Microsoft puts virtualization on the back burner

Microsoft Corp.s plan to catch up to competitors in providing virtualization has hit a snag. The company said this week it has pushed back the release of both a beta of virtualization technology for Windows Server and a service pack to its existing virtualization software.

The public beta of Windows Server virtualization, code-named Viridian, will now ship in the second half of 2007, not in the first half, according to an entry on the Windows Server Division Weblog by Mike Neil, general manager of virtualization at Microsoft.

Similarly, the final version of Virtual Server 2005 R2 Service Pack 1 also has been pushed back; it will be available in the second quarter. It was scheduled to be available by now. Customers and partners can download a release candidate of the service pack, a code-complete update to the current beta 2, later this month, Neil wrote.

Despite these delays, the next version of Windows Server, code-named Longhorn, is on track for a Beta 3 before midyear and a release to manufacturing in the second half of the year as scheduled, according to Neil. And Windows Server virtualization for Longhorn will be ready to go as planned 180 days after Longhorn’s release.

Virtualization refers to techniques that create different, virtual versions of operating systems, servers and storage devices. The technology allows IT customers to run multiple versions of an OS on one server by running the OSes in virtual machines, a move that can be ultimately more cost-effective for data centers.

Microsoft has been working for several years to ramp up its plan to provide virtualization, which has become a key driver of new business models and computing scenarios in data centers. As part of its strategy to meet customer demands, the company in the past 18 months has changed its virtualization licensing for Windows Server System to make it more cost effective for customers, and began releasing Virtual Server 2005 for free, since eventually the technology in that product will be built directly into Windows Server.

Neil cited the need to meet goals for performance and scalability as reasons for the delay in Windows Server virtualization’s release.

“We still have some work to do to have the beta meet the ‘scale up’ bar we have set (for Windows Server virtualization),” he wrote. “Also, we’re tuning Windows Server virtualization to run demanding enterprise IT workloads, even I/O intensive workloads, so performance is very important and we still have some work to do here.”

Windows Server virtualization will add important hypervisor technology to Longhorn.

Hypervisor technology enables different OSes – such as Linux and Windows — to run on the same processor, allowing customers to get more mileage out of hardware running in their networks.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 is being delayed to allow additional time to test the new OSes that the software will support – SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, Solaris 10 and a test version of Longhorn that recently was released, according to Neil’s blog entry.SP1 of Virtual Server 2005 R2 includes support for Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s virtualization technology, as well as new integration between Virtual Server and Microsoft Active Directory.

The software also includes what is called a Volume Shadow Service, which improves the server backup process, and offline virtual hard disk (VHD) mounting, which enables customers to view and manipulate files in a VHD without having to start a virtual machine.

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