REDMOND, Wash., May 6, 2003 — Earlier this year, Microsoft acquired virtual machine technology in response to requests for a solution that would help customers migrate legacy applications and assist them in consolidating applications onto fewer servers. Today, Microsoft is responding to customer demand with the release of the Microsoft Virtual Server Customer Preview.
Jim Hebert, General Manager, Windows Server Group marketing. Click on the image for a high resolution photo
Virtual Server is a Microsoft Windows Server–based application that enables customers to run multiple Intel-architecture operating systems — such as Windows NT Server, Windows 2000 Server, and others, on one server, at the same time. It is designed to save IT organizations time and money by simplifying the upgrade process and optimizing hardware utilization. Virtual Server is part of Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to take advantage of the power of industry-standard hardware and bring simplicity, automation and flexibility to IT operations.
The Microsoft Virtual Server Customer Preview is a pre-beta release, enabling customers to take an early look at this technology. While the customer preview is not feature-complete, nor performance-optimized — and certainly not ready for use in production — it will enable customers to provide feedback to Microsoft on the feature set, fit to customer scenarios and any issues they encounter.
Jim Hebert , General Manager of Windows Server Group marketing, spoke recently with PressPass regarding virtual machine technology and how the recent release of the Virtual Server Customer Preview represents Microsoft’s continuing commitment to deliver customer-focused, innovative solutions for Windows servers.
PressPass: Please describe for us what is meant by virtual-machine technology.
Hebert: Virtual-machine technology has actually been around for a long time. A virtual machine uses software to create a simulated hardware operating environment, so that you can run more than one operating system on a single computer at the same time. Usually, you can only run one operating system on a computer at a time; virtual-machine technology enables you to run two or more operating systems at the same time, on the same server. Each operating system runs in isolation from the others. So what you do in one operating system does not affect what you do in the other operating system, or on the computer on which these other operating systems are running.
PressPass: What, then, is Virtual Server?
Hebert: Virtual Server is an enterprise-class virtual machine solution for server consolidation and the efficient management of multiple operating system environments and applications. Virtual Server enables simpler migration of legacy applications, server consolidation and rapid server deployment. An evolution of a proven Virtual PC client VM product line from Connectix, the company from which we purchased the technology earlier this year, Virtual Server is designed to run on industry-standard Intel servers (IA32), from entry-level through highly-scalable solutions.
PressPass: Who is likely to want and need this technology and this product?
Hebert: The demand is really very broad. The need is neither confined to any specific industry, nor any specific-sized enterprise, although we’ve mostly heard from medium- and large-sized customers. Virtual Server provides a productive, dependable, high-return VM solution to IT organizations that need to migrate legacy applications to current hardware systems, as well as to organizations seeking to consolidate servers, especially servers running departmental lines of business applications. Also, this is the only virtual machine solution that is going to be supported by Microsoft, which is important to any organization that needs to create a reliable operating environment for their applications.
PressPass: Please describe for us a user scenario or two.
Hebert: Virtual Server is extremely useful for the consolidation of legacy application migration. Say, for example, a customer is using Windows NT Server 4.0, and they have applications that will not run on Windows 2000 Server or have not been tested for deployment on Windows 2000 Server. Also in this instance, they have no resources to test the applications and make changes if any are necessary. Virtual Server allows IT organizations to continue running these applications on Windows NT, while taking advantage of more modern hardware. This is particularly useful when you consider that hardware vendors are starting to manufacture new servers that do not support Windows NT 4.0, so if you are a Microsoft customer who has applications running on Windows NT 4.0, you are starting to become concerned that at some point, there will not be hardware available. Using Virtual Server and Windows Server 2003 allows you to continue running all of your applications.
Another interesting scenario is server consolidation. A common problem is that applications frequently have not been written to coexist on the same server — they will conflict if you try to run them on the same server. However, Virtual Server isolates each application in its virtual machine. This way, you can run more applications on the same server, which can save customers a lot on hardware, and space. .
A third user scenario is what we call rapid server deployment. Since each virtual machine has its OS and applications encapsulated in a single file, it is easy to bring up a second virtual machine identical to the first: all you have to do is copy the file containing the definition of the first machine. This is a lot easier than installing an operating system from scratch. An application of this capability would be in a software test scenario. Instead of installing an operating system on a dedicated physical server to conduct tests, developers could create the environment they need through a virtual machine.
PressPass: What prompted Microsoft to enter the virtual machine space?
Hebert: We are responding to increasing customer demands for server solutions that save money. In the end, people buy operating systems to run applications. When an application comes to a dead-end, they expect us to provide a solution, and we think this is a great fix.
PressPass: What is exceptional about Microsoft Virtual Server?
Hebert: While there are other products on the market, we think Virtual Server is unusual in that it comes with better support for industry standards and better automation. Virtual Server has broader hardware support because it relies entirely on Windows to manage the physical hardware, and therefore it requires no custom drivers; its management is entirely standards-based; it enables automated configuration, integration and management through a very rich set of automation tools, and it requires less training because it is a Windows-based solution. Also, the final product will be fully supported by Microsoft Product Support Services.
PressPass: What exactly is being released today and how can people obtain it?
Hebert: What we are releasing today is a pre-Beta version, called the Virtual Server Customer Preview. Users can go to www.betaplace.com . Users will be prompted to enter a guest ID, and they should use: vspreview. Please remember that this is a pre-Beta version. It is not ready for benchmark testing; it should not be used in a production situation; and certain features that are scheduled to be implemented have not yet been implemented.
We are making solid progress against our milestones, and this deliverable demonstrates that the Connectix technology acquisition has momentum and focus. We want people who are curious to try it out, play with it and tell us what they think.
PressPass: What next?
Hebert: We intend to listen to what customers have to say, and take into account their comments and criticisms when fine-tuning the product. The final Virtual Server product is scheduled for release at the end of 2003. Pricing and packaging have yet to be determined.