UPFRONT: Virtual Machine Manager 2008 Stays on Track

Microsoft's next virt push will be with this strong enterprise VM contender.

Microsoft, although the most important software company on the planet, is still not much more than a startup in the world of virtualization. However, being Microsoft gives the company advantages no other "startup" has ever had.

For instance, Redmond has built a hypervisor, Hyper-V, and is nearly giving it away, something no startup could do. Another example is its new virtualization management framework, System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (VMM 2008). Although VMM 2008 is its first enterprise-worthy management product for virtual environments, it has features not found in industry management leader VMware's VirtualCenter.

The chief differences are twofold: First, VMM 2008 can manage physical as well as virtual machines (VMs). Second, it can manage VMware infrastructure servers. VMM 2008 was released in beta at the end of April, and is expected to release to manufacturing in the second half of 2008.

First Step
Analyst Chris Wolf, a virtualization specialist with Burton Group and Virtualization Review's Virtual Advisor columnist, calls VMM 2008 "a good product, a good first step for Microsoft. Not only the fact that they have their own tool to manage Hyper-V, but also that it can manage ESX and [Citrix's hypervisor] XenServer as well is a good thing."

Wolf says VMM 2008's ability to manage ESX is "good enough," and can do the basics like VM configuration and monitoring. For heavy detail work like low-level troubleshooting, however, Wolf recommends staying with VMware tools.

Smart Push
Phil Dawson, a research vice president with Gartner Inc., says that Microsoft was smart to enable VMM 2008 to manage ESX. "The 'single pane of glass' concept-with VirtualCenter being linked to Hyper-V-is something that can differentiate itself from VirtualCenter." Dawson addzs that he believes VMware may extend VirtualCenter's capabilities in the future to allow management of physical servers, in order to catch up to that aspect of VMM 2008.

Wolf believes that VMM 2008 is Microsoft's next big virtualization push. "Absolutely; it's the most pressing issue in virtualization today. Automating tasks, automating security compliance across physical and virtual [environments is] very difficult. You really need a virtual machine manager to do those types of tasks."

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.