The launch of Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V is big news on the virtualization front, as it represents Microsoft's first real attempt to compete with VMware. People ranging from IT pros to our own technical director, Michael Otey, have told me that the latest beta version of Hyper-V is a solid release, a laudable effort by Microsoft to field a competitive hypervisor-based product.
As promising as Hyper-V looks, it's also clear that VMware won't have anything to fear from Hyper-V in the near term. That story might be different a few years (and Hyper-V revisions) down the road, but VMware is still the market leader and will likely remain so into the foreseeable future.
An interesting battle is also shaping up in the desktop virtualization market, particularly with solutions that employ thin clients and work with virtualized servers to reduce IT deployment, management, and support costs. This approach provides users with virtualized desktops running off a virtual server housed in the data center. VMware made some related announcements early last week about its new professional services program for virtual desktop environments and a new VMware certification program for thin-client vendors.
For its part, Microsoft announced late last week that it had completed the acquisition of Kidaro Technologies, a small Israeli firm that specializes in desktop virtualization products. According to arecent blog post by Shanen Boettcher, general manager of Windows Product Management in Microsoft's Windows Client Division, the Kidaro acquisition will become an integral part of Microsoft's Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) solution.
"This technology will help enable end users to run applications from multiple versions of Windows at the same time, with seamless windowing and menus, and without the confusion of logging into and seeing multiple virtual machine desktops," says Boettcher. "The product teams are working closely with our new colleagues from Kidaro to incorporate the desktop virtualization technologies into MDOP in the first half of 2009, under the new product name Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization.:
Shanen's post provides additional details of Microsoft's efforts in this area, mentioning that the company has spent more than $400 million in developing and expanding MDOP and has sold over 6.5 million licenses of MDOP to date, making it the fastest-selling volume licensing product in Microsoft history. The blog also mentions that 60 percent of IT Pros who are familiar with MDOP have told Microsoft they intend to deploy MDOP within the next 12 months, although it doesn't provide specifics about how many IT pros Microsoft spoke with or how many were unfamiliar with MDOP. While there's certainly a bit of marketing spin at work here, the announcement highlights one part of Microsoft's strategy to leverage the rest of its assets to squeeze VMware in as many places as possible.
Late last year, I received some email comments from Microsoft's Larry Orecklin (then general manager of System Center and Virtualization) for a story about the Citrix acquisition of XenSource. As that story states, Orecklin said that Microsof's virtualization strategy was built on three ideas.
First, Microsoft believes virtualization should be a key feature of the OS. They're also thinking of virtualization from the desktop to the data center; and investing resources in virtualization to address customer needs in those areas. Finally, Orecklin stresses that virtualization management becomes critical. Microsoft's unique approach is to enable the management of both virtual and physical assets from a single platform: Microsoft System Center.
The Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization news addresses all those points in a development that underscores Microsoft's intent to leverage its existing (and considerable) dominance in traditional physical IT infrastructure to drive adoption of its virtualization efforts. Time will tell whether the strategy will succeed, but history tells us that Redmond’s ability to eliminate competitors by assimilating entire market segments into a standard Windows Server feature should be respected. Although VMware is a vastly more formidable opponent than Netscape and RealPlayer ever were, the company would be wise to keep its sneakers tightly laced.
Are you scratching your head about the footwear reference? In a humorous presentation at the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Reviewer's Workshop in November 2007, Quest Software's Dmitry Sotnikov showed a video clip of hapless runners being chased and trampled during the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Sotnikov remarked that the bulls resemble Microsoft and the panicked masses running from them represent its competitors. The fastest and wiliest companies manage to keep one step ahead of the thundering hooves and sharp horns, while less capable firms either get gored or absorbed into the Microsoft empire. VMware (like Yahoo!) would undoubtedly like to remain in the company of the former.
By Jeff James
Ericom Unveils Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V Support
The final release of Hyper-V is probably still a few months away, but Ericom Software has already announced that its PowerTerm WebConnect presentation and desktop virtualization solution has been updated to manage virtual desktops running on Microsoft’s new hypervisor-based virtualization product. According to Ericom, this update allows IT pros using PowerTerm WebConnect to also access Windows Terminal Services, blade PCs, legacy hardware, and other hosts. For more information about the Hyper-V support in PowerTerm WebConnect, visit www.ericom.com/VDI.
MokaFive Announces Virtual Desktop SolutionMokaFive has announced Virtual Desktop Solution, a product that the vendor suggests is a new way to look at virtualized desktops. Some centralized desktop virtualization solutions don't give users access to their desktops when the system is offline, but MokaFive does. MokaFive claims that Virtual Desktop Solution lets administrators manage desktops from a central source and separates system and end-user preferences, allowing them to be managed independently. For more information about the MokaFive Virtual Desktop Solution, go to www.mokafive.com.
Integrien Aims for VM Management with Integrien Alive
Managing virtual sprawl is becoming increasingly important for IT pros, a fact not lost on Integrien, a provider of systems management solutions. Integrien has updated its Integrien Alive virtualization management platform with support for virtual agents from HP, IBM, nworks, and Hyperic, which allows Integrien Alive to work with a variety of virtual environments, including Microsoft Virtual Server, VMware ESX Server, Citrix XenServer, Sun Solaris Containers, IBM AIX, and IBM System p. Integrien claims that Integrien Alive can help IT pros streamline and automate virtual machine management tasks by detecting and alerting administrators to unusual behaviors, identifying interdependencies between assets in a virtual environment, and dynamically allocating virtual resources to meet infrastructure demands. For more information about Integrien Alive, visit www.integrien.com.
Virtualization Tips and Tricks
Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008
Virtualization's popularity as a cost- and energy-saving tool in the data center has resulted in many organizations suffering from virtual sprawl—a profusion of easily created virtual machines. IT pros are then tasked with getting a handle on the exploding virtual infrastructure.
Microsoft has been working to help bring order from chaos by refining Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM). VMM 2008, due for release later this year, provides a host of virtualization management features that should help bring an unruly virtual environment under control. Edwin Yuen, Microsoft senior product manager for integrated virtualization, recently sent Windows IT Pro some tips for professionals interested in getting the most out of VMM 2008.
"Administrators who use VMM 2008 will be able to manage both Hyper-V and VMware environments from one console and use that console to exploit several VMM core features. A good example is the P2V \[Physical to Virtual\] feature in VMM. While VMM 2008 can perform a V2V \[Virtual to Virtual\] conversion of a VMware VM, this is an offline process, which means the VM needs to be shut down," says Yuen. "However, we should always remember that VMs are machines first, virtual second. VMM can perform a live P2V of a running VM on VMware or other virtualization software. This allows for the conversion of VMs into the Hyper-V or Virtual Server format by performing a P2V, rather than through a file format conversion."
Yuen explains that, like all other VMM 2008 functions, the aforementioned P2V process can be automated using a PowerShell script. "VMM 2008 is completely based on PowerShell, allowing for the automation of any VMM action. Each task wizard (such as New VM or a P2V) provides a View Script button. Pressing that button opens a Notepad window with the complete PowerShell script for that action," says Yuen. "The script can then be modified, customized, and saved. With VMM 2008, PowerShell scripts can be saved into the VMM library and the scripts can be managed and run from directly within VMM."
Another feature of VMM 2008 that Yuen points out is the Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO) function, a new capability that integrates with Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007. "PRO monitors the hardware, operating systems, and applications and generates 'PRO tips' based on real-time data and predefined policies to help administrators manually or automatically do things like monitor service level, respond to alerts, and reallocate existing resources across physical and virtual environments," says Yuen.
For more information about VMM, visit www.microsoft.com/scvmm to download the VMM 2008 beta.