Microsoft has promised that the Hyper-V virtualization component (formerly called Viridian) will follow within 180 days of the release of Windows Server 2008 . Of course, Microsoft already has Virtual Server and Virtual PC, as well as stiff competition on the virtualization front from VMWare and Citrix/XenSource.
With all these options, taking the plunge into virtualization can be a big and confusing step. Here are a few things you should know about virtualization and virtualization software before you start to plan a deployment.
#1: Virtualization is a broad term with many meanings — Virtualization software can be used for a number of purposes. Server consolidation (running multiple logical servers on a single physical machine) is a popular way to save money on hardware costs and make backup and administration easier, and that's what we're primarily focused on in this article. However, other uses include:
- Desktop virtualization, for running client operating systems in a VM for training purposes or for support of legacy software or hardware.
- Virtual testing environments, which provide a cost-effective way to test new software, patches, etc., before rolling them out on your production network.
- Presentation virtualization, by which you can run an application in one location and control it from another, with processing being done on a server and only graphics and end-user I/O handled at the client end.
- Application virtualization, which separates the application configuration layer from the operating system so that applications can be run on client machines without being installed.
- Storage virtualization, whereby a SAN system is used to provide storage for virtual servers, rather than depending on the hard disks in the physical server.
#2: Not all VM software is created equal — An array of virtualization programs are available, and the one(s) you need depends on exactly what you need to do. You might want to run a virtual machine on top of your desktop operating system, running a different OS, either to try out a new OS or because you have some applications that won't run in one of the operating systems.
For example, if you're using Windows XP as your desktop OS, you could install Vista in a VM to get to know its features. Or if you're running Vista but you have an application you occasionally need to use that isn't compatible with it, you could run XP in a VM with that application installed. For simple uses like this, a low-cost or free VM program, such as VMWare Workstation or Microsoft's Virtual PC, will work fine.
On the other hand, if you need to consolidate several servers and thus need maximum scalability and security, along with sophisticated management features, you should use a more robust VM solution, such as VMWare's ESX Servers, Microsoft's Virtual Server or (when it's available) the Hyper-V role in Windows Server 2008. For relatively simple server virtualization scenarios, you can use the free VMWare Server.
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