What is Microsoft Hyper-V and does it work better than other virtual machines?
Virtualisation can be used for a variety of purposes. For example, cloud computing and container technology are used in conjunction with it. Fortunately, as a Windows user, you don't have to rely on external software. With Hyper-V, Windows already has its own hypervisor installed. So what does this tool do?
What is Hyper-V?
To virtualise hardware - that is, to create a hardware environment without a physical form - you need an intermediary between the physical computer and the virtual machine. This intermediary is called a hypervisor. A physical host system can be mapped to multiple virtual guest systems (child partitions) that share the host hardware (parent partition). Microsoft has developed its own hypervisor, Hyper-V, which is included in the Pro versions of Windows 10, 11 or Windows 8. It is also installed in Windows Server.
Hyper-V gives Windows users the ability to launch their own virtual machine. In this virtual machine, the entire hardware infrastructure can be virtualised, including memory, disk space, processor power and other components. It runs its own operating system, which does not necessarily have to be Windows; for example, it is very popular to run an open source Linux distribution in a virtual machine.
What do you need Hyper-V for?
Virtualisation technology can be used in different situations for different needs. hyper-V is often used in test environments. In this case, virtualisation has two benefits.
- You can access computer environments that would otherwise be inaccessible. For example, instead of setting up your own computer with Linux, you can easily view the Linux operating system in a virtual machine.
- Virtual machines are self-contained. This means the physical machine is not at risk if you run software that crashes the system. Only the virtual machine needs to be rebooted.
For example, home users can use Hyper-V to run software that will not run on their current version of Windows - either because the program requires an older version of the operating system, or because only Linux is supported.
Hyper-V virtualisation is particularly useful for software developers. Any program they create can be tested under a wide range of software and hardware conditions. In addition, the self-contained nature of the virtual machine means there is no need to worry about faulty code causing damage to your own systems.
Microsoft Hyper-V's architecture
Hyper-V allows the x64 version of Windows to host one or more virtual machines, each of which contains a fully configured operating system. These "subsystems" are treated as partitions. This terminology is familiar from hard disk partitions - Hyper-V virtualisation works in a similar way. Each virtual machine is an isolated entity next to the 'parent' partition (the actual operating system).
The individual partitions are coordinated by the hypervisor. Child partitions can be created and managed through the parent system's interface (Hypercall API). Isolation is always maintained. Subsystems are allocated virtual hardware resources, but never have access to the physical hardware of the parent system.
To request hardware resources, the child partition uses VMBus, a channel that enables communication between partitions. The subsystems can request resources from the parent system, but in theory they can also communicate with each other.
The partitions run services that handle the requests and responses that run over the VMBus. The host system runs the Virtualisation Service Provider (VSP) and the child partition runs the Virtualisation Service Client (VSC).
The difference between Hyper-V and other virtualisation technologies
Unlike any other virtualisation technology, the power of Hyper-V lies in its integration with Windows. Anyone using a Microsoft PC or server operating system can benefit from this tight integration. Hyper-V is a Type 1 hypervisor, something few other technologies offer. This means that Hyper-V is based directly on the system hardware. Type 2 hypervisors must always provide resources through the parent operating system.
An obvious benefit for Windows users is the tight integration with the operating system. This also means a more cost-effective solution, as Hyper-V is usually included for free with Windows. In terms of functionality, Hyper-V can keep up with the competition and users of Hyper-V can expect high performance as long as they are only using Windows as a client system. Even beginners can benefit from Hyper-V virtualisation because of its relative ease of administration.
Although Hyper-V works very well on Windows, it has limitations on other operating systems. Hyper-V is not designed to run on other systems and the possible client systems are very limited. Apart from Windows, only a few selected Linux distributions can be run in a virtual machine. For example, if you want to use MacOS as a guest system, you will need to use an additional product. Unfortunately, there is a significant performance hit when running multiple Linux systems at the same time.
If you only use Windows, Hyper-V is a good alternative to other virtualisation solutions. Because the software is usually already installed on Windows, Hyper-V is also very suitable for smaller projects. However, the software has its weaknesses when it comes to dealing with other operating systems. Although Hyper-V has a wide range of features and good performance, it is ideal for small projects but can be difficult to use in larger projects.
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