As most are aware, Microsoft's hypervisor-based server virtualization offering, Hyper-V, has been growing in capability for some time now. The Hyper-V 2012 release made available late last year allowed Microsoft's hypervisor offering to be that much more compelling providing on par virtualization capabilities alongside other offerings currently in market. Microsoft has now taken Hyper-V a step further by offering a recent preview upgrade to release 2 (R2) to further its virtualization efforts. The following is a short list of features found in this preview release:
Support for the Linux operating system
Linux drivers, titled the Linux Integration Services, or “LIS.” are synthetic drivers made available for network and disk to provide performance nearly equaling the performance of bare hardware. Other housekeeping drivers are included for time synchronization, shutdown, and heartbeat. Hyper-V can now enable live backups for Linux guests and allow for Hyper-V features, like live migration to work for Linux instances similarly as they do for Windows guests.
Microsoft has completed the LIS development as a member of the Linux community allowing the drivers to be reviewed by the community and checked into the main Linux kernel source code base. Linux distribution vendors are then able to pull the drivers from the main Linux kernel and incorporate them into specific distributions.
LIS is currently a built-in part of these distributions:
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.9 and 6.4
- SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2 and SP3
- Ubuntu Server 12.04, 12.10, and 13.04
- CentOS 5.9 and 6.4
- Oracle Linux 6.4 (Red Hat Compatible Kernel)
- Debian GPU/Linux 7.0
Updates to LIS for Hyper-V 2012 R2 address several key issues needed to bring Linux to the same baseline as Windows when running on Hyper-V:
- Dynamic memory: Increase Linux VM density on Hyper-V by having Hyper-V automatically add and remove physical memory for Linux guests based on the guest needs, just like for Windows.
- 2D synthetic video driver: Gives great 2D video performance for Linux guests, and solves earlier problems with duplicate mouse pointers.
- VMbus protocol updates: Linux guests have the ability to spread interrupts across multiple virtual CPUs for better performance, just like for Windows.
- Kexec: Linux guests running in Hyper-V can get crash dumps, just like on physical hardware.
While not a new feature, the R2 offering does provide a significant increase in ability to allow IT administrators to select the optimal performance options when moving virtual machines to a different server. Larger scale deployments benefit from this update by capitalizing on reduce overhead on the network and CPU usage. In addition to reducing the amount of time for a live migration, Hyper-V administrators can now configure the appropriate live migration performance options based on their environment and requirements.
Virtual machine generation
Two new supported virtual machine generations have now been made available in this preview:
- Generation 1 provides the same virtual hardware to the virtual machine as in previous versions of Hyper-V.
- Generation 2 now provides the following new functionality on a virtual machine:
- Secure Boot (enabled by default)
- Boot from a SCSI virtual hard disk
- Boot from a SCSI virtual DVD
- PXE boot by using a standard network adapter
- UEFI firmware support
IT administrators now need to specify which virtual machine generation is to be utilized when creating a new virtual machine in Hyper-V Manager or when using the New-VM Windows PowerShell cmdlet.
Enhanced session mode
Previous versions of Hyper-V only allowed Virtual Machine Connection redirection of only the virtual machine screen, keyboard, and mouse with limited copy functionality. A remote desktop connection to the virtual machine was required to be initialized to get additional redirection abilities, but required a network path to the virtual machine. Enhanced session mode now allows the Virtual Machine Connection an enhanced interactive session experience allowing administrators further capability via their virtual machines. The following local resources can now be redirected when using Virtual Machine Connection:
- Display configuration
- Smart cards
- USB devices
- Supported Plug and Play devices
Storage Quality of Service
Storage QoS enables IT professionals to specify the maximum and minimum I/O loads in terms of I/O operations per second (IOPS) for each virtual disk found in the deployed virtual machines. Storage QoS also ensures the storage throughput of one virtual hard disk does not impact the performance of another virtual hard disk on the same host.
Shared virtual hard disk
Hyper-V 2012 R2 Preview found in Windows Server 2012 R2 preview enables clustering of virtual machines by using shared virtual hard disk (VHDX) files. This allows IT professionals to build a high availability infrastructure found in both private cloud deployments and cloud-hosted environments that manage large workloads. Multiple virtual machines are now able to access the same virtual hard disk (VHDX) file through shared virtual hard disks. This provides a shared storage for use by Windows Failover Clustering and allows the shared virtual hard disk files to be hosted on Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) or on Server Message Block (SMB)-based Scale-Out File Server file shares.
Automatic Virtual Machine Activation
IT professionals can now install virtual machines on a computer where Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview is properly activated without having to manage product keys for each individual virtual machine, even in disconnected environments via Automatic Virtual Machine Activation (AVMA). The virtual machine activation is bound via AVMA to the licensed virtualization server and activates the virtual machine when it starts. Real-time reporting on usage, and historical data on the license state of the virtual machine is also made available via AVMA with reporting and tracking data made available on the virtualization server. In addition, no product keys are needed to manage and no stickers are required to be read on the servers. The activated virtual machine even continues to work when it is migrated across an array of virtualization servers.
If you have not done so already, be sure to download Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 Preview to see how your organization can benefit from Microsoft's latest Hypervisor offering.