Microsoft used the Tech Ed IT Professionals 2008 show here in Orlando to unveil the latest updates to its virtualization product strategy. Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the server and tools business at Microsoft, mentioned several updates to Microsoft's virtualization efforts.

Muglia mentioned that RC1 of Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 (formerly known as SoftGrid Application Virtualization) would be available by the end of June. Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 is currently in beta, and the latest beta release can be downloaded here.

To provide training support for most of its upcoming virtualization products, Muglia said that Microsoft will also roll out four new virtualization certification programs. These training resources include a number of instructor-led and E-learning courses, as well as courseware, training kits, online resources, and other materials to help IT pros get up to speed on Microsoft virtualization products.

Microsoft also announced a new Server Virtualization Validation Program that will allow third-party vendors to test their software to ensure compatability with Windows Server 2008. According to a press release announcing the initiative, Microsoft will also use the program to "offer cooperative technical support to customers running Windows Server on validated, non-Microsoft server virtualization software." Microsoft clearly wants to convert as many VMware customers as possible to Hyper-V, and this validation program will likely be used as a conversion opportunity for them.

Microsoft also announced that its Microsoft Forefront line of security products (and the next release of Forefront, code-named "Stirling") will be upgraded to support the virtualization features of Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V. The beta version of Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 has been announced previously, and should be released by the end of the year.

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