RealTime IT News

Virtual Server Gets a Free Ride From Microsoft

With a nod to the increasing popularity of Linux, Microsoft announced expanded support for the Linux OS at the LinuxWorld trade show in Boston today.

Microsoft said it now offers virtual machine (VM) add-ins for Linux and 24 x 7 technical support. Also, Microsoft announced its Virtual Server 2005 R2 as a free download. The software used to cost $99 for up to four instances or $199 for an unlimited number of processors.

These latest moves beg the question, Is virtualization leader VMware in danger of being "Netscaped" by the software giant?

Netscape saw its dominant market share virtually disappear as Microsoft brought a free Internet Explorer and then made it part of Windows. But VMware points to its growing customer list and developer support and doesn't see itself in the Netscape role.

Microsoft has been offering Virtual Server for free to its Microsoft Development Network and volume buyers, according to Raghu Raghuram, vice president of platform products for VMware.

"They've been offering that over the last two years, and we haven't seen any distinct traction," Raghuram told internetnews.com.

Microsoft also plans to integrate virtual server its hypervisor software as part of its Longhorn Server OS due out the end of this year.

Specifically, Microsoft said the Windows hypervisor would be delivered in the "Windows Server Longhorn wave" or sometime after Longhorn's release. Raghuram said that means at least 2007 and possibly as late as 2008.

"Our customers can take advantage of these technologies today," said Raghuram. "We've had a quarter million users download our free VMware Virtual Server since February, and it's state-of-the-art with support for the latest virtualization from AMD and Intel. When hypervisor comes out, that's new technology; we had our first version in 2002."

Jim Ni, group product manager in Microsoft's Virtual Server group, said making its Virtual Server free "makes it easier for customers to access and experience the benefits of virtualization now. From a platform perspective, resource management has always been part of the operating system so customers are asking, 'Why am I paying for virtualization in the platform?'"

He confirmed Microsoft also plans to continue its support of both AMD and Intel, which are building more virtualization features into their processors.

As for Microsoft's expanded support for Linux, Raghuram thinks VMware's position as an independent supporter of multiple operating systems has greater appeal. "Do you really think if you're a serious Linux customer you will use Microsoft to host Linux?"

Both companies also announced they were opening up the specifications related to VMware.

Ni said he thought the main opportunity for other virtualization developers was in the area of management and testing.

Microsoft announced today that 45 vendors now support its royalty-free Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format, up from 14 in October. Among VHD supporters are Akimbi Brocade, Diskeeper, Fujitsu-Siemens, Network Appliance, Platespin, Softricity, Virtual Iron, and XenSource.

The VHD format is designed to let Microsoft partners develop virtual machine solutions such as the management and testing solutions Ni mentioned.

VMware had a related announcement today, making the specifications of its virtual machine disk format open and available as a free download for the first time. A number of developers are supporting both Microsoft's VDM and VMware's format.

Commenting on VMware's announcement, Stephen Pollack, CEO of PlateSpin said: "We will be able to enhance our product's ability to stream servers bi-directionally between physical servers and offline virtual machines, which users can deploy as part of their VMware virtual infrastructure-based disaster recovery strategy."

Raghuram claimed VMware has opened up more than Microsoft in making its VMDF format freely available where Microsoft requires everyone from users to developers to agree to a Microsoft license agreement.