Microsoft has announced that client versions of the forthcoming Windows 8 will support the creation and management of Hyper-V virtual machines on 64-bit systems.
The platform will require a 64-bit processor, a 64-bit version of Windows 8 and 4GB of RAM, the company said.
Once the Hyper-V software is enabled, customers will be able to create and run multiple virtual machines on top of existing PCs. The platform will allow for memory and storage to be automatically managed for virtual machines.
"Whether you are a software developer, an IT administrator or simply an enthusiast, many of you need to run multiple operating systems, usually on many different machines," wrote Microsoft Hyper-V programme manager Matthew John in a blog post.
"Not all of us have access to a full suite of labs to house all these machines, so virtualisation can be a space and time saver."
Hyper-V was introduced as a server virtualisation platform in 2008, and is Microsoft's attempt to compete with specialised vendors such as VMware.
Security experts have suggested that running isolated virtual machines has compatibility advantages and can help protect systems from malware attack.
Customers and administrators will see advantages from Hyper-V use, according to John, but applications such as games, which require direct GPU access, and high-latency applications may not be well suited for use with virtual machine systems.
"The root OS is running on top of the Hyper-V virtualisation layer, but it is special in that it has direct access to all the hardware," he explained.
"This is why applications with special hardware requirements continue to work unhindered in the root OS, but latency-sensitive high-precision apps could still have issues running in the root OS."
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