Microsoft Windows 8 Will Include Hyper-V

Hyper-V will be part of Microsoft's forthcoming client operating system.

Microsoft confirmed today that Windows 8 will include Hyper-V hypervisor, its client operating system still in development.

The announcement, in a blog post, validates work by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley, who tracked the idea back to a Microsoft executive in 2009. Microsoft already provides Hyper-V for its Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 products, but client OS integration was previously only rumored.

Bringing Hyper-V to Windows 8 took some engineering savvy to accomplish, according to Matthew John, a program manager on Microsoft's Hyper-V team, in the blog post. He describes the architectural background for a Microsoft "bridge" solution that enables Wi-Fi packets to move from an external source to a virtual machine running Windows 8. Microsoft devised 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 allows users to run 32-bit and 64-bit virtual machines on top of Windows 8 running on x86 hardware. It will allow software developers to work with multiple environments; IT pros can leverage desktop virtualization for different test configurations, John explained. However, there are still limitations with Hyper-V on Windows 8, which John described as:

  • 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
  • Games that require 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. 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, scheduled to begin Sept. 13 in Anaheim, Calif.

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

Windows 8 Feature

Source/Chronology

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

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.