Virtually Speaking: VMware, Microsoft Ready for Battle

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Nov 13, 2007


Amy Newman
VMware announced the second iteration of VMware Server, while Microsoft unveiled key virtual details about Windows Server 2008.

With the concentration of trade shows and announcements taking place this week — from SC07 (supercomputing) to OracleWorld to Intel's Penryn launch — most of the tech world appears to be looking at the high end of the market.

Naturally, there is a virtual presence to be found at all of these events. But the virtual world had no shortage of its own news this week. VMware announced the second iteration of VMware Server, while Microsoft unveiled key details about Windows Server 2008. The timing leaves much room for pondering whether this is the start of the next virtual battle.

Virtualization market leader VMware released version 2 of the free-of-charge VMware Server (formerly GSX), which went into public beta on Tuesday.

It's expected to be production-ready in the new year.

The new version is ripe with enhancements in features and functionality, but it's hardly an architecture overhaul. With all of the virtualization vendors offering free-of-charge products to the entry-level market and Microsoft hot on its tail, VMware's lead on the competition continuously expands and contracts. This release, of course, is intended to widen the lead.

New capabilities include a Web-based management interface featuring an embedded virtual machine console, full management functionality and the capability to create customized remote console URLs for virtual machine users; support for more than 30 different guest operating systems, including Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 (beta), Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and Ubuntu 7.10; Virtual Machine Interface (VMI) support to enable enhanced communication between virtualized operating systems and the virtualization layer; support for high-speed USB 2.0 devices; increased memory and processor support for up to 8GB of RAM per virtual machine and up to two virtual SMP processors; and support for 64-bit guest operating systems on 64-bit compatible processors.

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Microsoft, meanwhile, made some waves of its own in the virtual ocean. Late Monday, at the company's TechEd IT Forum conference in Barcelona, Spain, Microsoft revealed details about its long-awaited Windows Server virtualization technology.

For starters, out with the codename, in with the official nomenclature. Internetnews reports that "Viridian" is no more — the technology's official name is Hyper-V.

The ship date remains 180 days post-Windows Server 2008 release, but some features, including live migration and the capability to hot-add resources, have been dropped to meet the already delayed deadline. In addition, support will be limited to 16 cores, or four quad-core processors.

Microsoft clearly has accepted the ubiquity of virtualization. For the cynical, it's at the very least going through the motions of acceptance, as evidenced by the fact that Hyper-V will be included by default in mainstream editions of the server once it's available.

Hyper-V will also be available as a stand-alone product at a price of $28 per license, a fairly nominal fee, which puts it in close competition with the many of the established, predominantly free of charge offerings on the market.

If Microsoft is a barometer of the mainstream, then the packaging of Windows Server 2008 is yet more evidence that virtualization has arrived in the enterprise. Hyper-V will be included with Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter editions versions of the operating system — in other words, the vast majority of Windows Server 2008 installs in enterprises. The remaining five editions will be labeled as missing Hyper-V.

Thus, rather than virtualization being an addition, it's now the default. How fast and deep Microsoft penetrates the market will no doubt be tied to Windows Server 2008's success.

At this point, while everyone talks about virtualization, few are actually doing it to any great extent, and VMware's uncontested domination is thus but a small piece in a very large and unsliced pie. For VMware and other competitors, Hyper-V's delays and missing features may help it to enlarge its piece. Much remains to be eaten, however, and VMware and others would be wise to keep an even closer eye on the forks going forward.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001.

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