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Microsoft Getting Real About Virtualization

Microsoft is like a quick-strike football team that's never really out of a game no matter what the score or how much time is left on the clock. When a new technology comes along, Redmond can fumble, throw interceptions and blow coverage for three quarters and still storm back in the fourth quarter to win...or at least to send the game to overtime. (Yes, we're caught up in the excitement here in Boston about the perfect Patriots. Bear with us, please. It's going to be two long weeks until the Super Bowl.)

Oh, sure, sometimes Microsoft waits too long to stage its comeback and gets clobbered -- think consumer search and personal music players (otherwise known as iPods). But in so many "games" in years past -- the browser wars, productivity-suite competitions, even the battle for operating-system supremacy -- Redmond has found some way (even if it wasn't always entirely legal -- yes, we're sticking with the Pats theme here) to break out of an early funk and steamroll the competition.

And so we have this week's virtualization shindig taking place on the home field in Redmond. Once again, Microsoft stumbled out of the gate trying to react to a new technology. Once again, an opponent -- in this case, VMware -- has a big lead. And, once again, Microsoft is on the comeback trail.

We all know about Hyper-V, the virtualization technology that will eventually come with Windows Server 2008. But, this week, Microsoft gained a few more yards in its pursuit of VMware's goal line. For one thing, it opened up its virtualization policy on Vista. Finally, Redmond is going to open all versions of the OS to virtualization. (And before you go saying, "Who cares? It's only Vista," keep in mind that analysts -- and, yes, even RCPU -- are predicting that Vista will finally make serious inroads into the enterprise in 2008. So this week's announcement should eventually carry some weight, even if it seems trivial right now.)

Redmond also bought this week a little company called Calista -- presumably not named after the former star of "Ally McBeal," not that we ever watched that show -- which makes technology to improve the desktop virtualization experience. Combine that acquisition with Microsoft's partnership with Citrix to market desktop virtualization and to allow interoperability between Hyper-V and XenServer, and we see a virtualization strategy coming together in Redmond that shows some flexibility and some backbone.

Of course, we're not even close to counting VMware out of this contest, given the lead the popular -- and, let's not forget, EMC-owned -- vendor already has. And Oracle and Sun, among others, pose formidable opposition, as well. What we are seeing, though, is Microsoft finally connecting on a few passes, getting a few first-down runs, making a defensive stand or two and gearing up for a real battle in virtualization. Given Microsoft's built-in advantage -- massive existing investment in its technology -- this one should be a battle until the final gun.

What's your take on Microsoft and virtualization? How do you see the strategy taking shape? Let me know at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 01/22/2008 at 1:21 PM


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