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Microsoft sinks standalone Hyper-V Server – wants you using Azure Stack HCI for VM-wrangling

+Analysis Microsoft won’t ship a new version of Hyper-V Server – the free tool it offers alongside Windows Server to manage fleets of VMs and build hybrid clouds – with Windows Server 2022.

News of the change emerged in a TechCommunity thread. It spread quickly in a newsletter that backup vendor Veeam sends to its forum members, which sparked a thread on Reddit.

In the TechCommunity thread, Elden Christensen, a principal product manager on Microsoft’s Windows Server development team, did not deny posts reporting the news of Hyper-V Server’s demise.

“Azure Stack HCI is Microsoft’s premier hypervisor offering for running virtual machines on-premises,” he wrote in one post. A later missive added “Our strategic direction for a hypervisor platform is with Azure Stack HCI, it is a purpose-built solution hybrid infrastructure for running virtual machines.”

The Register contacted Microsoft to clarify that the posts signal the demise of standalone Hyper-V Server and that Christensen’s posts are correct. The company did not contend either proposition.

Analysis

Hyper-V Server is Microsoft’s virtual machine management platform and works with Microsoft’s hypervisor – which is, confusingly, named just “Hyper-V”. Microsoft bills Hyper-V Server as offering “enterprise-class virtualization for your datacenter and hybrid cloud”.

Hyper-V Server is free – a price Microsoft has used to contrast with the price of VMware’s rival vSphere product. The gambit didn’t work: VMware owns more than 75 per cent of the server virtualization market – and keeps growing – despite years of competitors’ attempts to paint it as an expensive product.

The shift to Azure Stack HCI as Microsoft’s preferred tool to manage private and hybrid clouds is therefore very significant.

Microsoft has for years integrated Windows Server more closely with Azure, but Azure Stack brings more of the Azure experience and Azure services on-prem. Discontinuing Hyper-V Server as a private cloud option therefore demonstrates, yet again, that Microsoft wants its customers in hybrid cloud environments that are more likely to lead to consumption of its cloud services.

Or, as a senior Veeam exec put it in the newsletter mentioned above:

Ouch.

Giving Azure Stack HCI the job also shows that Microsoft is all-in on software-defined data centres – which it needs to be, because hybrid clouds are easier to build around software constructs than around a disaggregated stack of discrete servers, storage arrays and networking kit.

Windows Server 2019 and Hyper-V Server 2019 will be supported until 2029, so this move isn’t a moment in which to panic. It is, however, a moment in which would-be Windows Server 2022 users will need to have a good, hard, think because its deployment options diverge from the expected.

Users of all Windows Server versions therefore have a moment in which to consider how they manage VMs. They’re not short of options: VMware tops the list, and the open-source world offers KVM, Xen, and XCP-NG. You can be sure that Nutanix won’t miss the opportunity to remind all comers that its AHV is free. Red Hat and Oracle are players, too. All offer an on-ramp to the hybrid cloud – including Azure – without insisting that you view the world through a Microsoft lens.

One last thing: some have read this announcement as signalling strife for the Hyper-V hypervisor. There’s no need for alarm on that front because Hyper-V and the hypervisor used in Azure are now very close relatives. Microsoft simply cannot do without a hypervisor for Azure and nor can Windows Server, which technically boots as a guest OS. ®


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