Hyper-V hypes up Windows 8 release

It is a rumor no more. That right folks, Microsoft confirmed Sept. 7 that its Hyper-V hypervisor will be included in Windows 8, for which little else is known (to see a list of features expected in Windows 8 see page 3).

The announcement, in a "building Windows 8" blog post, confirms early sleuth work by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley. She tracked the idea back to a 2009 mention by a Microsoft executive. Microsoft already provides Hyper-V for its Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 products, but client OS integration was just at the rumor level previously.

Bringing Hyper-V to Windows 8, its still-under-wraps client OS, took some engineering savvy to pull off, according to Matthew John, a program manager on the Microsoft Hyper-V team, in the blog post. He describes the architectural thinking behind a Microsoft "bridge" solution that enables Wi-Fi packets to move from the external world into a virtual machine running on Windows 8. Microsoft worked out a solution that enables an external network switch to work with a physical network interface controller, for instance.

The Hyper-V integration into the client OS will allow users to run 32-bit and 64-bit virtual machines on top of Windows 8 running on x86 metal. It will allow software developers to work with multiple environments, while IT pros will be able to leverage desktop virtualization for different test configurations, John noted. However, Hyper-V on Windows 8 will still have some limitations, which John described:

  • Apps dependent on hardware (for example, BitLocker and Measured Boot) will not work well in a virtual machine;
  • Apps with low latencies (below 10 milliseconds), such as music-mixing apps, could have issues in a virtual machine; and
  • Games requiring graphics processing units might not work well.

One potential roadblock for organizations running virtual machines on top of Window 8 might be found in the licensing aspects. John noted that "as a reminder, you will still need to license any operating systems you use in the VMs." It will also require having a 64-bit x86-based PC with 4 GB of RAM to run three or four virtual machines on Windows 8.

A few features were noted by John. Windows 8 Hyper-V will have the following capabilities:

  • Dynamic memory for on-the-fly memory allocation (already a feature of Hyper-V running on Windows Server 2008 R2);
  • VM Console or Remote Desktop Connection for monitoring virtual machines;
  • A "live storage move" capability that enables virtual machines to be moved, even while running;
  • A snapshot capability;
  • Automatic patching via Windows Update ("Hyper-V virtual machines have all of the manageability benefits of Windows," John explained).

Microsoft currently offers desktop virtualization support on Windows 7 through its Virtual PC technology running Windows XP Mode. This solution allows Windows XP to run in a virtual machine on top of Windows 7, but it lacks the sort of robust management support that IT shops may require. Microsoft also offers desktop virtualization for Windows 7 clients that has such management capabilities via its Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) solution.

MED-V is benefit for organizations that can afford to pay for Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing option. It's also available for $1 per user per month more as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack suite for Windows Intune subscribers. MED-V access rights also can be obtained through the Virtual Desktop Access license that Microsoft established in July 2010.

Microsoft's blog did not explain what happens to Virtual PC and MED-V desktop virtualization technologies when Windows 8 is released having Hyper-V capabilities.

In general, Microsoft plans to talk in greater detail about Windows 8 and Windows Server 8 at its sold-out Build conference. Build is scheduled to start on Sept. 13 next week in Anaheim, Calif.

Here's a scorecard of features expected in Windows 8, as revealed by Microsoft so far:

Windows 8 Feature


System-on-chip integration on ARM platform designs, as well as x86 platforms from AMD and Intel, enabling new form factors for devices

Steve Ballmer at the Computer Electronics Show, January (link)

Touch-enabled user interface similar to Windows Phone 7, along with traditional menu access via mouse and keyboard

Steven Sinofsky at All Things Digital's D9 event and Mike Angiulo at Computex Taipei, June (link)

Backward compatibility with hardware that can run Windows 7

Steven Sinofsky, building Windows 8 blog, August (link)

An App Store link built into the OS

Steven Sinofsky, building Windows 8 blog, August (link)

USB 3.0 support

Dennis Flanagan, building Windows 8 blog, August (link)

Management of multiple copy jobs via a single dialog box

Alex Simons, building Windows 8 blog, August (link)

Ribbon user interface for Windows Explorer for file management

Alex Simons, building Windows 8 blog, August (link)

Quick access to the contents of ISO files and VHD files

Rajeev Nagar, building Windows 8 blog, August (link)

Windows Media Center include Steven Sinofsky, building Windows 8 blog, September (link)
Hyper-V for Windows 8 client Matthew John, building Windows 8 blog, September


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