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Is Hyper-V a Virtual Showstopper for Developers?

Timing can make or break you in many professions other than comedy. Releasing a major product on the Friday before your competitor’s must-attend conference is the attempted showstopper in the technology industry.

That scenario played out again last week. On Friday, Microsoft released its standalone hypervisor, Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, to manufacturing on the eve of VMworld 2009, the annual event of market leading VMware, the virtual target in Microsoft’s crosshairs.

Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 adds support for live migration, a feature already offered by VMware’s ESXi, and high availability, among other enhancements. Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper V were "officially" released to manufacturing in July, according to Microsoft.

But for developers who simply want to queue up virtual machines on their workstations for 64-bit testing or SharePoint development, Microsoft doesn’t yet offer a desktop solution, outside of its enterprise-level desktop virtualization (MED-V) product. Hyper-V requires a dedicated server and remote management tools. Microsoft RTMed the Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 7, which includes the Hyper-V management tools, on August 11.

The company’s Virtual PC 2007 can be configured to (unofficially) host Windows 7, but it does not support 64-bit processing. The upcoming Windows Virtual PC for Windows 7 requires hardware virtualization support (Intel and AMD).

Developers who are used to hosted environments, such as VMware’s Workstation, may balk if their company mandates use of the "free" Hyper-V for their virtual testing and development.

Ben Armstrong, aka the "Virtual PC Guy" and lead program manager on the core virtualization team at Microsoft, explained the company’s virtualization offerings in a recent blog:

"Hyper-V has been developed to be a great solution as a dedicated virtualization server, not as a desktop computing environment. Similarly, Windows Virtual PC has been developed as a great application compatibility solution. This means that neither of these solutions are ideal for people who want to use server class virtual machines (64-bit, multiprocessor, etc…) on a system that they also want to get a high fidelity desktop experience on."

Traditionally, Hyper-V has not played well with high end video cards on the desktop. It also consumes too much power, according to Microsoft, and interferes with PC’s sleep and hibernate modes.

Windows XP Mode for Windows 7, currently a release candidate, is a host-based compatibility solution for running Windows XP apps alongside Windows 7 apps on desktop machines. It will be offered free with Windows XP Professional and requires Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP with Service Pack 3.

Are you developing apps with Windows 7 in mind? We want to include your insights in an upcoming Visual Studio Magazine feature on the new client OS. Express your opinions in our survey and tell us what aspects of Win7 are most intriguing and most disappointing to .NET developers. E-mail Visual Studio Magazine’s editor in chief Michael Desmond at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/01/2009

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