Microsoft 'shot too high' on virtualization

Windows server division exec explains Windows Server Virtualization feature cuts

A Microsoft executive says the company had to drop some features slated for Windows Server Virtualization because it may have "shot too high" in designing the first version of the software, but the company is still convinced it will gain broad industry acceptance.

Bill Laing, general manager of the Windows server division, said at this week's annual WinHEC conference, "we probably shot too high to do all these features in the [Version 1] of this new product. But we will be successful in the broad market and grow up toward these enterprise features."

Laing was referring to Microsoft's decision May 10 to cut three features from Windows Server Virtualization (WSV), an add-on for Windows Server 2008 slated to ship next year. The company plans to restore the features in a subsequent version of WSV.

The cuts include a feature called Live Migration, which lets users move workloads between virtualized servers without any down time. Microsoft also cut the ability to hot-add resources, such as storage and memory, and reduced the number of processors supported from 32 to 16.

Critics of Microsoft's current Virtual Server software often cite its lack of live migration capabilities as one reason it is not ready to support performance-sensitive or critical applications. Analysts called the omission of Live Migration a big deal and said it was one feature that would push Microsoft closer to parity with rival VMware.

Laing called Live Migration "a great demo feature," and said the company had focused too much education on it at the expense of detailing other migration capabilities.

"We have underplayed what we can do there," he said.

Laing pointed out that WSV will ship with a feature that lets users pause a virtual machine and restart it on another machine and said support for clustering also aids in virtual machine migration.

"Depending on the size of the VM it is one to two minutes of downtime to move a VM," he said. "I have not talked to too many customers who want to move a VM while it is running."

Laing said the decision to cut the features came down to quality and the need to deliver a solid product out of the gate.

"You can never go back and add in the quality. That factored into making these feature cuts," he said. "We have to get it right, the quality, right out of the gate."

Laing said Microsoft also had to consider the broad reach of Windows across hardware and other network components.

"We have to run on all the hardware, so it is not the fact that we hadn't done the coding on this it was how do we qualify this when we get it out there," he said. "To get the right quality we cut these things back and made sure the quality would be there."

Laing said he is convinced the company made the correct move despite the criticism the decision generated.

"When you are going to do this you have to be spot on. You have to be perfect. We made the right trade-offs and I think we will be fine in the long run. We will get there eventually."

In February, Mike Neil, general manager of Microsoft's virtualization strategy, used his blog to tout Live Migration as a key to WSV's manageability. He wrote that WSV offers some innovative functions such as Live Migration that give users "flexible and dynamic deployment options for all their workloads." Neil also wrote that Microsoft's intent was to make "Windows the most manageable virtualization platform."

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