Microsoft Extends Virtualization Strategy, Outlines Product Road Map
May 22, 2006
Microsoft puts Windows Server virtualization and System Center Virtual Machine Manager on the fast track, and announces the intent to acquire Softricity Inc., a leader in application virtualization solutions within the virtualization space.

SEATTLE, May 22, 2006 – Virtualization technology continues to be a hot topic in the industry and is sure to ignite spirited conversations at the15th annual Microsoft Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) this week. Virtualization is a key technology for reducing the cost and complexity of IT management, and Microsoft has committed significant resources to making virtualization more broadly accessible and affordable for customers.

At WinHEC, which runs May 23-25 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, Bob Muglia, Microsoft’s senior vice president of the Server and Tools Business, will provide updates on Microsoft’s new virtualization solutions. Of special note:

  • Windows Server virtualization: Microsoft’s hypervisor-based solution is on track to be available with the upcoming Microsoft Windows Server “Longhorn” operating system. Microsoft anticipates having a beta release of Windows Server virtualization by the end of 2006 and plans to release to manufacturing (RTM) within 180 days of Windows Server “Longhorn” RTM.

  • Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager: Formerly code-named “Carmine,” this technology is a centralized, enterprise management solution for the virtualized data center. System Center Virtual Machine Manager is part of the System Center family of products and is due for beta release within the next 90 days. Microsoft anticipates release to manufacturing (RTM) in the second half of 2007.

  • Intent to acquire Softricity, Inc: Softricity’s application virtualization and streaming technologies provide application compatibility and accelerate corporate desktop transitions to Windows Vista.

Together, these solutions will provide a comprehensive and well-managed virtualization solution for customers across servers and desktops.

“Microsoft’s virtualization strategy contrasts with current alternatives for virtual machine management, which tend to be complex, expensive and require specialized skills,” says Muglia. “We look at virtualization as key technology to help customers achieve self-managing dynamic systems. Across the platform, operating system, applications and management layers we’re delivering functionality and capabilities that enable our customers to significantly reduce operating costs, drive up server utilization and achieve better ROI through full featured virtualization solutions.”

Server Virtualization

Optimizing the use of physical IT assets is becoming imperative as data centers reach their capacity for power and space. Microsoft recognizes that the problem intensifies for companies whose servers run at very low utilization. Server utilization rates of less than 5 percent are not uncommon, and many customers usage rates fall into the 10-15 percent range. Hardware virtualization technology is used to consolidate multiple physical machines onto a lesser number of physical machines running virtualization. Virtualization can also be used to rehost legacy environments especially as older generation hardware becomes more difficult and costly to maintain. And because software is abstracted from the hardware, virtualization is a good solution for disaster recovery environments as well.

On track to be available with Windows Server “Longhorn,” Windows Server virtualization is part of Microsoft’s ongoing effort to provide the best-possible server operating system platform for customers. The Windows hypervisor is a thin layer of software running directly on the hardware which works in conjunction with an optimized instance of Windows Server “Longhorn” that allows multiple operating system instances to run on a physical server simultaneously. This approach allows customers to experience greater scalability, higher performance, higher reliability, better security and goes hand in hand with the evolution of powerful processors.

“As we see higher and higher performance available in the x86 and x64 hardware, customers tell us that they want to get the most performance and flexibility out of their hardware in order to maximize their server investment,” Muglia says. “Windows Server virtualization will enable customers to increase physical server utilization, reduce costs and create an agile and dynamic datacenter.”

Since Microsoft made Virtual Server 2005 R2 available for download at no charge in April 2006, more than 200,000 downloads have taken place. Companies deploying Virtual Server today can anticipate investment protection as they move their virtual machines to Windows Server “Longhorn.” Virtual Server 2005 customers who create virtual machines today can rest assured that those virtual machines will easily migrate to Windows Server “Longhorn.” Additionally, Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 Service Pack 1 is currently in beta release and adds compatibility with hardware virtualization capabilities developed by AMD and Intel and will also support Microsoft Volume Shadow Service. Microsoft expects to make Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 generally available in the first quarter of 2007 at no charge.

Managing the Virtualized Data Center

Microsoft has developed System Center Virtual Machine Manager, a centralized, enterprise management solution for the virtualized data center, to meet the growing customer need for improved physical hardware utilization. As an integrated member of the Microsoft System Center family of systems-management solutions, System Center Virtual Machine Manager focuses on the requirements of virtual machines and is designed to enable increased physical server utilization, centralized management of virtual machine infrastructure and rapid provisioning of new virtual machines.

“Customers tell us they’re not looking to bring in specialized tools and skills to handle their virtualized elements of their data center,” Muglia says. “They want to make use of the people who are already trained on Windows. With System Center Virtual Machine Manager, IT administrators can extend the investments and skills they’ve already developed in their physical infrastructure management to manage their new virtual infrastructure.”

Virtualization also offers benefits in terms of business responsiveness. Currently, when a business owner calls in for a new service that requires a new server to be deployed, it typically takes two weeks to three months to bring that new hardware online. Virtual Machine Manager can bring a new virtual server online in just a few minutes.

Application Virtualization

Microsoft also announced today the intent to acquire Softricity Inc. Softricity offers the SoftGrid Desktop Virtualization Platform, which turns almost all Windows applications into a service using application virtualization and streaming software technologies.

Softricity technology provides customers with application virtualization solutions that are expected to allow Windows customers the ability to reduce the TCO of desktop deployments. Applications are installed and managed centrally and then delivered directly to the user’s desktop in a contained, virtualized image that does not interfere with or require interaction with the operating system itself and other applications present on the desktop.

In addition, the Softricity technology provides application streaming which should enable end-users to get access to the applications they need faster than ever before.

Collaborating to Take Virtualization to the Next Level

Microsoft’s efforts to accelerate the delivery of virtualization solutions also includes engaging with industry partners, such as AMD and Intel to bring customers hardware-assisted virtualization in Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1. Microsoft is also collaborating with Intel on the design and specification of Intel Virtualization for Directed I/O (Intel VT-d), as well as working closely with AMD to help pave the way for a new class of innovation, such as AMD’s I/O virtualization technology.

On the OEM front, system manufacturers Dell, HP and IBM all have voiced their support for Microsoft’s virtualization strategy. Microsoft is also working with other leading vendors to define a standard management application programming interface (API) through the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF).

To foster interoperability of virtualization technologies and encourage innovation around new virtual machine solutions, Microsoft continues to license the Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) file format for virtual machines compatible with both Virtual Server and Windows Server “Longhorn” hardware virtualization products royalty-free. More than 45 vendors have signed up for this licensing, including Akimbi, Brocade, Diskeeper, Fujitsu-Siemens, Network Appliance, Platespin, Softricity, Virtual Iron and XenSource.

Industry Support

“AMD and Microsoft are working closely together to move businesses to a dynamic 64-bit computing world in which IT resources are intelligently and flexibly assigned as business needs change. Leveraging AMD innovations such as dual-core computing, Direct Connect Architecture and AMD PowerNow!™ technology, AMD and Microsoft are set to deliver solutions that provide the performance needed to make virtualization an indispensable part of the IT landscape.  The Windows platform, running on the AMD64™ processors with AMD Virtualization Technology, will help businesses consolidate resources and experience an efficient and versatile virtualization environment while helping to reduce the total cost of ownership of computing resources.”

Terri Hall, vice president, Software Alliances, AMD

“In numerous customer engagements, we’re beginning to see increasing value from virtualization. Our customers are achieving not only better resource utilization and cost reduction through consolidation, but also greater agility and flexibility in their operations. And because Microsoft has designed a smooth transition from today's Virtual Server technology to Windows virtualization, we anticipate customers will be able to maximize their operating system investments.”

Christopher Burry, technology infrastructure practice director, Avanade Inc.

“Dell believes virtualization and systems management are key to the datacenter of the future due to their ability to provide cost-effective scaling, flexibility and better resource utilization. We are working closely with Microsoft to drive these technologies mainstream by taking the complexity out of deploying and managing virtualized devices while making it more affordable.”

Subo Guha, director, Dell enterprise software

“As enterprises move towards a 24 by 7, lights-out computing environment, virtualization will continue to be an area that helps reduce costs and increase agility. Building on HP’s long-standing collaboration with Microsoft, the introduction of System Center Virtual Machine Manager complements HP’s Systems Insight Manager for heterogeneous virtual and physical server management.”

Nick van der Zweep, director of Virtualization and Utility Computing, HP

“Intel's platform direction and Microsoft's virtualization strategy are very consistent.  By taking advantage of Intel’s Virtualization Technology (VT) for Windows Server Virtualization, Microsoft will be able to deliver a thin, efficient hypervisor that will provide the end user with improved performance in virtualized environments while still being able to meet IT’s increasing expectations for security and manageability in the datacenter”, said Diane Bryant, VP & GM of Intel’s Server Platform Group. “And to further evolve these capabilities, Microsoft is also working closely with us on our latest VT solution called Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O which will address some of the challenges IT managers face on I/O virtualization today.”  

Diane Bryant, vice president and general manager, Server Platform Group, Intel

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