Windows hypervisor gets first public beta

Windows Server Virtualization won’t feature all the bells and whistles at first

Microsoft later this month will release the first publicly available beta preview of its new hypervisor virtualization technology, company officials said Tuesday.

The release of the Windows Server Virtualization (WSV) pre-beta code, called a community technology preview (CTP), will come at the same time Microsoft ships a new beta release of Windows Server 2008 called "Release Candidate 0."

A release candidate is final beta before the code is considered finished. Microsoft plans to have at least one more release candidate before the server is set to ship early next year.

Microsoft made the announcement at VMWorld, the annual conference of its biggest virtualization rival VMware.

Microsoft said the CTP will not include all the features that are planned for the final version.

"We expect to be there in the beta time frame and we plan to do considerable work between now and the beta," said Mike Neil, Microsoft's general manager of virtualization.

The first official beta of WSV is set to ship early next year when Windows Server 2008 hits its final release stage. The final version of WSV will ship within 180 days of the release-to-manufacturing of Windows Server 2008, which is now slated between January 1 and March 31, 2008.

Microsoft also made three other announcements at the conference with two of them reinforcing its new spin focused on broadening the virtualization discussion to include desktops.

Critics have called the marketing strategy a smoke screen to deflect attention away from the fact that Microsoft does not yet have a viable server virtualization product to compete with market leader VMware.

In the two desktop announcements, Microsoft said that longtime partner Citrix, which just acquired server virtualization vendor XenSource, will adopt Microsoft's Virtual Hard Drive (VHD) format as a common runtime for both virtualized operating systems and applications. Citrix will add the format to its Presentation Server and Desktop Server. XenSource already supports VHD on the server side.

Microsoft said it will build support for VHD into a future version of SoftGrid Application Virtualization for both the desktop and Terminal Services.

The second of the two desktop announcement introduced MSI Utility for Microsoft Application Virtualization. The technology gives users the option of distributing virtual application images via software distribution tools rather than streaming those images to a desktop. The software will use Windows Installer technology to load and configure the virtual applications. The technology is expected to ship before year-end, Microsoft officials said.

Both announcements reinforce Microsoft's focus on desktop virtualization and round out last week's release of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM). The VMM software is key to Microsoft's other virtualization focus using its System Center family of management tools.

In addition, Microsoft Tuesday also unveiled a partner jumpstart program called QuickStart Get Virtual community.

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