Analysis Microsoft won't ship a new version of Hyper-V Server – the free tool it offers alongside Windows Server to build hybrid clouds and manage fleets of virtual machines – with Windows Server 2022.
In his responses to the TechCommunity thread, Elden Christensen, a principal product manager on Microsoft's Windows Server development team, did not deny that Hyper-V Server was no more.
"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 asked Microsoft to clarify whether the posts signal the demise of standalone Hyper-V Server and that Christensen's observations are correct. The IT giant did not contend either proposition.
What does this mean?
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:
I remember when Microsoft first introduced free Hyper-V, I thought to myself how it was a bold move that will help them to become the leading hypervisor by following Veeam’s model of giving away capable and feature-rich software. However, with Azure (and particularly IaaS) now being the main focus for Microsoft, I can see how helping small businesses to run their infrastructures on-prem in a cost-efficient manner is rather counterproductive for them.
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.
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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. ®
PS: As we understand it, the Hyper-V role will remain in Windows Server 2022. That's useful for spinning up some VMs, though if you want to build and manage a private or hybrid cloud, Microsoft has made its position clear: it really would rather you use Azure Stack HCI.