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Microsoft plans to release Virtual Server Service Pack 1 later this year and, in the next generation of Windows, make its .vhd format open and extensible. Steve Ballmer, chief executive at Microsoft, has announced a beta release of Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1 and plans for new virtualisation support in Longhorn -- including opening up the virtual server format for extensibility and introducing "smaller, thinner hypervisor" technology.

Microsoft also planned to support Intel Virtualization Technology, formerly code-named Vanderpool. It would also use virtualisation technology from Connectix to enhance and simplify corporate re-imaging of desktops in the next version of Windows.

"If you think of the future, improvements in virtualisation technology and enhancements to virtualisation will be a key enabler of our enterprise management suite for driving the cost of ownership out of Microsoft platforms," Ballmer told attendees at a recent US conference.
"It is one of the most significant investments in R&D for us." Eric Berg, director of product management for Windows Management Division, said Microsoft's plans to broadly license the .vhd format in Longhorn was a way to help customers take on Windows' planned hypervisor technology. He said he expected Virtual Server 2005 -- especially combined with the Service Pack 1 due in the fourth quarter -- to remain viable for several years.

In its virtualisation initiative, Microsoft said it would offer performance improvements in Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1. These included a 50 percent improvement in deploying virtual machines, support for iSCSI clustering and support for running virtual machines on 64-bit operating system hosts.

A Windows Server 2003 x64 server operating system will launch next week.

Microsoft would also work with partners to enhance Linux performance in virtual images on Windows servers and planned to support Sun's Solaris x86, Microsoft executives said.

Further, Microsoft announced a Virtual Server management pack for its Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 monitoring platform aimed at helping administrators monitor and perform tasks on multiple virtual machines running simultaneously on the same server.

The management pack was first discussed in the last northern autumn, shortly after Microsoft shipped Virtual Server 2005.

Microsoft's System Center modules would improve data center consolidation and simplify running multiple applications on virtual machines.

Ballmer said Microsoft's Virtual PC software for running and testing multiple applications on the same PC is a "blow away" product today. Still, he admitted the company has a ways to go before catching up to VMware's flagship ESX and SWSoft's Virtuozzo, platforms that offer advanced data centre consolidation.

Intel and AMD announced their backing of an open source virtualisation project, known as Xen, at LinuxWorld Expo two months ago. On the Windows front, Microsoft will face competition from market leader VMware and other ISVs such as SWSoft. Microsoft and VMware both plan to deliver 64-bit host support by the end of 2005. SWsoft's Virtuozzo Linux and Windows virtualisation platform will offer enhanced 64-bit support this summer.

"We have a very good product, but I have a list as long as my arm for improvements and new features," Ballmer said.

Microsoft customer and developer Stephen Forte, CTO of Corzen, a financial services data provider in New York, said he used virtualisation software for testing applications and would use it instead of investing in a big rack of servers. He said cash-constrained SMBs needed virtualisation software and server consolidation just like large enterprises.
"Small business does not mean small amounts of data," Forte said. "We have terabytes of data, and we cannot afford a data centre. virtualisation is an economical way to reduce hardware investments, and I see a need in small businesses that are bootstrapping and cutting corners."

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Posted on Monday, April 25, 2005 11:15 AM | Back to top


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