Yesterday, Microsoft announced the private beta release of Microsoft Virtual Server 2004 and said that the final product--originally expected in late 2003--will now ship in mid-2004. Virtual Server is the server-side companion to Microsoft Virtual PC 2004; both products virtualize PC hardware systems into software-based virtual machine (VM) environments that can be aggregated and centrally managed on single systems. Microsoft purchased the technology behind Virtual PC and Virtual Server last year from Connectix, and those products compete with similar VM solutions from VMware.
   "We're on track to have product out in the middle of 2004," Windows Server Group Technical Product Manager Eric Berg said. Since acquiring the Connectix technologies, Microsoft has changed the emphasis of Virtual PC and Virtual Server to consolidation: The company hopes to see enterprises with many small Windows NT 4.0-based servers move those environments to VMs running on more powerful Windows Server 2003 boxes. The company has also dramatically bolstered the security of both products, according to a Microsoft representative I spoke with recently.
   Although Connectix never shipped a Virtual Server product (the software was under development when Microsoft bought the company's virtualization technologies), Microsoft has altered the product in other ways since bringing it inhouse. Virtual Server will run only on Windows 2003 and will officially support VMs running Windows 2003, Windows 2000 Server, NT Server 4.0, and OS/2; although you can run Linux under the Virtual Server environment, that OS is no longer officially supported.