Windows 8 Hyper-V and MinWin: A game changing strategy?

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Throughout the new OS, there are thousands of references to MinWin; compare that to the meager 100 references in Windows 7 and you know where this is going. By closely dissecting most of the MinWin-related files, I found Windows kernel files, file system drivers, basic system services, DNS/DHCP clients, partition managers, TCPIP drivers and the essential boot files (winload.exe and so forth) -- all the resources required to boot and run the MinWin kernel!

My take: MinWin acts as a thin layer of code -- with a massively reduced footprint -- that Hyper-V might use as a parent partition. And it deserves to be called "thin": All MinWin files amounted to roughly 20 Megabytes (161 files in total). Next to an increase in performance, this would also reduce the attack surface on the hypervisor immensely. Again, it's all speculation, but it would go nicely with what we've heard over the past few years and it would revolutionize the desktop and laptop market for the better.

Sneak peek: Dissecting the Windows Server 8 Hyper-V demo

Let's turn to the server side: Microsoft's sneak peek gave us an interesting insight into where Windows Server 8 (which the company has never publicly discussed) is heading. Between promises of "Hundreds of new features" and the usual "You'll hear more at BUILD in September," it's quite obvious that Microsoft wants to push "private cloud" in its server edition of Windows 8. First of all, they plan on including a feature dubbed "Hyper-V Replica" that allows the -- you guessed it -- real-time replication of virtual machines without taking them offline or buying expensive 3rd party hardware/solutions. What really struck me about the demo is that it's done in five easy steps:

Step 1: Choose source/target - From within the Hyper-V management snap-in, the admin chooses the VM he needs to replicate and clicks on "Enable Replication" from a context menu. He specifies the target server; this can either be onsite or offsite:


We will get two authentication methods for replication: HTTP/Windows Authentication is probably used for hosts inside the same network, while HTTPS/Certificate is likely for offsite or public cloud duplication.

Step 2: Disk selection - Admins can choose if they want to replicate all or a selected few hard disks; that might come in handy if you've got a dedicated page file partition that you don't want to replicate on another server, saving some time and resources.


Step 3: Three replication modes - To save some time during the first replication run, HyperV offers to schedule it (i.e. perform the replication during off hours) or even lets you save it to external drives.


Step 4: Set up replica history - It appears that we also have the chance to keep a history of all replicas, which may help admins prevent trouble and restore VMs much easier. It's also possible to use VSS to take snapshots of the replicas at intervals between 1 and 12 hours.

You're thinking what I'm thinking: This essentially kills many 3rd party solutions, as it's a free built-in tool that works perfectly fine -- regardless of the hardware you're using. It works right out of the box.

Besides this big killer feature, what's really exciting about Hyper-V is its multi-core processor support: Microsoft got rid of the 4 core per VM limit and now supports at least 16 cores. Unfortunately, they didn't mention the exact limit, but 16 is a massive deal for companies virtualizing massive SQL servers, for example.

Game Changers

Microsoft is trying to sneak Hyper-V into Windows 8 client to regain dominance over the hypervisor server market -- a strategy that worked for them in the past: Taking features and technologies from a higher-end version and making them ubiquitous. And with it all onboard (Hyper-V in Windows Server and supposedly Hyper-V Client in Windows 8), it'd be a no-brainer. The inclusion of MinWin is the icing on the cake.

This article, "Windows 8 Hyper-V and MinWin: A game changing strategy?" was originally published at ITworld. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook

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