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Microsoft Loads Next Salvo Against VMware

Further upping the ante in its war with VMware for the virtualization market, Microsoft today confirmed that System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008, the management piece of its virtualization product line, has been released to manufacturing (RTM) in advance of it becoming available for purchase.

Microsoft said SCVMM 2008 is slated to go on sale starting on Nov. 1. In the meantime, the company also said it's making SCVMM 2008 available for evaluation online, here.

It supports both Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Hyper-V hypervisor as well as VMware's (NYSE: VMW) virtualization platform, and sports several new features.

These include enhancements that enable users to link the monitoring capabilities of System Center Operations Manager 2007 with the virtual management capability of SCVMM, Microsoft senior director of virtualization strategy Zane Adam told InternetNews.com in an e-mail. Other new features in SCVMM 2008 include full support for server clusters, automatic detection of virtual hosts added or removed from the cluster, and improved high availability virtual machine management features.

The news signals that the pieces are falling into place to enable Microsoft to compete in earnest with enterprise virtualization leader VMware.

"Beginning today, all of our first wave of datacenter and desktop virtualization products are available, including a hypervisor, management tools, a configuration manager and application virtualization infrastructure," Microsoft's Adam said.

VMware executives, who were preparing for their company's earnings call, were not available at press time.

While VMware's solutions are still technologically superior, Microsoft has emerged as a very real threat, industry watchers said.

"Microsoft's solution doesn't really compare with VMware's because there's a lot of layers missing on the manageability side, but Microsoft has enormous volumes and is so enthusiastic that it brings tremendous price competition," Jonathan Eunice, principal IT analyst at analyst firm Illuminata, told InternetNews.com.

Loving both sides

Eunice said he's spoken to enterprises using both vendors' solutions, and "they're enthused at the price competition and to have good product availability from both," he added.

He also said that part of the reason for Microsoft's growth is that it's efforts to work with other operating systems such as Linux and Solaris help to address "one of its major weaknesses" -- that everything it does "is Microsoft-centric."

VMware is already feeling the effect of Microsoft's aggressive move into the virtualization market. Back in July, VMware CFO Mark Peek admitted during the company's second quarter earnings call that competition from Microsoft will hit its earnings.

SCVMM 2008's RTM may only increase this pressure. Previously codenamed Virtual Machine Manager "vNext," SCVMM 2008 manages both virtual and physical machines, giving it an edge over VMware, which is integrating its virtual machine management solutions into those from partners such as IBM.

VMware later joined Microsoft's third-party server virtualization validation program (SVV), enabling it to avoid losing out in environments where both companies' virtualization solutions are deployed.

Today's announcement also is more about driving adoption of Microsoft's virtualization platform -- it's another front in Microsoft's effort to push Windows Server 2008, on which the platform runs.

"Now that SCVMM is available, it will help people adopt Hyper-V because they can manage it," Mark Bowker, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, told InternetNews.com. "Previously they tested Hyper-V out and kicked the tires, and now they can put it in production, can manage the virtualization and production environments, and that will ultimately drive the demand for Windows Server 2008, which is Microsoft's ultimate goal."