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Virtual Server 2005 Fills Gap In Microsoft Line

New virtual-machine technology can be used to test software patches and migrate aging Windows NT applications.
Microsoft's overdue Virtual Server 2005 will become available within the next 30 days, the company said on Wednesday. The new product uses virtual-machine technology, acquired from Connectix last year, to support software testing, application migration, and server consolidation on Windows Server 2003.

Virtual Server 2005, originally due last year, will be available in two packages, a $499 standard edition that runs on Windows Server 2003-based servers with up to four processors, and a $999 enterprise edition that scales to 32 CPUs.

The product fills a significant gap in Microsoft's product line, since it can be used to test software patches before deploying them in Windows environments, as well as providing a way to support older applications on newer hardware without lots of reprogramming. Microsoft will compete with VMware Inc., acquired earlier this year by storage vendor EMC Corp., which introduced its first virtual-machine server three years ago.

Virtual-machine software creates a "self-contained computer," generally comprised of an operating system and application, that together run on a server that hosts multiple virtual machines, says Microsoft group product manager Eric Berg. Early adopters of Virtual Server 2005 typically run two or three virtual machines per processor on a Windows Server 2003 computer. For example, a four-processor server might be used to host between eight and 12 applications or other workloads, such as directory services. "You can run mixed operating systems and applications side by side on the same machine," Berg says.

The platform is targeted at three scenarios: software development and testing, applications migration, and server consolidation. With Microsoft-provided support for Windows NT 4.0 expiring this year, some customers will likely use Virtual Server 2005 as a way to phase out remaining Windows NT 4.0 servers and move the applications running on those systems to newer servers. Virtual Server 2005 can also help boost server utilization rates by increasing the number of applications on each server.

Virtual Server 2005 is limited in that it can only be used on Windows Server 2003 servers. The product is tuned to host virtual machines containing Microsoft's own operating systems--specifically Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000, and Windows NT--though it can also be used to host Linux and other operating systems that run on x86-based computers. Virtual Server 2005 can be managed from Microsoft's new Operations Manager 2005 and third-party management systems.

Beginning Sept. 13, an evaluation version of Virtual Server 2005, good for six months, will be available for download from Microsoft. The final product will become generally available on Oct. 1. For desktop computers, Microsoft last year released Virtual PC for Windows, also based on Connectix technology.

VMware VP of marketing Michael Mullany says his company has "a whole virtual infrastructure strategy that Microsoft does not." VMware has an upgrade of its flagship ESX server in beta testing now, but Mullany declined to discuss it.

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