Microsoft Virtualization Event Long on Sizzle, Short on Steak

While most of the virtualization market is gearing up for the annual VMworld trade show next week, Microsoft kicked off a new "Get Virtual Now" event series, a marketing blitz that will see 125 similar Microsoft events held throughout the world by early 2009. Microsoft is out to unseat VMware as the leader of the burgeoning virtualization market, and this new marketing push will undoubtedly be the first skirmish in a long, protracted battle with VMware over who owns virtualization in the enterprise.

So what did Microsoft announce at the event held in the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue last Monday? Here are the highlights:

  • Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (VMM2008) will be released by mid-October 2008
  • Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 (aka App-V) will be bundled with the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2008 R2 (MDOP) and will be available in a few weeks
  • The stand-alone Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 will be released within 30 days and will be a free download
  • Microsoft demonstrated a pre-release live VM migration feature that will appear in Windows Server 2008 R2

Arguably the most concrete news from the show was the impending arrival of VMM2008, a product that leverages Microsoft's significant market share in the non-virtual enterprise IT market to help IT pros manage both physical and virtual machines from a single console. Earlier this year I spoke with Patrick O'Rourke, group product manager of Microsoft’s server and tools business, about the importance of VMM2008, and this is what he said:

"SCVMM is part of the Microsoft System Center family of management tools, so we provide the ability to manage both physical and virtual machines from one platform. Feedback from customers has been consistent in that they’re looking for a single pane of glass to monitor their services and devices, as well as both traditional and virtualized systems."

It's a strong argument, and the VMM2008 approach will be the hardest for VMware to argue against. Not every IT pro wants to juggle multiple vendor relationships to manage their physical and virtual infrastructures, and VMM2008 should appeal strongly to that group. The arrival of VMM2008 may be old news—it was announced almost a year ago--but it was arguably the most substantive piece of news from the event. And I mean "substantive" in the sense that VMM2008 is a significant product upgrade that will be actually shipping soon.

The rest of the news from the event (and the timing of the event itself) was obviously intended to yank the spotlight off of VMworld next week. The bundling of App-V with MDOP is a relatively minor product announcement. News that the stand-alone Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 product will be a free download is welcome, but Microsoft is once again playing a game of catch-up with a competitor: VMware announced ESXi was going free weeks ago. "Me-too" isn't a product strategy; it's a sign that your competitors are moving faster than you are.

One of the biggest gaps in Microsoft's virtualization efforts has been the lack of a comparable feature to VMware's VMotion, a product that allows VMs to be moved—even when running—without stopping or starting them. Microsoft's demo of the new live VM migration feature to appear in Windows Server 2008 R2 was an impressive feat, and shows that Microsoft is working overtime to achieve feature-parity with VMware. It's also clear that Windows Server 2008 R2 won't be shipping until sometime in 2009, so let's remind ourselves that Hyper-V-based VM live migration is still, in essence, vaporware.

There's no doubt that Microsoft will eventually begin eating into VMware's market share in the server virtualization space, and I'm positive the talented Hyper-V team development team will, over the coming months and years, begin closing the gap with VMware on the technology side. It's also clear that in the week before arguably the most important VMworld yet—the one where ex-Microsoftie Paul Maritz will strive to lay out the strategy of a post-Diane Greene VMware—Microsoft did it's best to muddy the waters, tout unreleased products, and cast doubt about the merits of sticking with a non-Microsoft solution. When you don't have much steak, it always pays to sell the sizzle.

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The Windows IT Pro VMworld 2008 Blog
Both Michael Otey and I will also be posting our thoughts about VMworld 2008 several times a day in our new VMworld 2008 blog, which you can bookmark here. Look for the first post early next week, followed by regular updates as the show unfolds.

Using Hyper-V? Tell Us What You Think!
Microsoft Hyper-V has finally arrived, and it promises to heat up the rapidly growing virtualization market. Are you currently using Hyper-V in your work environment, or are you planning to deploy it soon? We’d like to hear about your experiences, so please send your Hyper-V success stories or tales of woe to Jeff James. Be sure to put “Hyper-V Feedback” in your subject line so we can spot your feedback quickly.

Virtualization News
VMworld 2008 Edition
by Jeff James

Visit Windows IT Pro at VMworld 2008
Going to VMworld 2008 this year? We'd like to invite you to stop by the Windows IT Pro booth (#359) and say hello. Our marketing team has informed me that they'll be giving away a digital camera, an iPod Nano, a Zune media player and some other goodies to show attendees.

Virtualization Congress Comes to London
Virtualization.info is sponsoring the first independent Virtualization Congress at the ExCel Conference Centre in London October 14-16. Dozens of vendors and exhibitors will be displaying their wares at the event, and a full schedule of speakers and technical presenters will provide attendees with information about how to leverage their virtualization investments. Seamus Quinn, editor of the Windows IT Pro EMEA newsletter, has written an article about the event here.

Virtualization Tips & Tricks:
Multiple Nodes and LUN Support with ESX Server

From Jon Savill's FAQ for Windows

Q. Why can't multiple nodes access the same logical unit number (LUN) running NTFS in a Windows cluster, as they can with VMware ESX Server and VMFS?

A. Users of VMware ESX Server are used to formatting LUNs, which are areas of space on shared storage such as a storage area network (SAN), with the VMFS file system. VMFS lets multiple nodes access the same LUN simultaneously. Thus, multiple virtual machines (VMs) can be running on one LUN, and each VM could be running on different nodes because the file system is accessible to all nodes at the same time, as the following diagram shows.

For more tips from Jon Savill's FAQ for Windows, click Jon Savill's FAQ for Windows">here.

In the next issue of Virtualization UPDATE (9/24/08)

  • Commentary: A VMworld 2008 Recap
  • New virtualization product announcements from VMworld 2008
  • …and more virtualization commentary, news, tips, and tricks

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