Windows Server 8 Simplifies Disaster Recovery With Virtualization

Build Conference

With Windows Server 8, which will replace Windows Server 2008, Microsoft will simplify disaster recovery of Hyper-V virtual environments with a series of new features centered around Hyper-V Replica. The tool, which builds on capabilities released with Windows Server 2008 R2, now can store and deploy replicas on any other Windows Server 8 server with a minimum of planning.

"All the software is there; all you need to replicate a VM is an Ethernet cable and the ability to read and write on both ends," said Jeffrey Woolsey, principle program manager lead for Windows Virtualization in Microsoft's Windows Server and Cloud Division. The claims, along with demos to back them up, were made at an exclusive press and analyst briefing last week in Redmond.

Replicas also can be saved onto local or network-attached storage systems without regard to brand. VARs even have the option of shipping replicas to off-site replication points using portable storage devices to eliminate the time and network strain required of the initial replication. Synchronization can be immediate or scheduled after business hours, for example.

Hyper-V Replica includes compression, encryption (with BitLocker even on cluster disks, which is new in WinServer8) and fail-back capabilities, and uses Windows-based authentication to make the server-to-server connection. "In an enterprise, major departments and branches replicate into the main site," said Woolsey of many current situations. But with Windows Server 8, "A hosting provider could easily plug into Hyper-V Replica," to host VMs, snapshots, diff-discs or whatever the situation called for. "It all just works," he said.

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"Let's say I want to migrate all the VMs from one server to another, patch that [first] server, then migrate them all back. Done," said Woolsey. "And what if I want to automate that process through PowerShell for all my servers? Done and done," he said, referring to Microsoft's scripting environment. PowerShell too gets a major refresh, growing from around 200 commands (aka "cmdlets") to more than 2300.

Microsoft also demonstrated the ability to perform live migrations of literally any kind of virtualized storage system, including Fibre Channel. "Try doing that with VMware; you can't," claimed Woolsey. Introduced with Windows Server 2008 R2 but limited to one at a time, Live Migration in Windows Server 8 is limited only by the power of the physical host.

In terms of specs, Microsoft has scaled up its hardware support -- both physical and virtual. Windows Server 8 hosts will support as many as 160 processors, processor cores or threads and up to 2 TB of system memory. Virtual machines each can address as many as 32 logical processors and 512 GB of memory. Also, Hyper-V clusters can now manage 63 nodes with up to 4,000 VMs in a cluster. And Windows Server 8's new .VHDX format breaks the 2-TB size limit for virtual hard drives, maxing out at 16 TB.

Microsoft provided no time line for the general release of Windows Server 8, nor how its myriad features would be divvied up into SKUs.