Microsoft delays key virtualisation software

Microsoft delays key virtualisation software

Microsoft's plan to catch up to competitors in providing virtualisation has hit a snag. The company says it has pushed back the release of both a beta of virtualisation technology for Windows Server and a service pack to its existing virtualisation software.

The public beta of Windows Server virtualisation, code-named Viridian, will now ship in the second half of 2007, not in the first half, according to an entry on the Windows Server Division Weblog by Mike Neil, general manager of virtualisation at Microsoft.

Similarly, the final version of Virtual Server 2005 R2 Service Pack 1 also has been pushed back; it will be available in the second quarter. It was scheduled to be available now. Customers and partners can download a release candidate of the service pack, a code-complete update to the current beta 2, later this month, Neil wrote.

Despite these delays, the next version of Windows Server, code-named Longhorn, is on track for a Beta 3 before midyear and a release to manufacturing in the second half of the year as scheduled, according to Neil. And Windows Server virtualisation for Longhorn will be ready to go as planned 180 days after Longhorn's release.

Virtualisation refers to techniques that create different, virtual versions of operating systems, servers and storage devices. The technology allows IT customers to run multiple versions of an OS on one server by running the OSes in virtual machines, a move that can be ultimately more cost-effective for data centres.

Microsoft has been working for several years to ramp up its plan to provide virtualisation, which has become a key driver of new business models and computing scenarios in data centres. As part of its strategy to meet customer demands, the company in the past 18 months has changed its virtualisation licencing for Windows Server System to make it more cost effective for customers, and began releasing Virtual Server 2005 for free, since eventually the technology in that product will be built directly into Windows Server.

Neil cited the need to meet goals for performance and scalability as reasons for the delay in Windows Server virtualisation's release.

"We still have some work to do to have the beta meet the 'scale up' bar we have set [for Windows Server virtualisation]," he wrote. "Also, we're tuning Windows Server virtualisation to run demanding enterprise IT workloads, even I/O intensive workloads, so performance is very important and we still have some work to do here."

Windows Server virtualisation will add important hypervisor technology to Longhorn. Hypervisor technology enables different OSes -- such as Linux and Windows -- to run on the same processor, allowing customers to get more mileage out of hardware running in their networks.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 is being delayed to allow additional time to test the new OSes that the software will support -- SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, Solaris 10 and a test version of Longhorn that recently was released, according to Neil's blog entry.

SP1 of Virtual Server 2005 R2 includes support for Advanced Micro Devices' virtualisation technology, as well as new integration between Virtual Server and Microsoft Active Directory.

The software also includes what is called a Volume Shadow Service, which improves the server backup process, and offline virtual hard disk (VHD) mounting, which enables customers to view and manipulate files in a VHD without having to start a virtual machine.

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