Windows 8 has been released... OK, so I'm not actually that excited about Windows 8 (I'm a Mac user and I like my screen sharp and finger print free). But as usual it was accompanied by a new version of Microsoft's server OS - 2012 and that does excite me.
Yes 2012 has got a load of new functionality, but these 'cool new features' aren't the interesting bits, it's what's been in there for a while that's really exciting. There are a few components in Windows 2012 that have hit version 3.0 and that's a big deal, one of those is Hyper-V. What this really means is Microsoft's hypervisor platform has passed a milestone in maturity. Typically when Microsoft brings a new technology to market it takes a few versions of fine tuning to really hit the mark. During this time, some early adopters will use it for production workloads, but the majority of large enterprises will confine it to labs and low priority workloads until an at least an 'R2' before rolling it out into prod. We're past that stage now, and it's starting to hit the mainstream in a big way, even in large enterprises.
VMWare has been the dominant x86 hypervisor for a while, but it's been no secret that Hyper-V adoption has been ramping up and not-so-slowly eroding market share. I've noticed this first hand with the customers I deal with. More and more I've been coming across customers who have decided upon Hyper-V as their primary hypervisor, sometimes even for Linux-only workloads, which is saying something. For those that have VMWare, the vast majority also have the 2008 R2 flavour of Hyper-V at least running in a lab and probably hosting a few production apps.
The battle ground is changing too. Since the majority of virtual guests on VMWare are running Windows (I think the last statistic I heard was around 80%) you need to be purchasing Windows licenses anyway. With Hyper-V as a free component of Windows Server you are essentially getting a hypervisor for nothing now. With all of the hypervisors (including the open source offerings) now more or less at feature parity - the battle is becoming more about the management tools. Most organisations I've spoken too are expecting to not standardise on a single hypervisor but are settling on multi-hypervisor strategies, but looking for a single management suite to manage all their different hypervisor environments. This can only be a good thing - competition in the management tools means we are likely to see a lot of enhancements to vCenter and System Center.
The other interesting thing is what will happen when we get a more widespread adoption of a 'fat' hypervisor for x86/Windows. VMWare is a 'locked down' hypervisor - you are limited as to what you can install on the ESX host itself and only really have access to the APIs VMWare have made available. Hyper-V by contrast works in much the same way as the virtualisation products from the Unix world, with a fully functioning OS acting as the 'parent' (partition/zone/domain). There are pro's and con's to both, but the Hyper-V approach means you can install pretty much anything you want into the hypervisor, which certainly opens up a lot of options.
For instance - Symantec has been working quote closely with VMWare over the years and we have products such as our Dynamic Multipathing for VMWare, ApplicationHA extension to VMWare's HA and a special version of Veritas Cluster Server enhanced for running within VMs. However on Hyper-V as with our capabilities on the Unix and Linux hypervisors, we are able to deploy the entire Storage Foundation stack in addition to Hyper-V specific enhancements. Being able to run existing software on the hypervisor layer without considerable modifications lowers the barrier for entry and means development time can be more focused on doing interesting things rather than just 'getting it to work', which I suspect will lead to a great deal of competition in this area. The increased adoption of Hyper-V should fuel a lot of innovation in the x86/Windows virtualisation space, interesting times indeed...