Microsoft on Monday launched two upcoming products, Microsoft Hyper-V Server (MHVS) 2008 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008, which the software giant says completes its arsenal of virtualization solutions, and gives it a leadership position against market leader VMWare. Both MHVS 2008 and SCVMM will ship within 30 days, Microsoft says.

"Now is the time for customers to get virtual," said Microsoft corporate vice president Bob Kelly. "With desktop and datacenter virtualization offerings available from Microsoft and its partners, customers are adopting Microsoft solutions because they have better value and will make IT operations more dynamic."

Until Monday, MHVS was shrouded in some mystery. Microsoft had previously finalized a feature for Windows Server 2008 called Hyper-V, which provides hypervisor-based virtualization services to that platform. MHVS 2008, however is somewhat different. It is essentially a standalone version of Hyper-V that doesn't come with the full WS2008 server, but rather includes a "bare metal" hypervisor that can be used to install virtual machines based on Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, or SuSE Enterprise Linux.

MHVS 2008 boots into a super-simple command line environment that's even more stripped down than the Server Core install of WS2008. From this interface, you can set up basic server features, like connecting it to a domain, but to install virtual machines on the system, you'll have to access it remotely using tools like the Hyper-V console.

SCVMM 2008 is the latest version of Microsoft's heterogeneous virtualization management server, and it can manage virtual machines hosted on Microsoft Virtual Server 2005, WS2008 Hyper-V, MHVS 2008, or VMWare. This tool is aimed at larger businesses that will host multiple environments virtually, Microsoft says.

Compared to its biggest competitor, Microsoft's tools are new and somewhat unproven, but they're also considerably less expensive than VMWare's offerings. Plus, Microsoft's management servers work fine with both physical and virtual environments, allowing corporations to mix and match between them as needed and use a single set of familiar tools. VMWare offers nothing like this, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft also showed off its next-generation Windows Server 2008 R2 product for the first time on Monday. The company provided a demo of a Hyper-V virtualization feature called live migration, which will let customers move applications running in virtual environments from one server to another without disrupting users. VMWare already offers similar functionality.