Microsoft Broadens Virtualization Strategy Beyond Data Center

Microsoft wants virtualization to change the way IT works from the data center to the desktop.

J. Nicholas Hoover, Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

January 22, 2008

3 Min Read

Microsoft's forceful move into virtualization with Windows Server aims to bring virtualization to the data center masses, but that's only part of the puzzle. Microsoft wants virtualization to change the way IT works from the data center to the desktop.

The company announced Monday it was buying Calista Technologies, which makes presentation virtualization technologies, for an undisclosed sum. It also announced simplified licensing for virtualization that will allow all versions of Windows desktop to be virtualized, support for running Office in a virtualized environment, an expanded alliance with Citrix Systems to include co-marketing and co-sales in virtualization, lower pricing to run Windows clients remotely in virtualized instances, and new deployment tools.

That's a host of announcements, and the fact that most of them aren't directly related to forthcoming Windows Server virtualization is a sign that Microsoft has much more than just the corridors of the physical data center in mind for its virtualization strategy.

Microsoft's business IT strategy aims toward a condition Microsoft calls "dynamic IT," where computing assets will be much more flexible than they typically are today, with applications decoupled from physical hardware, dynamically moving from server to server to adjust to business conditions and delivered to workers when and where they are needed.

In the short term, that strategy hinges mostly on Windows Server virtualization and management of virtual growth with System Center Virtual Machine Manager, the next version of which is due in the same time frame as the final release of Hyper-V, later this year. Microsoft sees a few key scenarios for Windows Server virtualization, including server consolidation, application deployment and testing, business continuity, and accelerated server provisioning.

However, some of the client virtualization scenarios go far beyond server consolidation and business continuity into the untapped resources of application virtualization. Server virtualization alone won't allow companies to become as flexible as Microsoft believes they can become, Bob Muglia, Microsoft's senior VP of its server and tools business, said in an interview.

"Virtualization's great, but to think long term, it's really the integration of the virtualization with what we're doing at the application layer, with what we're doing at the user layer," Larry Orecklin, Microsoft's general manager for System Center and virtualization, said in an interview. "For a lot of the buzz that exists within the industry, it's really at the machine layer, but there are other layers and that's why we're looking comprehensively across the infrastructure, from the client and the server."

Virtualization, Shannen Boetcher, Microsoft's general manager of Windows Client product management said in an interview, will be key in enabling a number of new capabilities for workers as well as data centers. Some workers might need to be able to walk up to any PC and get their job done, for example, and virtualization could make that happen, making it so kiosks serve up applications based on job role.

Microsoft's SoftGrid Application Virtualization technology, Boettcher added, is the fastest selling enterprise application the company has ever introduced, with 3 million copies being licensed in the first six months. "No matter where I am I want a rich experience," Boettcher said. "Application virtualization allows you to dynamically deliver an application as a Web service or run an application independent of another application."

Microsoft was going to hold Monday's announcements until today for an event Microsoft employees are calling "V-Day," but the company's hand was tipped a day early by news reports. The company hopes today's event, kicked off yesterday by an executive memo from Muglia to 300,000 industry partners and customers, will be a "catalyzing moment" in Microsoft's virtualization strategy. More than 300 customers will attend the event, including early adopters including Swedish Medical Center in Seattle and business information provider Kroll Factual Data.

About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

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