In a keynote speech, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner touted the competitive advantage of Microsoft's virtualization offerings, claiming that a side-by-side cost comparison of virtualizing five host computers would total $21,200 on the Microsoft platform versus $61,400 on the VMWare infrastructure. He said that the fact most datacenter administrators are already Windows-savvy gives Microsoft further advantages in training and in managing virtualized servers, making that much easier to use one tool, or "one pane of glass," to manage both their physical and virtual environment, "regardless of the competitive virtualization products they have in place."
Three new virtualization products, all slated for release over the next month, were shown at Monday's event: Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5; a new standalone edition of Microsoft Hyper-V Server; and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008.
• Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 (also known as App-V) is an upgrade to the application virtualization and application streaming solution that Microsoft acquired when it bought Boston, Massachusetts-based Softricity in 2006. App-V will be bundled into Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2008 R2.
• Microsoft's answer to VMware's ESX and the Xen hypervisors, Hyper-V Server 2008 for x64 systems will be released within 30 days and be available at no cost via the Web. It will be available both as part of Windows Server 2008, and as a standalone Hyper-V server.
• System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 is part of Microsoft's System Center line of management and reporting tools. In addition to support for Hyper-V, the VMM 2008 tool can manage hypervisors from multiple vendors with its support for virtual machines running on both Microsoft Virtual Server and VMware ESX infrastructure. (VMM 2008 support for VMware VI3 including moving virtual machines among virtual hosts with no downtime via VMotion, through integration with VMware's Virtual Center.)
Admitting that MSN LiveSearch wasn't at the center of consumer-focused cloud computing the way Google Search is, Turner said Microsoft would spend a hefty $8 billion a year in its R&D budget - "more than any technology company in the world"-- across four distinct areas that include Vista-enabled desktop computing, entertainment software for the Xbox and other devices, and both the consumer and "commercial" aspects of cloud computing, which he sees as closely connected to virtualization. On the commercial cloud, with offerings like Exchange Server, SharePoint, Live Meeting, Communications Server, and Outlook, Turner said Microsoft is unmistakably the industry leader. He also said that, while Salesforce or Google give cloud computing customers no choice but to use a Salesforce- or Google-hosted cloud, Microsoft will use its virtualization software to host cloud computing applications on three different platforms: on customer premises; by third-party Microsoft partners; and by Microsoft itself.
Using Virtualization to Go Green
Several of the "Get Virtual Now" breakout sessions that followed the morning and afternoon keynotes were focused on hot virtualization topics like Green IT, disaster recovery, and security. Francois Ajenstat, Microsoft's Director of Environmental Sustainability, showed how IT organizations can address their Green IT needs by using virtualization to do things like reduce energy demands, manage their environmental footprint and rethink business practices. Among his recommendations were to enable the 'Windows power management' feature on versions of Windows servers prior Windows Server 2008, where it's turned on by default. This can lead to more than 30% energy savings per server. Saying that fewer than 20% of IT professionals are accountable for, or even know, energy consumption, he explained how organizations can reduce their energy use dramatically by consolidating datacenter servers, which involves using virtualization software to increase server utilization and turning off un-used servers. Claiming that virtualization can reduce energy usage in the typical datacenter by as much as 90%, Ajenstat also said that 95% of the total number of over 30 million servers are still waiting to be virtualized.
Ajenstat painted a fairly bleak picture of the current state of data center power consumption, saying that at the moment 61 billion kilowatt hours of electricity go toward data center energy consumption in this country and 10-15 more power plants will be needed by 2011 to keep up with data center power consumption. He pointed out that the daily power consumption of a typical datacenter is equal to the monthly power consumption of thousands of homes.
Ajenstat went on to explain how virtualization products like Microsoft's Hyper-V dramatically improve capacity utilization because it allows for the consolidation of underutilized servers. This translates to less space required, less cooling necessary, and fewer kilowatt hours of power - all of which saves money and reduces the environmental footprint.
He recommended that your organization's first tactical step in adopting virtualization should to use Microsoft's Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP) to analyze your IT infrastructure and determine the level of impact that virtualization would have on your IT shop. The next step would be to use the company's Virtualization ROI Tool to calculate the cost of a virtualized implementation and when that implementation would pay for itself. "Which shouldn't take long," since, typically he said, server workloads only consume a small fraction of total physical server capacity, wasting hardware, space and electricity. Through virtualization, these workloads can be consolidated onto fewer physical servers, saving resources and greatly increasing IT flexibility.