Windows Server 2008 Hyper-VMicrosoft have released their new visualisation package, dubbed Hyper-V. This effectively replaces Virtual Server 2005. Originally due to ship with Windows Server 2008 earlier this year, it needed a few more months in the oven, but it was available for download in beta and later as a release candidate form.

The IT industry often gets flak from environmental groups, when you've got companies like Google adding I'd assume thousands or even tens of thousands of servers to their data centres every month, maybe they've got a point, even more so when you see statistics like the average CPU utilisation in a data centre is something like 10%, ouch that's a lot of waste.

Putting 10 virtual servers on a single physical machine, and scrapping the other 9 physical boxes would sure save a lot of energy, and time. Now if a server fails all you have to do is copy the virtual machines off the hard disks, and boot them up on another machine. There's no worrying about getting identical hardware to boot the system on, or trying to find images suitable for different types of hardware, all virtual machines run on the same virtualised hardware and so can boot anywhere.

I run two servers at home, Windows Home Server, which acts as a file server and backups all the machines on the network and is actually running on the metal, and virtualised on it Windows Small Business Server 2003, which handles Exchange for Catherine and myself. If it wasn't for that I'd have to have another physical machine running dedicated to Small Business Server, and if the hardware fails, I can just copy the virtual machine to my desktop computer and run it on here until I can get a replacement server.

Heck even my server I've got hosting these websites on is virtualised; it just makes so much sense.

Virtualisation has long been dismissed by some as being too slow, sure Virtual Server 2005, which I use at home a virtual machine will probably get something like 75% the performance of the machine it is hosted on. Not great, but hardly a deal breaker especially considering the amount of free CPU cycles and disk I/O so many servers have.

Hyper-V improves on this dramatically, SQL performance is something like 97% that of a physical machine, and disk I/O something like 99%. Essential this release ends the performance argument? 1% slower? Pfft who cares.

Microsoft have had 25% of the servers running virtualised for weeks now, and that's a website that gets something like 15,000 requests per second, they aim to have 50% of the server virtualised within a couple of weeks and be completely virtualised in a month or two. MSDN has been fully virtualised since March time now on Hyper-V.

There's no doubt in my mind that most technology companies will have their servers virtualised in five years, and probably most servers in the world within ten.

Virtualisation also has its place on desktops; Windows Vista already virtualises the file system and registry for some applications to help with backwards compatibility. In the future, I definitely see virtualisation providing most if not all backwards compatibility, which will allow the OS to move forward at a faster rate as the developers wouldn't have to waste time worrying about backwards compatibility. Which also means it can be an optional component, so people like myself who have no desire to run an application from the 17th century won't need the extra stuff on the machine in order to run it. Already we've got things like Virtual PC which saves developers having multiple physical boxes, or dual booting different operating systems and browsers - I'd go insane doing web development having to boot into another partition on this machine or get another PC and dedicate it to running Windows XP and IE6.

Even with a conservative estimate, virtualisation could half the number of servers in the world, having a quarter the number of physical server probably isn't that far off the mark either. No doubt in my mind that in 20 years virtualisation will be seen as something as import as the Graphical User Interface, or even the microprocessor.