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Microsoft Makes Major Virtualization Splash

Microsoft kicked off its virtualization push with a number of product announcements, including a key virtual management tool.

Microsoft is kicking off its virtualization push, titled "Get Virtual Now", with a number of product announcements, including a key virtual management tool and a new hypervisor feature that makes it more of a direct competitor with primary rival VMware.

In an early-Monday press release that previewed some of the forthcoming news, Microsoft stated that System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (VMM 2008) will be available within 30 days. That same timeframe will also see the introduction of Hyper-V Server, the standalone version of Microsoft's flagship hypervisor Hyper-V. Hyper-V is currently only available with a copy of Windows Server 2008.

The festivities to kick off the five-month event series get under way at 9 a.m. PDT with Bob Kelly, Corporate Vice President, Infrastructure Server Marketing, making the announcements. Microsoft Server and Tools Chief Bob Muglia and COO Kevin Turner will speak later. The participation of so many heavyweights underscores the importance Microsoft attaches to virtualization. Redmond has decided in the last year to move aggressively into the virtualization space, after essentially ceding the industry to VMware for a decade.

The timing of the launch also may play a part in Microsoft's strategy, as it occurs one week before VMworld, VMware's biggest event of the year.

VMM 2008 is Microsoft's enterprise virtualization management product. It can manage virtual servers as well as physical ones; the ability to manage physical servers gives it a capability lacking in VirtualCenter, VMware's flagship management tool. VMM 2008 will even have the ability to manage ESX, VMware's hypervisor.

Hyper-V Server will be available as a free Web download, Microsoft said in the release. It has stated in the past that Hyper-V Server will cost $28, so Microsoft may be considering charging the fee for packaged versions of the software (although Microsoft did not release any pricing information in the release).

The last major announcement from the statement was that Microsoft would demonstrate "for the first time a live migration feature of Windows Server 2008 R2." (emphasis in original). Hyper-V currently features Quick Migration, and not Live Migration. In Live Migration, offered by ESX and hypervisors from Citrix, Virtual Iron and others, a virtual machine (VM) can be moved from one physical server to another without being powered down. Quick Migration involves moving a VM from one server to another with a brief period of being shut down. VMware has made a lot of effort to distinguish its ESX from Microsoft's Hyper-V, and Live Migration is one of the chief differentiating figures it has touted.

Virtualization is the process of abstracting software from hardware. Essentially, it breaks the "marriage" between the two, allowing things like loading multiple operating systems on one physical server, rather than the traditional "one server - one OS" model. It can also allow multiple copies of the same OS to run on one server, and enable desktop computers to run more than one OS -- for example, to run Windows XP on Mac Leopard. Gartner has stated in the past that it expects virtualization to be the most important datacenter technology through 2012.

VMware is the acknowledged leader in the market, but it's a space that has grown as crowded as a football team in an elevator. Microsoft is the latest major entrant, but in recent months many companies have announced new virtualizaiton offerings, including Citrix, Red Hat, Novell, Sun, HP, Oracle and others. Virtualization startups, building on offerings from VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and others, have sprung up on an almost-daily basis.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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