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Microsoft Pushes Virtualization

Steve Ballmer may have been the one making the speeches yesterday during Microsoft's launch event for Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008, but virtualization took center stage.

That's great news for those of us in the virtualization industry.

Although I wasn't at the overhyped event in Los Angeles, a number of 1105 Media editors were there. Becky Nagel, who wrote the story for our Websites, says that virtualization was a key topic throughout the presentation. And the fabulous Mike Domingo wrote a guest blog referencing a slide that Ballmer put up, talking about the top new features of each product. The No. 1 feature for Windows 2008? Hyper-V, Microsoft's new, bare-metal hypervisor, a beta version of which will be included in the server.

In a way, it's analogous to what VMware recently did when it announced deals to embed a lightweight version of ESX Server into OEM hardware from Dell, IBM, HP and Fujistu-Siemens. VMware is making deals with hardware vendors, of course, and Microsoft is incorporating this into the base OS; the key in both instances, however, is slipping the product in by bundling with another, already established product that's widely used in the industry.

The idea is that when you fire up your HP DL580 server, you have a built-in on-ramp to virtualization via ESX 3i. Same thing with Windows 2008; instead of downloading eval versions of ESX Server, Virtuozzo, XenServer, Virtual Iron or whatever, then configuring the software and trying it out, Microsoft undoubtedly hopes the little admin voice in your head says "Hey, I can just fire this puppy up, since it comes with my brand-spanking-new OS; no muss, no fuss. Let's try it out first, then we'll look at the other options if this free hypervisor doesn't do what we want." Tempting, no?

Becky's story quotes Ballmer on Microsoft's high-level virtualization strategy:

""Today we launch our virtualization strategy in earnest," he said. "We want to democratize virtualization," making it easy, efficient, interoperable and cheap enough to run on as many servers as a company desires, he said."
I bet he wants to democratize virtualization; since the bulk of servers that are virtualized are likely to be various flavors of Windows, it means a potentially huge stream of licensing dough for Redmond.

Ballmer said something else that struck me. Back to Becky's story:

""The thing that is quite unique about our approach to virtualization is that we take virtualization as just a piece of overall management," he continued. "You don't manage [virtualization], you manage a datacenter." "
This is becoming more of a mantra these days; and while it's true, I believe it's also a subtle dig at VMware.

VMware's management app, VirtualCenter, is for managing virtual machines [VMs]; currently, it doesn't allow management of physical machines. Of course, those OEM vendors mentioned before all have sophisticated management capabilities, so managing both virtual and physical environments isn't a nightmare. Still, there is something to be said for managing both from a single console. Microsoft will have that with its System Center Virtual Machine Manager; I wonder how long it will be before VMware comes out with a similar announcement.

In all, it's good to see Microsoft putting so much emphasis on virtualization in Windows 2008. It shows Redmond's commitment to the technology, and that there's no going back to the way things were.

Posted by Keith Ward on 02/28/2008 at 12:48 PM


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