Microsoft nabs Softricity in virtualization push

This strategy is aimed to compete with virtualization companies such as VMWare and XenSource

As part of its ongoing plan to beef up its virtualization portfolio, Microsoft unveiled  Monday it would acquire virtualization vendor Softricity, revealed a timeline for offering built-in hypervisor technology for Windows Server and introduced a new virtual machine-management product.

This strategy, which the company also will highlight at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) this week, is aimed to compete with virtualization companies such as VMWare Inc. and XenSource Inc., which are ahead of Microsoft in providing hypervisor virtualization management technology.

Hypervisor technology enables different OSes -- such as Linux and Windows -- to run on the same processor, allowing customers to get more mileage out of hardware running in their networks. Virtualization refers more generally to techniques that create different, virtual versions of operating systems, servers and storage devices.

Softricity, in Boston, offers software that allows desktop applications to run in virtual containers, so different instances of the same applications can run on computers without interfering with each other, said Felicity McGourty, a director in Microsoft's Windows Enterprise Management Division.

When an organization deploys new applications across computers on a network, there is a need for compatibility testing to ensure the new applications will work with existing applications, she said. Softricity's software eliminates that need for testing, McGourty said.

Microsoft did not disclose the terms of the Softricity deal, which is pending regulatory approval. The company expects Softricity's Boston office to remain open after the acquisition.

In addition to its intent to purchase of Softricity, Microsoft also announced it will add hypervisor technology to the next version of Windows Server, code-named Longhorn, no more than six months after the release of the product. Longhorn is expected to be released in the second half of 2007.

Adam and McGourty said that they expect that once hypervisor technology is available for Windows Server, customers will no longer need to purchase Microsoft's Virtual Server product, which provides virtualization and virtualization management for Windows Server. Microsoft will continue to support Virtual Server while customers use it and will help them migrate to Longhorn with hypervisor when it is available, they said.

Also Monday, Microsoft unveiled a new product called Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, previously code-named "Carmine" and first discussed by the vendor at the Microsoft Management Summit last month. The product, which will beta in 90 days and be released around the same time as Longhorn, allows system administrators to manage virtual machines on a network the same way they manage physical machines, McGourty said.

Because the new product is part of Microsoft's System Center family, which also includes Microsoft Operations Manager and System Management Server, it will be based on the same code and have the same administration user interface as other products in that suite, she said. This will simplify for system administrators the management of all machines, both physical and virtual, on a network, McGourty said.

WinHEC begins Tuesday at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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