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What’s Next After Microsoft Virtual Server?


I’m sure you’ll all remember a few months ago when I talked about how VMWare were releasing their VMWare Server product for free. Quite a few people talked about this at the time, and wondered what this meant for Microsoft’s growing virtualization product line.

Well I guess now we know. Microsoft have responded with the release of Virtual Server as a free product which you can download or order on disk from their website.

Far more interesting perhaps is the long awaited release of Virtual Machine additions for Linux and the announcement of a service pack for Virtual Server R2, due to shortly go into the beta phase.

Lots of people have speculated that last year, or maybe this year, or maybe next year will be the ‘year of virtualization’. It seems that both VMWare and Microsoft are keeping up the pace of the game, and other players including some well supported open source alternatives are joining the crowd too.

Personally, while a technology is still talked about for its own sake then to my way of thinking it isn’t fully mature yet. Once something has evolved enough to be something that is just used without needing too much thought on the part of the average user then it’s arrived. I’m not sure virtualization is quite there yet, but maybe it won’t be long.

So what comes next?

There are a couple of interesting gaps in the product line ups here that might get filled soon:

Microsoft have not yet released Virtual PC for the Intel Mac. Rumours that Apple are releasing a hypervisor layer, if not an outright virtualization layer in Leopard, and that the two things are somewhat intertwined just won’t die.
VMWare, of course, doesn’t have a product in the Apple space at all. The longer they take to announce one, the more credibility the rumor above gains.

Microsoft doesn’t currently have a product that competes in the VMWare ESX Server space, which is where a lot of serious work gets done. Maybe this will be addressed by the time Longhorn Server manages to sloth its way onto the release schedule, because of course such a produce still needs an underlying OS of some kind, and I’m damn sure Microsoft aren’t about to roll with a Linux Kernel if they can possibly help it.

Open Source products are playing catch-up. But catch up they will. At the moment, it maybe isn’t possible to build an “enterprise quality” virtual solution completely from Open Source components – a state which the OSS community will work damn sure to correct. (Of course, if anyone read this blog, they’d probably disagree and flame me… they’re entitled to their opinion and I’m entitled to mine on the matter.)

So… what to do, what to do? I’ll tell you one thing newbie – if you haven’t already downloaded at least one of the two big free virtualization products to see what the fuss is about, then you’re missing out on something that you need to deal with one way or another. Run, don’t walk, to the VMWare and Microsoft websites and check out the two free products side by side for yourself.