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Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 Hits Beta

The software will support virtualization technology from Intel and AMD early next year.

Microsoft's Virtual Server won't offer support for Intel’s and Advanced Micro Devices’ virtualization capabilities until early 2007, but that's not too far behind its rivals.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant late last week announced the first beta of Virtual Server 2005 Release 2 Service Pack 1, which includes compatibility with Intel Virtualization Technology (VT). Beta 2, to be released in the fourth quarter of 2006, will offer compatibility with AMD Virtualization Technology, as well as Active Directory integration and management features. But Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP 1 isn’t expected to ship until the first quarter of 2007, according to Microsoft.

Still, Microsoft won't be that far behind the pack. VMware and XenSource currently don’t offer support for Intel and AMD virtualization in their server products and won't offer it until later this year.

VMware recently rolled out a beta of a free server product planned with AMD/Intel virtualization support, but the product--VMware Server, based on the vendor’s GSX product--won't be available until later in the first half of 2006, the company said. VMware expects support for Intel virtualization in an upgrade of its ESX3 Server by the second half of this year.

XenSource hasn’t officially entered the market yet, but it’s beta testing a server with Intel/AMD virtualization support that’s called XenEnterprise. The much-anticipated offering, however, won't ship until the second half of 2006.

Later this year, SWSoft plans to offer its Virtuozzo virtual server product with support for AMD and Intel virtualization technology. Intel shipped its second batch of virtualization-enabled server ships in March, and AMD is expected to ship its virtualization-enabled server processors midyear.

Processor virtualization technology improves the performance and efficiency of software virtualization on leading Intel and AMD server platforms. Still, the rapid evolution to hypervisors such as VMware ESX, Virtual Iron (based on Xen), XenSource and Microsoft's planned hypervisor in Windows Longhorn Server R2 will nullify the use of host-based virtualization software.

As a result, it behooves Microsoft and its competitors to get Intel and AMD virtualization support to market as hypervisors are being readied to succeed them, said David Crosbie, CEO of Leostream, a Waltham, Mass.-based ISV in the virtualization software market.

"What it means for Microsoft is that they are putting all their efforts into a hypervisor, and with some luck they will get it to market earlier than planned," Crosbie said. "The virtualization train is gathering speed fast, and they cannot afford to wait until 2007 or 2008."

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