Microsoft targets SMB for virtualization growth

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) announced today that Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V will support live migration, aiming to provide enterprise with a complete virtualization package and compete with VMware ESX’s virtualization solution success with SMBs.

A beta version of Windows Server 2008 R2 will be available for testing over the next couple of months, but Microsoft is still not releasing an exact shipping date for the new server.

The announcement, made at TechEd in Barcelona, should come as no surprise, said Bob Visse, Windows server marketing director at Microsoft, as the corporation presented a pre-beta version at its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles last week.

“Eyes won’t be popping out of anyone’s heads, but our clients will be pleased to hear that we’re continuing to invest (in virtualization),” Visse said. “It’s something our customers have been waiting for and will encourage users to choose Microsoft for virtualization.”

Live migration will improve the usability of performance-sensitive critical applications for enterprise and allow users to move running VMs from one host to another without interrupting services running inside the VMs.

Live migration is a key feature that many business owners believed was missing from Microsoft’s virtualization solution, Visse said. The company hopes to attract their competitor’s users with live migration at a lower cost solution, and the added advantage of user comfort with Microsoft products.

“What’s neat about the way we did this is people don’t need to learn a whole new management suite,” Visse said. “Most customers already have some level of experience with Windows systems center products, so it is really easy to learn and there are cost-savings.”

About 8 months ago, Microsoft started Windows Server 2008 and followed up with its final version of Hyper-V, allowing users to install a hypervisor from their server manager at zero cost and run virtualization as part of their Windows installation. Windows Server 2008, in combination with Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008, a solution for configuring servers and centrally managing virtualized software from one console, allows users to easily manage virtualization.

Microsoft’s latest investments in virtualization have resulted in positive growth, according to a virtualization tracker by IDC. “If you combine our virtual server product with Hyper-V in the marketplace, we are already up to 23 per cent of the market share, Visse said. “Considering we are the underdog in this marketplace, I feel really good about existing progress. Momentum-wise we’re strong and growing.”

Stuart Crawford, vice-president of business development for IT Matters, an SMB solution provider, said virtualization is something small businesses will invest in over the next six to 24 months. “Virtualization offers many benefits – one from a disaster recovery point of view and others with green computing. People can do more with less physical hardware.”

The real “sweet spots” for future market growth, according to Visse, are with SMBs.

“Canada is full of SMB businesses that have not taken advantage of going virtual. But with the recent competition of hypervisors, the price point has come way down. So now you can do this for a small show with 20 or 30 servers. Our improvements to Hyper-V will help bring virtualization to the masses.”

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