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Microsoft Virtual Server 2004 Inches Toward Release

Microsoft Virtual Server 2004 entered the private beta testing stage on Wednesday, and Microsoft says the product will be generally available in the first half of the year.

Virtual Server 2004 is based on unreleased technology that Microsoft acquired from Connectix Corp. in February 2003. Microsoft has since released its own branded versions of two Connectix virtualization products that were shipping at the time of the acquisition: Microsoft Virtual PC and Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac.

Virtualization technology allows a single physical system to appear as multiple virtual systems, each appearing to control the underlying hardware. Microsoft's implementation of the server product encourages Windows as a host operating system and allows other operating systems to run as guests atop that host system.

The market leading server virtualization product is VMWare, now owned by EMC Corp. VMWare is shipping two server platforms. GSX Server runs guest operating systems on a host server OS. ESX Server has its own microkernel, so no host operating system is required.

VMWare positions its software for use in data centers for provisioning, for server consolidation and for software development and testing. Microsoft, meanwhile, emphasizes a much more specific application for the technology. The company's primary emphasis is on migration from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows Server 2003. In cases where Windows NT 4.0 applications might not run on Windows Server 2003, they can be run as guests on a Windows Server 2003 system. Microsoft also positions Virtual Server as a server consolidation platform.

A general availability for Microsoft Virtual Server in the first half of 2004 is a slight delay. When Microsoft acquired the technology, the company expected Virtual Server to ship by the end of 2003. However, Microsoft originally billed the release as part of a package of late 2003 software that would include Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1. SP1, which now will include many security changes, is expected in the second half of 2004.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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