Microsoft executive discusses virtualization

Mike Neil deflects critics’ punches on the company’s virtualization timeline and strategy

Mike Neil, Microsoft's general manager of virtualization, is on the big stage with a hot technology. The lights are on him as he prepares for next year's delivery of Windows Server Virtualization, which first was a feature and now is an add-on to Windows Server 2008. Neil, who joined Microsoft four years ago as part of the Connectix acquisition, recently talked with Network World Senior Editor John Fontana about critics, competition, licensing and feature delays.

The prevailing belief among observers is that Microsoft is way behind VMware. What do you say to the WSV-bashers?

At a high level, I disagree. Server virtualization is still a developing market and technology. Since, to a great degree, the utilization of virtualization has been in relatively confined areas, typically in large enterprises or infrastructure products like VMware's ESX Server, Microsoft will be able to have a much broader approach and make virtualization available to a wider swath of the industry.

Are you on track for a mid-2008 release of WSV? A lot of people are casting doubts after your spring roadmap adjustments.

We made the adjustments -- the deferral of some of the features -- so we could maintain our schedule and provide the technology with high quality on the timeline that we articulated: Windows Server 2008 plus 180 days. The server is set to ship Feb. 27, 2008.

Will the delayed WSV features be delivered in some fashion before the next release, which could be as many as four years away, given the server operating-system release cycle?

Windows Server Virtualization is coming out off the [server] cycle, and while we do plan to follow up with the deferred features in subsequent releases of the operating system, we have not talked about specific timing. We are hoping to sync up with the cycle.

Sync with the Windows Server R2 release, slated for late 2009, or the next major server release, in 2011?

Our goal is to follow up with those features as quickly as possible.

Critics say the delay of the Live Migration feature, which would provide the ability to migrate while virtual machines are running, is a big setback for Microsoft as it tries competing against VMware. What's your take?

I dispute it to some degree. From a competitive standpoint, it is a sexy feature and sounds really exciting. But, of the Microsoft customers using VMware or other virtualization technology, few are actually utilizing that type of functionality. It is a relatively sophisticated piece of technology to set up. The capabilities we do have and are shipping -- our ability to cluster virtual machines and the ability to migrate quickly -- will meet most customers' needs.

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