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Hyper-V and Virtualization

Virtualization technologies have become more and more popular over the past few years, and you have probably heard about the term, or even deployed them already.

But what is virtualization? Virtualization technologies create a complete virtual IT environment: both hardware and software; processors, storage, memory, network interfaces, operating system, etc). Thanks to virtualization, multiple virtual machines (VMs) can run on a single server, sharing the server's resources.

Managing these virtual machines and efficiently sharing the server's resources is handled by a hypervisor. A hypervisor is an additional software layer between the physical and virtual environments.

What is Hyper-V?

Hyper-V is Microsoft's native hypervisor. Hyper-V was first released by Microsoft on June 26, 2008 for x86-based 64bit editions of Windows Server 2008. Since then, Hyper-V has been released with every version of Windows Server, and is also available on 64-bit Professional and Enterprise editions of Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 operating systems. In desktop operating systems, Hyper-V is the successor to Windows Virtual PC, which was available for Windows 7.

There is also a free, dedicated Hyper-V server edition: Microsoft Hyper-V Server. This edition does not require an existing installation of Windows Server. The first edition Windows Hyper-V Server 2008 was released on October 1, 2008, while the latest currently available edition is Windows Hyper-V Server 2012 R2. These editions of Microsoft Hyper-V server are stripped down versions of their respective full server editions, with certain server roles disabled.

Hyper-V Features

The last edition Hyper-V 3.0 provided with Windows Server 2012 R2 supports the following features:

  • Shared virtual disks enable multiple virtual machines to access the same virtual hard disk (VHDX) file, which provides shared storage for use by Windows Failover Clustering
  • It is possible to resize the virtual disk while the virtual machine is running
  • Storage Quality of Service (QoS) manages storage throughput
  • Live migrations of virtual machines with improved performance
  • Integration services support copying files to the virtual machine while it is running
  • Exporting a virtual machine to save a snapshot of its state is supported while a virtual machine is running
  • Failover Clustering and Hyper-V enables failover protection of the virtual network adapter and of the virtual machine storage
  • Enhanced Session mode provides enhanced interactive session functionality similar to that of remote desktop sessions
  • Hyper-V Replica adds support for configuring enhanced replication of the primary virtual machines
  • Improved Linux Support with improved video drivers, fully supported dynamic memory, Linux virtual machines virtual disks can be resized while the VM is running
  • Improved Remote Management
  • Automatic Virtual Machine Activation (AVMA) allows you to install virtual machines on an activated Windows Server 2012 R2 host without worrying about product keys for VM's
  • Advanced Hyper-V Network Virtualization

System Requirements and Supported Guest Operating Systems

To install Hyper-V, you must have one of the mentioned server or desktop operating systems installed. A CPU with support for hardware virtualization (Intel VT or AMD-V) and hardware enforced Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is also required to run Hyper-V. The minimum amount of RAM is 2GB, but you will likely need more because every virtual machine allocates a chunk of the RAM for itself.

Hyper-V running on Windows Server 2012 R2 supports installations of the following guest operating systems as virtual machines: Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Home Server 2011, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows Server 2008 SP2, Windows Server 2003 R2 SP3, Windows 2000 SP4, Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP SP3, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP4 or 11 SP1-SP3, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.7-7.0, CentOS 6.0-7.0, Ubuntu 12.04-14.04, Debian 7.0, Oracle Linux 6.4.

Hyper-V supports a maximum number of 64 supported CPUs for running VMs with Windows Server and Linux operating systems, while running Windows 8.1 or Windows 8 VMs reduces the number of supported CPUs to 32.

Points to Remember

To use Hyper-V you need a compatible Microsoft environment, with one of aforementioned Microsoft's operating systems, and a CPU with hardware virtualization support and hardware enforced Data Execution Prevention.

While there is a free Windows Hyper-V Server OS available, it is limited to running only virtualization tasks and services.

FAQ

Can I try out Hyper-V virtualization on my desktop computer running Windows 10 and how?

Yes you can, simply go to the "Turn Windows Features on or off" screen and tick the Hyper-V checkbox in the list to add it to Windows. You will need to restart the computer after the installation. Then just start the Hyper-V Manager application and start setting up your virtual machine.

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