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Windows 8 to feature Hyper-V virtualization functionality

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September 9, 2011

There are a few reports that Windows 8 will most likely feature Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization functionality in an effort to attract app developers, IT professionals, virtualization integrators and other users who need to run, test or support virtual environments in the IT segment.

Describing the move in the latest edition of the "Building Windows 8" blog, Mathew John, a program manager on Microsoft's Hyper-V team, noted that it has previously been available only in recent server-based editions of Windows Server 2008 R2, making Windows 8 the first client OS to include the feature.

Overall, virtualization tools such as Hyper-V allow users to run multiple operating systems such as Unix and Linux, and environments on the same server. That's helpful for application developers and other individuals for testing various software.

But it's also increasingly used by IT admins who need to set up and support virtualized PCs as well. "Hyper-V enables developers to easily maintain multiple test environments and provides a simple solution to quickly switch between these environments without incurring additional hardware costs," John explained.

"For example, we release pre-configured virtual machines containing old versions of Internet Explorer to support Web developers. The IT administrator gets the additional benefit of virtual machine parity and a common management experience across Hyper-V in Windows Server and Windows Client. We also know that many of you use virtualization to try out new things without risking changes to the PC you are actively using," said John.

As expected, to run the new Windows 8 Hyper-V, users will need a 64-bit CPU, which has been available on PCs for a number of years now, and the 64-bit version of Windows 8, and at least 4 gigabytes of RAM as a minimum. But the requirements go a bit beyond that.

Hyper-V also demands a 64-bit system that has Second Level Address Translation (SLAT), a feature that helps with RAM management.

"SLAT is a feature present in the current generation of 64-bit processors by Intel and AMD," John explained. And by current, John means Intel's Core i3, i5, and i7 processors and AMD's Barcelona processor, all of which have been available on PCs since mid-2008.

Windows 7 offers its own virtualization tool called Virtual PC. Combined with Windows XP mode, this feature was set up to let users run XP-based applications that weren't compatible with Windows 7.

To run XP mode, PCs initially needed to support virtualization at the hardware level. But after complaints that many chips didn't offer that support, Microsoft updated the feature to remove the hardware requirement.

And since Hyper-V was designed as a robust server-based virtualization tool, it offers several advantages over Windows Virtual PC-- a great feature in the context of today's Cloud Environment. Hyper-V can support non-Microsoft operating systems such as Unix and Linux. It can allocate memory dynamically as needed by a virtualized environment.

It also allows for multiple "snapshots" of a virtual machine, helpful in case the user needs to return to a previous instance of the virtual enviroment.

Including Hyper-V in Windows 8 is also a shot across the bow of VMware, Microsoft's major competitor in the growing virtualization market.

Just a few weeks ago, Microsoft's Windows division president Steven Sinofsky said that he launched the 'Building Windows 8 Blog' to talk about some of the features in the new operating system that is expected to hit the 'Net sometime in September.

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Sinofsky said people have expressed frustration over how little the software giant has talked about Windows 8, but said Microsoft has been victimized in the past by being too open and talkative before launching a new product as critical as an operating system.

"We've certainly learned lessons over the past years about the risks of talking about features before we have a solid understanding of our ability to execute and deliver," Sinofsky humbly said on his inaugural blog post.

"Our intent with this pre-release blog is to make sure that we have a reasonable degree of confidence in what we talk about, before we talk about it."

Déja vu you ask? Maybe. We will see...

Microsoft demo'ed the Windows 8 interface in June, while in January it said Windows 8 would run on systems on a chip, including ARM processors, for the very first time. ARM CPUs are made by ARM Holdings, and the company is agressively targeting Intel with its new technology, and has had a lot of success in the last year.

People are obviously asking for technical details but all Microsoft has given us so far is "wait and see".

Microsoft has definetly learned from its previous mistakes. However, a big question still looms over how Windows 8 will achieve compatibility with older apps built for x86 machines and which are not running on ARM.

And this has been a major topic of debate between Microsoft and Intel, the chip giant which was once one of Microsoft's biggest ally. Intel is now forced to share its love with SoC rivals like ARM as Microsoft tries to break into tablets against Apple's iPad. It will soon get ugly, some say. Then again, we will see.

Source: Microsoft.

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