Microsoft Ships Virtualization Management Tool

Microsoft  on Thursday shipped a key tool in its growing virtualization push and revealed more of its roadmap for those technologies going forward.

The company quietly announced on its Windows Virtualization Team Blog that it has made available for download the final code for System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 (SCVMM07), part of Microsoft’s evolving System Center IT management tools line. General availability via retail packaging will come in November. In addition, there will be a work group edition of the product.

Microsoft also announced pricing for the packages.

Virtualization has exploded onto the agendas of IT shops in the past couple of years as they move to curb costs and conserve energy by consolidating servers and simplifying management of critical applications. But what good is consolidation if you can’t easily manage all of those virtual machines?

“We learned from our customers that managing virtualization encompasses many things – provisioning, monitoring, optimizing, reporting, patching and backup/restore,” Chris Stirrat, virtualization team leader, said on the Virtualization Team Blog.

Partly for that reason, Microsoft has provided “tight” integration between SCVMM07 and a slew of other System Center tools—specifically System Center Configuration Manager 2007, System Center Operations Manager 2007 and System Center Data Protection Manager 2007.

A bundle that includes enterprise licenses for SCVMM07 and the other System Center tools costs $860 per physical host and supports unlimited virtual machines (VM). Meanwhile, coming in January, the work group edition of SCVMM07 will cost $499 and will support management of up to five physical hosts and unlimited VMs.

According to a post on a second blog — the Windows Server Team Blog — SCVMM07 manages VMs and applications running on Microsoft Virtual Server 2005.

Additionally, the company revealed more of SCVMM’s future. “Our next release is planned to coincide with the release of Windows Server Virtualization (codenamed Viridian),” Stirrat’s post said. Beyond that, however, that next version will also support management of VMware and Xen VMs.

“From a single console and a single command line you will be able to manage Virtual Server, Viridian, VMware and Xen,” according to the posting.

The moves come in advance of next week’s VMworld Conference in San Francisco.

Microsoft is viewed by some as a late-comer to the virtualization party, running behind VMware , which just went public, and XenSource, which is in the process of being acquired Citrix  systems.

While the company has had some basic virtualization products available for several years, namely Virtual PC and Virtual Server, which both run on top of Windows – Microsoft has been vocal about how the arrival next year of its Windows Virtualization technology for Windows Server 2008 will provide so-called “hypervisor” capabilities. The hypervisor enables multiple operating system sessions, each running in its own VM, to run simultaneously on a single physical host.

That’s one reason SCVVM07 is an important piece in Microsoft’s overall strategy.

“Microsoft is going to be really sensitive [and] say that now that they’ve entered the virtualization market, it’s a changing market,” Michael Cherry, lead analyst for operating systems at researcher Directions on Microsoft,” told “But until they have products that provide complete parity with VMware or Xen, they’re behind.”

“Virtualization is becoming a problem of administration [and it’s] getting harder and harder to manage,” Cherry said.

Microsoft says the next release of SCVMM will come with the release of Windows Server Virtualization, which is in turn tied to the release of Windows Server 2008 which was just pushed back to the first quarter of next year.

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