Virtual Server update

There I was, attending the keynote speech of the Microsoft MMS summit in San Diego, when Bob Muglia said that Viridian – codename for Microsoft’s hypervisor-based Virtual Server replacement to run on Longhorn – would ship up to 180 days after Longhorn itself ships. Thanks to the power of a Wi-Fi link, I immediately wrote a piece that appeared on our sister website IT Pro within minutes, and on PC Pro’s own site a few minutes later. Neither myself, the other IT Pro contributors present or the editor had heard of this 180-day delay before, so we thought it was news. However, it’s now been made clear that Microsoft announced this 180-day figure a year ago at the last MMS summit and, given that the news was racing around the world on the newswire(less)s, Microsoft became all upset and issued a correction – “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me”, or something along those lines.

Virtual Server update

It was just a storm in a teacup and everyone has now kissed and made up, but I’ve had time to reflect on Microsoft’s position and to talk to a number of senior Microsoft people about the matter. As always, there’s the public version and then there are private thoughts, but sometimes we can tease out private thoughts to balance, illuminate or expand the public version. But public pronouncement is all we have on this matter. Microsoft’s position is that it’s still bullish with its plans, it’s happily on track to meet its intended targets, and it thinks it will come to be seen as having a killer product in Viridian. I think Microsoft has been rattled by having it pointed out that it’s actually dropped the ball over this product during the last year, and that this is totally typical of the way Microsoft fails to see how its actions are perceived by outsiders looking in.

You see, companies like Parallels have been stealing the limelight with hypervisor-based technologies on the desktop. Parallels’ product for OS X (and for Windows and Linux) has been storming ahead in the performance and capabilities stakes, and has managed to do so in a very public way. The big boy of the virtualisation world, EMC’s VMware, hasn’t been quiet either and is also bringing groundbreaking technology to the desktop. The latest VMware Fusion client for OS X, for example, even has an early implementation of Direct X hardware 3D graphics support, so you can run DirectX 8.1-compatible games within a VM session and do so with hardware graphics acceleration. And it lets you choose how many processors to dedicate to the VM session, which is useful on a Core 2 Duo laptop that has two, where you might want to dedicate one to the host OS and one to the VM, or give over access to both for a particularly compute-intensive VM session. Parallels has done a great job with its Boot Camp integration and also with its Coherence mode, which gets rid of the Windows context and allows a VM application to appear on the host OS’s Desktop as if it were a native program.

I’m sat here on the plane fiddling with my MacBook Core 2 Duo laptop, and I have Word 2007 running on the Desktop just as if it were another Mac application. If you think about it too hard, it’s possible to fry your brain with the thought of where things are coming from, especially if you have a Terminal Server session open that’s pulling in a server Desktop or two as well. That old advert “Is it live or is it Memorex?” takes on a completely new relevance now that apps can be local or remote, base OS or VM, and you really can’t tell the difference…

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