In 2006, the addition of hardware acceleration to AMD and Intel x86 processors will expand the market for virtualization. Microsoft has already moved Virtual Server 2005 closer to being a standard part of Windows Server operating systems, with licensing that permits running multiple instances of Windows on a single machine at substantially reduced license costs. This will put the pinch on VMware's GSX Server, but ESX Server will become the foundation of a lucrative services franchise. Contracts for deployment and management of large virtualized enterprises will be the brass ring in consulting for the coming year, but we hope to see a strong counter to this in the form of Xen and other open source solutions.
Apart from performance, a primary benefit of hardware acceleration for x86 virtualization is that it will be far easier for developers to work with than the torturous software-only approaches required for current x86 architectures. If you're looking at anything less than ESX Server's full enterprise solution, we recommend that you wait until AMD and Intel bake virtualization into their CPUs. When the hardware's ready, download a trial and see why we think 2006 will be the year of the virtual x86.