Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V as a Developer Workstation

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V is a great platform for developers who need to work across a wide variety of platforms.   Many developers are already using Microsoft Virtual PC for their development environments but soon this will not be a viable option.  Why?  All future Microsoft server products will only be offered in 64bit versions and Virtual PC only supports 32bit guest operating systems. Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V can solve this issue since it can host both 32bit and 64bit guest operating systems.

I have been running Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta with Hyper-V for a while now and have to say that I am really impressed with the performance and capabilities.   There is, however, one small issue that may turn people off from using Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V as their OS of choice…   Poor 3D video capabilities in the primary OS partition.

At first I was a bit confused by this.   I can enable all of the cool Windows 7ish desktop features including Aero but the performance was not good at all.  I thought maybe it was my video drivers since my computer ran Windows 7 beta lightening fast.     I updated the drivers and still slow performance.

I finally realized the issue.   When you enable Hyper-V on Windows Server 2008 the primary OS is lifted up and the hypervisor is placed under it.   This means that your primary OS is actually running just like any other virtual server.    Requests from the primary OS now go through the hypervisor first.   

In most situations you won’t notice much of a difference in performance but when you kick up the 3D graphics it will cause things to feel sluggish.   This is because 3D video operations do a lot of memory reads/writes and the hypervisor has to manage all of these calls.    This causes the calls to respond slower than if it was running native to the hardware.

If you do decide to use Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V as your development platform you will most likely want to choose a desktop theme without all of the fancy 3D Aero graphics.  This will make your system feel like it is performing much faster and is more responsive to mouse and window operations.

I can live without all of the fancy 3D graphics on my development machine as long as I have a good development experience in my virtual environments.

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