Microsoft Hyper-V is its third generation virtualization software available as part of Server 2012 or as a free standalone package. Even though its core offering is free, you'll now gain features that you previously would have expected to pay for. This can certainly be a game changer to organizations looking to save money on licensing while benefiting their IT infrastructure. Let's look at some of Hyper-V's biggest highlights.
Hyper-V 2012 now handles more virtual hosts than ever before, even allowing you to run intensive tasks typically reserved for your physical servers. It can handle 320 logical processors and up to 4 terabytes of RAM. The virtual hosts can be configured with 64 virtual processors each with 1 TB of RAM. Each virtual disk can go as high as 64 TB and one single Hyper-V package can run 1024 machines through virtualization.
You'd think the free version would be hobbled in some way, but make no mistake, this is just as powerful as the version of Hyper-V you'd pay for in Server 2012. So, who is this for? If your organization isn't planning to run Server 2012 as a hypervisor but intend to use other operating systems, getting the free Hyper-V 2012 is an ideal fit.
Hyper-V retains the same look and feel as other management tools, so there's nothing to be surprised with when first learning how to use it. In typical Microsoft fashion, much of the interface is driven by wizards to import or export virtualization, create a new disk or migrating VMs.
One of the other features introduced in Hyper-V 2012 is shared-nothing live migration. This is huge news for smaller organizations that have virtual machines on servers without a shared storage pool on an area network. This also benefits businesses that need to move servers from a local storage to a hosted data center. For example, periodically some organizations need to allow servers to be shut down.
Another one of the biggest advantages in Hyper-V 2012 is a new replication feature. You can designate a Hyper-V host, one running within either a Windows Server cluster or an instance running on a remote network, as a replication target.
Hyper-V is not the best virtualization solution for everyone. But it makes for an excellent overall contender especially considering the savings with licensing. For small organizations that wish to fully utilize their existing architecture without adding complexity, Hyper-V could be the perfect solution.
Should VMware and other competitors be concerned? In a word: Yes. Microsoft has successfully managed to bring a free version of what you'd expect out of commercial virtualization software in an admin-friendly interface.