Microsoft Virtualization Gems
I've already written about Doug Brown's excellent series of podcast interviews with Microsoft virtualization experts. In short, it is required listening for anyone interested in virtualization in general and Microsoft's take on virtualization in particular. Here are a few gems I've extracted from these podcasts, with some personal observations:
- Management is where it's at – in one interview Doug Brown states that the hypervisor is becoming a commodity and that the battle will be about management. I couldn't agree more, and apparently so does Microsoft, having priced Hyper-V at a mere $28. Several interviewees talk about Microsoft's new System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and all the hard work they are doing to catch up with VMware. It appears that Microsoft is shooting for a version 1.x with the capabilities and scope of a 2.x. It will be interesting to see if they succeed.
- Microsoft to manage VMware – I guess Microsoft has come to grips with the fact that VMware is too entrenched to be replaced any time soon. As a result System Center Virtual Machine Manager will be able to manage both Microsoft's Hyper-V and VMware's ESX/VI3! I cannot think of any other example where Microsoft has taken such an approach with a direct competitor.
- Leveraging the monopoly – Microsoft's key advantage is that the OS most organizations will virtualize is Windows. Microsoft is planning to leverage this advantage using what it calls “deep management” – managing both the outside and the inside of the virtual machines using a single console.
- Windows is enlightened – enlightenment is a very interesting new Windows kernel features described in the interview with Eric Traut. Special code has been inserted into the Windows kernel that recognizes when it's run inside a virtual machine. This triggers various optimizations that can improve performance by up to 20%. The big question is: will this code identify ESX or only Hyper-V?
- The pervasive VHD – Virtual Hard Disk is format developed by Microsoft for packaging virtual machines. It's also the format licensed by XenSource (now Citrix), for Xen. According to these interviews, Microsoft is so enamored with this format that they plan to use it all over the place, e.g. they are considering replacing the Application Virtualization (SoftGrid), SFT format with VHD.
- VDI is in the future, way in the future – Doug asks all the interviewees about VDI, and they all answer that it's interesting. They all mention Terminal Services. And they all neglect to provide any concrete details about Microsoft's plans for VDI. My take is that currently Microsoft simply does not have concrete plans for VDI.
What does all this mean for Ericom? We believe that Hyper-V will become a significant factor in the virtualization market, but that VMware will remain a dominant player for some time to come, at least. As a result, many organizations will find themselves utilizing multiple types of hypervisors and their data-centers, despite the obvious desire to standardize on a single vendor. Moreover, the approach taken by Oracle, of officially supporting its products only on its own virtualization platform, may lead to even greater diversification. In this context, Microsoft's decision to enable management of multiple types of hypervisors using a single console appears to be very justified.
We believe that VDI connection brokers must take the same approach. As a results, our connection broker already supports VMware VirtualCenter 1.x and 2.x, Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 (Hyper-V support is in the works) Xen and VirtualIron. Oracle VM support will be added very soon. Add to that our longstanding support for Terminal Servers as well as many other types of back-end systems all within the same product, and you've got total access solution.