numerous services migrate to cloud infrastructures, the need for multiple servers is a largely antiquated deployment method, especially when paired with faster, multicore processors, double and triple-digit RAM totals, and storage pools with terabytes of data storage potential.

These modern, higher-density servers can include the same resources available on production servers, except several times over. These additional resources can sufficiently and in many ways, efficiently handle the workload of most (if not all) the physical servers from just one physical box.

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Who does Hyper-V affect?

The virtualized environments that Hyper-V is capable of managing depend on how powerful a host server is and the needs of the business it will service. With that said, many businesses are pleasantly surprised to find that a server's total cost of ownership (TCO)--including the cost of equipment, service plans, IT staff, utilities, building/rack space, upgrades, ongoing support, etc.--may be significantly lowered, and in some cases almost eliminated. By virtualizing the infrastructure to a degree, it is not uncommon to see average consolidation ratios of 6:1 VMs per physical host, and in some cases higher if adequate capacity planning is performed and right-sizing best practices are adhered to.

Besides the business and bottom line benefits from virtualization, IT personnel typically also see an upside to consolidating servers in the form of less physical equipment to manage and simplified management with the right tools. By taking into account the savings from eliminating the number of physical servers being managed, administrators can better manage the existing hosts and their virtualized guest VMs, and focus less on physical devices and more on optimizing performance.

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Competitors to Microsoft Hyper-V

While Hyper-V includes many added benefits by virtue of its close-knit integration with the Windows Server OS, management infrastructure based on the PowerShell framework and familiar Windows GUI, and world-class support from Microsoft, there are many other competitors in the virtualization market, some of which are industry leaders in their own right.

  • VMware is synonymous with virtualization--from client platforms to server systems to network management--the VMware platform covers virtualization from all sides and its line of products and management technologies are second to none. VMware offers paid (vSphere) and free (ESXi) hypervisors for systems virtualization.
  • Xen/XenServer by Citrix is another leading virtualization platform for managing desktop and server infrastructures. Designed to aid in consolidating and managing hardware resources, this virtualization suite allows administrators to maximize the efficiency and performance of the host's hardware, while providing direct integration with their XenDesktop and XenApp deployments for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and application virtualization softwares.
  • KVM (short for Kernel Virtual Machine) is a Linux-based virtualization solution that runs on bare-metal servers to provide a core virtualization infrastructure. It can be used to run Linux or Windows images and each VM runs directly on private, virtualized hardware. It can be included as part of a Linux distribution, if necessary, and is licensed as open-source software.

SEE: Quick glossary: Virtualization (Tech Pro Research)

While the previous entries are examples of Type-1 hypervisors, which run directly on bare-metal servers, the list below is competitors that provide Type-2 hypervisors, which run at the application level and require a host OS in order to operate.

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When will Hyper-V be available?

Hyper-V has been available since Windows Server 2008 as an optionally installable role of the full-server version. Since then, it has appeared in all of Microsoft's Windows Server line of OSes, including as an optional install as a server role in the core installations.

The latest iteration of its standalone offering, Hyper-V Server 2016, is available as a separate product. Additionally, Hyper-V is available as an optional feature, beginning with Windows 8.

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How can I get Hyper-V?

Hyper-V can be obtained in one of two ways: purchasing the Windows Server 2016 license and installing it as a role, or downloading the Hyper-V Server 2016 software.

Depending on the edition of Windows Server purchased, the license will grant the user specific rights. For Windows Server Standard, it grants one physical installation of Windows Server on a server and two guest licenses for use with Hyper-V as VMs; for Windows Server Datacenter, it grants one physical installation of Windows Server on a server and includes unlimited guest licenses for use with Hyper-V as VMs.

SEE: Microsoft MCSE Server Admin Certification Training Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)

Since Hyper-V is also available on Windows client OSes, the licensing terms stipulate that for Education, Professional, or Enterprise versions only it grants one physical installation of Windows client on a desktop or mobile computer and includes one guest license for use with Hyper-V as a VM.

Lastly, Hyper-V Server is licensed for use free of charge by Microsoft and allows for unlimited physical installations on a server. Unlike the Windows Server and client versions though, no guest licenses are included--guest operating systems (just like the server and client OSes) must have their licenses purchased separately from Microsoft or third-party resellers.

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How do I use Hyper-V?

TechRepublic has published several tutorials on how to setup, manage, and get the most performance out of Hyper-V. Check out these tips.

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