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Service pack for Virtual Server 2005 R2 available

Today we released the final version of Virtual Server 2005 R2 service pack 1. Available at no charge, this service pack adds support for hardware-assisted virtualization and improved backup services and compatibility.

A new feature to the service pack is Volume Shadow Services, which provides improved support for backup and disaster recovery. Instead of scheduling downtime for backing up each virtual machine individually, you can now take snapshot backups of physical machines, with no downtime.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 also supports host clustering, which offers customers minimal downtime depending on the speed of storage and amount of memory assigned to a virtual machine. Host clustering is storage agnostic, comes with Windows Server 2003 Enterprise or Datacenter editions, and is a high-availability solution for both planned and unplanned downtime. And with System Center Virtual Machine Manager, downloadable today as a beta 2 version, customers will have tools for high availability migration. I’m told there’s been more than 5,500 downloads of the product in the past 30 days.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 service pack 1 adds support for Novell SLES 10 and Solaris 10 as a guest operating system; bringing the total to 11 non-Windows operating systems supported on Virtual Server 2005 R2. In one year, there have been more than 15,000 downloads of the Linux add-ins for Virtual Server 2005 R2 … much better than we envisioned last year.

If you work in Northern California, be sure to check out PG&E’s hi-tech energy efficiency incentives. Here’s a comment from Mark Bramfitt, who runs the program:

“Virtualizing IT equipment is one of the key recommendations PG&E makes to data center operators seeking solutions for capacity limits, or simply searching for cost savings and environmental benefits.  Customers who use any software solution that enables equipment consolidation, such as Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Server 2005 R2, are eligible for PG&E’s incentive program for this technology, and we look forward to working with users of Microsoft virtualization products.”

We’re also seeing uptake amongst hosting service providers. I’m told there are over 5,000 companies delivering hosted services to their customers using Microsoft products today. These services range from web hosting to high-end IT applications. Even Microsoft IT is using Virtual Server to offer utility computing.

Another example is RackForce, which spends at least 22% less time on support in March 2007 than it did in late 2005.  Using Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1, RackForce mirrors a customer’s hosting environment on a backup server, and then, if a physical server fails, restore the customer’s site on another server in minutes. RackForce also uses virtual servers as “hot standby” backups that can boot instantly and take over for a physical server that experiences an outage.RackForce also is evaluating System Center Virtual Machine Manager to manage many physical and virtual servers, consolidate underused physical servers, and provision new virtual machines.

If you’re a hosting service prover, you should know that over five years ago Microsoft launched a subscription-based licensing program called the Service Provider License Agreement, which gives you a way to license MS products on a monthly basis.