Virtual Server 2005 On Track for General Availability
by Alex Woodie
In addition to releasing Windows XP Service Pack 2 to manufacturing last week, Microsoft took the next step toward general availability of its Virtual Server 2005 product. At its TechEd 2004 conference in Canberra, Australia, last week, Microsoft officials reportedly announced that Virtual Server 2005 had been released to manufacturing, which typically precedes general availability by a few months.
Virtual Server 2005 will allow Windows users to make more effective use of their hardware capacity by enabling multiple operating system instances to run on the same machine. The software's rules-based management console will govern how memory and CPU resources are to be dolled out among the various instances of operating systems running on that machine.
The Redmond, Washington, company's software is based on virtualization technology it obtained through the acquisition of Connectix, in 2003, and is expected to support various versions of Windows, as well as other operating systems for the X86 architecture, including Linux, Novell's NetWare, Sun Microsystems' Solaris, or even IBM's OS/2.
Virtual Server 2005 will be able to run on X86-based machines, running Windows Server 2003 (Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter editions), Windows Server Small Business Server 2003 (Standard and Premium editions), and Windows XP Professional. Supported guest environments will include Windows NT 4.0 Server SP4 through SP6; Windows 200 Server SP2 through SP4; Windows Server 2003; and "most major X86 operating systems," according to a Microsoft white paper.
Microsoft says that Virtual Server 2005 will come in standard and enterprise editions. The standard edition will support servers with up to four processors, while the enterprise edition will support the largest 32-way Windows servers. Virtual Server 2005 will run on servers using Intel's Celeron, Pentium III, Pentium 4, and Xeon processors, or the Opteron, Athlon, and Duron processors from Advanced Micro Devices. Microsoft says that it is evaluating its 64-bit strategy for future editions of the software.
In June, Virtual Server 2005 entered Microsoft's Release Candidate stage, which is a post-beta phase during which the product is all but complete. Virtual Server 2005 needed just one Release Candidate before being released to manufacturing. By comparison, Windows XP SP2 went to RC2, and an RC3 was considered a possibility, before Microsoft made its Windows XP SP2 announcement last week (see "Windows XP SP2: Finally Open for Business," in this issue).
That's not to say that Virtual Server 2005 was totally free of delays, as is the case with many Windows products these days. Connectix was in the beta stages of its first server product when Microsoft acquired it last year. Microsoft originally planned to ship that product, which it dubbed Virtual Server 2004, in late 2003. Obviously, that never happened, and Microsoft bumped the project back and renamed the product Virtual Server 2005.
The primary competitor of Microsoft Virtual Server in the Windows market is VMware, which sells the GSX Server and ESX Server products and is now owned by storage specialist EMC. According to reports from the TechEd 2004 show in Australia last week, the event organizers asked a VMware distributor to take down its VMware signage because Microsoft wanted to make a big splash with Virtual Server 2005.