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Hyper-V: Microsoft's virtualization program

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Hyper-V: Microsoft's virtualization program

Virtualization can be used in different situations. Cloud computing and container technology work with it. Windows users, however, do not have to rely on external and partly complex programs: with Hyper-V, the popular operating system has its own hypervisor. What is Hiper-V and what are its advantages?

  1. What is Hyper-V?
  2. Why use Hyper-V?
  3. The Microsoft Hyper-V architecture
  4. Differences between Hyper-V and other virtualization technologies
    1. Advantages of Hyper-V
    2. Disadvantages of Hyper-V

What is Hyper-V?

To virtualize hardware , that is, to create a hardware environment that does not physically exist in this form, you need an intermediary between the physical computer and the virtual machine. This interface is called a hypervisor. In this way, multiple virtual guest systems can be represented on the physical host system, sharing the host hardware . Microsoft has created its own hypervisor, Hyper-V, which is included in the professional versions of Windows 10 and Windows 8. It is already installed on Windows Server by default..

Hyper-V offers Windows users the ability to start their own virtual machine. In it, you can virtualize a complete hardware infrastructure with main memory, disk space, processor power, and other components. On this basis, a separate operating system runs which does not necessarily have to be Windows. A very popular option is to, for example, run an open source Linux distribution in a virtual machine.

Why use Hyper-V?

Virtualization technology can be used in various scenarios. However, Hyper-V in particular is often used in test environments. In this context, virtualization has two advantages:

  1. Computing environments that would otherwise not be accessible can be viewed. For example, instead of setting up your own Linux PC, a virtual machine can render the operating system relatively simple.
  2. The virtual machine is also autonomous. For example, if you run software that crashes the system, the physical device is not at risk. Only the virtual machine would need to be reset.

Home users can use Hyper-V, for example, if they want to use software that would not work with their current version of Windows, either because the program requires an older version of the operating system or because it is only compatible with Linux..

Virtualization with Hyper-V is a great advantage, especially for software developers , because the program can be tested under different software and hardware conditions . Plus, thanks to autonomous virtual machines, you don't have to worry about faulty code causing damage to the underlying system.

The Microsoft Hyper-V architecture

With Hyper-V, x64 versions of Windows can host one or more virtual machines that include a fully configured operating system. These guest systems are treated as partitions, a term known for the division of hard drives. Virtualization with Hyper-V works in a very similar way. Each virtual machine is an isolated drive next to the root partition, the actual operating system..

Individual partitions or guest systems are orchestrated by the hypervisor. These subordinate partitions are created and managed through an interface on the host system, the Hypercall API call, and are always isolated. Guest systems are assigned virtual hardware resources but can never access the host's physical hardware . To request hardware resources , subordinate partitions use the so-called VMBus. This is a channel that allows communication between the partitions. Guest systems can request resources from the host, but can theoretically also communicate with each other.

The partitions run services that handle the requests and responses that run on the VMBus. The host system runs the Virtualization Service Provider (VSP), the Virtualization Service Clients (VSC) subordinate partitions.

In Hyper-V, virtual machines are deployed as secondary partitions.

Differences between Hyper-V and other virtualization technologies

Unlike other virtualization providers, Hyper-V has the advantage of being tightly integrated into Windows. If you are using the Microsoft operating system for PCs or servers, you get the benefits of this integration. Hyper-V is also a type 1 hypervisor, something only a few solutions offer. This means that Hyper-V relies directly on the system hardware . Type 2 hypervisors, in contrast, must always go through the host operating system to provide resources.

Advantages of Hyper-V

For Windows users, a very clear advantage is the close connection to the operating system. This can also have budget advantages, as Hyper-V is often already included for free in Windows. Hyper-V keeps up with the competition in terms of functionality and performance as long as you only work with Windows as a guest. Because administration is relatively simple, its benefits are available even if you are not very experienced with virtualization.

Disadvantages of Hyper-V

Although Hyper-V works very well with Windows, the software hits its limits if it works with other operating systems. On the one hand, Hyper-V is not intended to work on other systems, but on the other, the possible guest systems are very limited. Aside from Windows, only a few selected Linux distributions can work in a virtual machine. For example, if you want to use MacOS as a guest system, you have to use a competitive product. Additionally, it has been shown that when running multiple Linux guest systems, a severe performance loss is to be expected.

In summary

If you work in a Windows environment, Hyper-V is a good alternative to other virtualization solutions. Since the software is often already installed in Windows, or can be later installed for free, it is ideal for small projects. However, the program clearly shows its weaknesses when it comes to other operating systems. In this case, you will have to turn to other products, such as those from the market leader VMware. This means that, despite the wide range of functions and the good performance, also in the area of ​​servers, Hyper-V is not so recommended for large projects. When deciding for or against Hyper-V, it is critical to consider what you want with virtualization.