Microsoft last Thursday went on the offensive saying its firstvirtual machine management tool would ship next month and spinning its virtualization wares and strategy days ahead of rival VMware's annual conference scheduled for this week.
Microsoft is pushing a strategy around a single management console as the hub for any number of virtualization options whether they reside on the server or desktop. To that end, the company said development of its Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2007, for managing virtual machines running of Virtual Server 2007 R2, is complete and the software will ship next month.
VMM helps maximize physical server utilization, and centralize management and provisioning of virtual machines. The software also helps manage physical servers and is a core piece of Microsoft's emerging Windows-centric management platform under its Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI).
Critics say the company's tactic is to push a holistic approach to managing server and desktop virtualization from a central point and to shield its current lack of a viable server virtualization product with a smoke screen centered on its desktop technologies -- Virtual PC, Softricity Applications Virtualization and Terminal Services.
"We are convinced they are trying to change the terms and lingo to defuse the focus on server virtualization to many different forms of virtualization so people stop looking so carefully at how far behind Microsoft is compared to VMware in the server virtualization space," says Peter Pawlak, an analyst with independent research firm Directions on Microsoft. "They are using the term 'presentation virtualization' but it is Terminal Services and it has been around forever and no one has ever called it presentation virtualization. There is nothing there that is new or different" in terms of virtualization.
Microsoft says Terminal Services will get new features, including application remoting, when Windows Server 2008 ships early next year.
"If you look at how people think about virtualized desktops a lot of the conversation is about hosting the application in one place and remoting it to another," says David Greschler, director of integrated virtualization strategy at Microsoft. " More broadly, we think Terminal Services takes on a new context as we start to think about getting people the resources they need in real time."
While Microsoft focuses on the desktop, Greschler acknowledges the company is "not the leader" ahead of VMware on the server.
In fact, Microsoft won't ship its hypervisor add-on to Windows Server 2008, currently called Windows Server Virtualization, until the latter half of 2008.
Ahead of that event, rivals such as XenSource, recently acquired by Citrix, are not standing still. This week, XenSource announced an OEM Edition of its free XenExpress virtualization platform for embedding in servers.
The OEM Edition is pre-installed in system flash or on the server's hard disk and enables it to boot from multiple BIOS partitions at system power on, thus making it ready for the installation of multiple virtual machines.