Microsoft releases new virtual machine-management software

Microsoft has released its first software for managing virtual machines and also changed licensing for its system-management products.

Microsoft Thursday released its first software designed specifically to manage virtual machines on a network, and tweaked licensing for its system-management products to take into account virtualization.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007, which has been in the works for about a year and a half, has been released to manufacturing and will be generally available in October as part of Microsoft's System Server Management Center suite of products, the company said.

The new product is built on the same architecture as other products in the enterprise version of the suite -- which include Data Protection Manager, Operations Manager and Configuration Manager -- and is aimed specifically at managing virtual machines in a data center that runs Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2, the current version of Microsoft's server virtualization technology, said Patrick O'Rourke, group manager, Windows Infrastructure. "Customers now can use the same tools to manage both virtual and physical assets [on the network]," he said.

Microsoft also has changed the licensing model for its for its System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise, making it available for US$860 per host server -- which means the actual server that hosts any instances of virtual software -- plus two years of Microsoft's Software Assurance plan. Previously, System Center software was licensed per device being managed in the data center, O'Rourke said. The new licensing should make managing virtualized environments with Microsoft's software more cost-effective for customers, he said.

Microsoft has been developing and fine-tuning its virtualization strategy over the past several years to keep up with virtualization leader VMWare Inc. and others, as well as to serve the needs of large customers who increasingly are using virtualization in their data centers. However, the company's strategy has predictably hit some road bumps.

Microsoft is developing next-generation virtualization technology, code-named Viridian, that takes advantage of virtualization-optimized processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices and will help keep the company up to speed with competitors. However, though Viridian will be a component of Windows Server 2008, it won't be available until six months after that new OS is released. And since Microsoft recently pushed back the release of Windows Server 2008 to the first quarter of next year, Viridian's release is nearly a year away. The company also decided earlier this year to pull out some originally planned features of Viridian due to timing concerns.

In the meantime, customers can use a combination of Microsoft's stand-alone Virtual Server and its System Center products to install and manage both virtual and physical machines in the data center. Microsoft also is planning a mid-market version of Virtual Machine Manager, called Workgroup edition, for release in January. The software will cost US$499 per host server.

Microsoft also plans to extend the capabilities of the next version of Virtual Machine Manager so that it not only supports Windows Server virtualization technologies but also third-party virtualization from VMware and XenSource, O'Rourke said. A beta of that software is expected to be available around the same time as Windows Server 2008, and Microsoft plans to update its roadmap then as well.

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