Microsoft's broadened virtualization strategy

Over the last few years, I've read and listened to numerous complaints from people about Microsoft not being fully invested in virtualization, that the software giant was simply sticking their big toe in the virtualization water to test it out. Well, if that were true, then last week the Redmond giant did a cannonball from the top most diving board, making a huge splash in the virtualization community. Microsoft

Over the last few years, I've read and listened to numerous complaints from people about Microsoft not being fully invested in virtualization, that the software giant was simply sticking their big toe in the virtualization water to test it out. Well, if that were true, then last week the Redmond giant did a cannonball from the top most diving board, making a huge splash in the virtualization community.

Microsoft wants virtualization to change the way IT organizations work - from the data center to the desktop. And with that, the company announced several strategic changes in its virtualization strategy in order to make virtualization more attractive to a wider audience.

Along with the company's announcement about what it calls its new Dynamic IT vision, Microsoft also officially announced the following:

  • The acquisition of Calista Technologies;

  • Interoperability and collaboration between Microsoft and Citrix;

  • New Microsoft Virtualization Solution Accelerators;

  • Expanded virtualization licensing options for Microsoft Windows Vista;

  • Microsoft Office support using Microsoft SoftGrid Application Virtualization.

Bringing virtualization to the data center with Windows Server 2008 is only one piece of Microsoft's larger vision. They want to leverage virtualization to change the way IT works from one end of the enterprise to the other - from desktop to data center.

"Very few customers are able to reap the benefits of virtualization today," said Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft. "We estimate that less than 5 percent of companies are utilizing virtualization technology because it is simply too cost-prohibitive and complex. We believe Microsoft's comprehensive approach - from desktop to datacenter - is unique to the industry by delivering solutions that address virtualization at the hardware, application and management levels. Our approach is not only one of the most comprehensive in the market today, but we believe it is also one of the most economical. This combination brings a big strategic advantage and cost savings to customers."

Early last week, Microsoft announced that it was buying Calista Technologies, a provider of graphics technologies for next-generation desktop and presentation virtualization solutions. The addition of Calista's technology to future Microsoft presentation and desktop virtualization products will enable remote workers to receive a full-fidelity Windows desktop experience without the need for high-end desktop hardware, while enabling software vendors to deliver additional capabilities.

Microsoft and Citrix plan to co-market a broad portfolio of new client computing offerings. The offerings will be based on Windows Server 2008 and Windows Optimized Desktop solutions, extended with Citrix's XenDesktop and Presentation Server products and managed by Microsoft System Center. The two companies will work together to ensure that the Citrix XenDesktop connection broker works well with Windows Optimized Desktop solutions.

At the same time, Citrix is developing a software tool that will allow customers to easily transfer virtual machines between Citrix XenServer and Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V to help ensure greater interoperability for customers. A test version of the tool will be available in the second quarter, and a final version will be available with the release of Hyper-V.

To help customers evaluate, plan, secure and deploy Microsoft virtualization technologies across desktops and datacenters, Microsoft introduced four new Virtualization Solution Accelerators that will be available with the Windows Server 2008 launch in February. This set of free guidance resources and tools can help customers effectively plan and deploy virtualization technologies, including Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services and Microsoft Application Virtualization.

Within the virtualization community, Microsoft has been chastised more than once about their Windows Vista licensing practices - or more to the point, the company's lack of a clear and acceptable virtualization licensing schema within the Vista product line. That may have finally changed as well. With this announcement, consumers are now licensed to virtualize Windows Vista Home Basic and Windows Vista Home Premium.

In an effort to hopefully push other software ISVs into supporting application virtualization, Microsoft also announced that the 2003 and 2007 versions of Microsoft Office are now supported when running in both Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 and SoftGrid Application Virtualization 4.2. Unfortunately for consumers and other application virtualization vendors, it seems Microsoft's support may end with their own technology. Very reminiscent of what Oracle recently announced with their support of Oracle database software in a virtual machine, but only one that runs in an Oracle virtualization environment. Still, a step in the right direction I suppose.

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