December 05, 2012, 9:41 AM — Buried under all of the clamor and kvetching about Windows 8's most obvious features -- Metro! Metro apps! -- is a new addition that hasn't made a lot of headlines: Windows 8's new Hyper-V-powered virtualization functionality. Oddly, most people don't seem to know Hyper-V even exists in Windows 8, let alone what it's good for. But it's one of the hidden pearls inside the Windows 8 oyster.
The exact technical name for Hyper-V in Windows 8 is Client Hyper-V. Microsoft picked this name to distinguish Windows 8's implementation of Hyper-V from the full-blown Windows Server incarnation, which is aimed at the server market and designed for more upscale, industrial-strength virtualization scenarios. Client Hyper-V is for end-users on the desktop who want to make virtualization work for them directly.
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People may disagree about Windows 8's new surface, pun intended, but there's little arguing that many great things have happened under the hood. Client Hyper-V has started to open up a range of possibilities -- not just for experimentation, but for everyday tasks -- that make Windows 8 a little more appealing to the power user.
An inevitable question is how Client Hyper-V shapes up against stand-alone virtualization platforms such as VMware Workstation and VirtualBox. If you've used either of those apps (or another third-party virtualization product), you'll note that Client Hyper-V offers many of the features they do: support for a broad range of virtualized hardware, snapshotting, dynamic allocation of memory, support for multiple virtual processors, and so on. Plus, Hyper-V should give better performance thanks to its architecture, especially when working with Microsoft operating systems as the guests -- but don't count on it. Your usage scenario and hardware, and thus your mileage, will vary.
The biggest reasons to continue using VMware Workstation or VirtualBox would be your existing investment in expertise and familiarity with them. But it's well worth trying out Client Hyper-V with your existing virtualization projects to see if there's a major boost in performance or if you simply like the Client Hyper-V interface better.