Microsoft moves in on VMware

Microsoft has launched a new virtualisation application in a bid to regain ground on market leader, VMware.

Microsoft moves in on VMware

Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 allows companies to deploy virtualisation technology, centralize management and convert machines running VMware to a Microsoft format.

The move is considered one of Microsoft’s first major efforts to cut into the lead held by VMware – which went public this summer in the hottest technology IPO in years – and thus undercut a potential threat to Windows server software.

“The sleeping beast has awoken,” claims Stephen Elliot, research director at IDC. “Microsoft’s been a little slow to the game.”

Windows accounts for about two-thirds of the market for computer-server operating systems, by shipments, but Microsoft is considered a laggard in virtualisation.

Virtualisation is one of the fastest-growing segments of the technology industry since it enables technology departments to use servers more efficiently, cutting the need for machines and reducing electricity costs.

It also allows companies more flexibility on how data centres are managed and simplifies the implementation of new software applications.

VMware holds more than 70% of the virtualisation market and its sales have doubled year-on-year for the past several quarters.

Hypervisor battle

Microsoft’s main weapon against VMware is expected to be Viridian, a hypervisor that sits between the hardware and the operating system. Microsoft has suffered delays in bringing Viridian to market, and now expects it to be available six months after the release of Windows Server 2008 in February.

Industry analysts see virtualisation as both a threat and an opportunity for Microsoft. On one hand, it may weaken Microsoft’s grip on the server market and may force it to share space on single machines with other operating systems.

But if it executes properly, analysts think, Microsoft could become a platform upon which all virtualisation is done. The first step starts with Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007. It integrates with Microsoft’s existing software tools into a single suite of applications to manage both virtualised and non-virtualised servers.

Microsoft also said that once Viridian becomes available, the software tools will work with other virtualisation software including ones from VMware and XenSource, a company recently acquired by Citrix.

Microsoft sees virtualisation as more pervasive than the prevailing view that the technology is limited to servers, saying customers also want their desktop computers and individual applications to take advantage of it.

“We think the impact of virtualisation is much broader than how VMware is defining it,” says David Greschler, a Microsoft director of integrated virtualisation strategy.

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