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RealTime IT News

Now Playing at Microsoft: Intel And AMD

Intel  is no longer the sole star of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 show.

Microsoft Corp.  today trotted out the second beta of Windows Server Virtual Server 2005 service pack 1 (SP1), a version that supports virtualization features on AMD and Intel processors.

Beta one of the product supported Intel virtualization from the get-go; R2 SP1 debuts support for AMD, a clear indication that customers don't want to virtualize solely on Intel-based machines.

Microsoft is not a company to shy away from giving customers more platform choices when it can't hurt it's bottom line.

The software giant today said making Virtual Server 2005 work with virtualization technologies from both chipmakers' processors will boost interoperability for customers' various systems and improve performance for non-Windows operating systems.

Moreover, the move will yield "strengthened isolation to prevent corruption of one virtual machine from affecting others on the same system," Microsoft said in a statement.

This is an important, albeit expected, change to Microsoft's mix.

Microsoft's Windows OS and Intel's chips have been so often paired on PCs and servers over the last decade that the industry began calling machines with those products "Wintel" boxes.

However, Microsoft has been getting cozier with AMD, pledging support for AMD's Opteron processors as far back as 2003, a relationship that has blossomed and deepened in the last two years.

Virtualization advancements from AMD have no doubt spurred collaboration and interoperability between the companies; earlier this year, AMD began offering royalty-free virtualization licenses to hardware and software developers.

This month, AMD launched Rev F, the latest version of its Opteron processor for servers and workstations, with souped up virtualization perks.

With Intel and AMD support under its belt and a lower entry cost for Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1, Microsoft hopes to continue its assault on virtualization market leader VMware.

R2 SP1 brings other new perks to the table, boasting better backup services and manageability through offline manipulation.

Specifically, the refreshed software supports Volume Shadow Service for backup and disaster recovery.

With VSS, customers will now be able to take snapshot backup images of physical machines that will in turn take snapshots of all the virtual machines on that physical host, rather than scheduling downtime for backing up each virtual machine.

R2 SP1 also features offline virtual hard disk (VHD) mounting, which enables customers to easily deploy scripts and perform virus scans across VHDs without having to start each virtual machine.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 will be generally available in the first quarter of 2007, with support for Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Vista operating system.