Customers Turning to Microsoft to Virtualize Across Desktops and Datacenters
This week at VMworld 2007, the virtualization industry’s top conference, Microsoft is showcasing a broad new set of initiatives that continue to build on nearly a decade of experience in virtualization technologies.
Showing strong customer adoption across desktops and datacenters, virtualization is emerging as a compelling technology to the challenges of making IT management more dynamic and cost effective. Virtualization enables IT managers to pool computing resources, providing a layer of isolation between various services, software and applications so they can be set up quickly on multiple devices, with little or no configuration. Microsoft views the virtualization arena as wide open to software innovation and full of opportunity for customers, for whom the benefits include reduced cost, simplified system administration and an improved user experience.
Microsoft has developed a portfolio of technologies and tools that address server virtualization, desktop virtualization, application virtualization and virtualization management to help customers achieve higher levels of cost efficiency and business agility. The company’s integrated approach is on display at VMworld 2007 conference, an annual event hosted by VMware that attracts IT professionals, developers, technology providers and technology experts from around the world.
PressPass spoke with Larry Orecklin, general manager of marketing for System Center at Microsoft, to learn more about Microsoft’s virtualization strategy and to understand the implications that the company’s virtualization initiatives have for customers and the industry as a whole.
PressPass: Virtualization has been getting its share of headlines lately. Why is it such a hot topic?
Orecklin: Virtualization technology can have a profound impact on customer’s IT infrastructure from the data center all the way to the desktop. By decoupling physical resources from applications and data, it can dramatically reduce system costs, significantly increase availability and ultimately increase agility.
PressPass: What’s Microsoft’s strategy with regard to virtualization?
Orecklin: Our goal is to help customers make their IT systems more self-managing and dynamic so that customers can gain more control of their IT systems and enable their businesses to respond faster and stay ahead of the competition. We’re going to help customers with this by providing a complete set of virtualization products that span from the desktop to the datacenter, and helping customers manage all IT assets — both physical and virtual — from a single platform
Microsoft’s strategy is to enable customers to take advantage of their existing platform investments, utilize their existing support skills and infrastructure, and to reduce costs associated with implementing virtualized environments. We’re making significant technology investments across the board, from the server level, with Virtual Server 2005 R2 and Windows Server virtualization, which will be coming out in Windows Server 2008; to the application level, with our SoftGrid Application Virtualization solution, which has seen more than 2 million seats adopted in the first six months of the year, and presentation virtualization with Terminal Services; to innovative management solutions within System Center that help customers pull all the virtualized elements together. We’re also investing in tools that integrate the ability to manage both physical and virtual IT assets.
In addition, Microsoft is looking to enable wide spread adoption of these technologies through our low-cost, high-volume business model.
PressPass: How does Microsoft’s approach to virtualization differ from what other providers are doing?
Orecklin: We’re working first and foremost to deliver products in each area to customers that will help them to lower costs and have greater agility. Two key aspects distinguish our approach. First, many vendors tend to focus on machine virtualization, such as enabling multiple operating systems to coexist on a server or a desktop. We see virtualization as having a much broader impact across the IT environment, so we have a platform for server and desktop machine virtualization, but we also have a platform that lets customers isolate an application from an operating system using application virtualization. For desktop virtualization, we’ve had more than 2.5 million downloads of Virtual PC 2007 since it became available in February. And we have a way to isolate the presentation of an application from where it processes, with presentation virtualization in the form of our Terminal Services technology.
Secondly, we recognize that once organizations virtualize their IT infrastructure, management shifts from being important to being imperative. Since virtualized assets aren’t physically constrained by location, management becomes the radar screen where you view and control your applications and operating systems and all the other virtualized elements of your infrastructure, and it helps you orchestrate those pieces into a cohesive whole. By merging the physical and virtual aspects and enabling all IT assets to be managed from a single platform — one pane of glass — we make it easier for customers to integrate this new technology into their existing environment.
The final piece of thinking about virtualization across the board involves giving consideration to impacts on licensing, and making modifications to our licensing policies to accommodate and accelerate virtualization. Those improvements range from the Windows Server 2003 Datacenter licensing we announced a year ago, which supports an unlimited number of virtual servers running on a physical server, to the new management licensing we announced last week, which offers customers a way to manage unlimited virtual guests per physical server.
PressPass: Can you provide a brief update on the latest developments and investments with regard to delivering virtualization to customers?
Orecklin: We’re making broad investments in almost every area where virtualization can impact a customer’s IT environment, from platform and application development to initiatives in management, interoperability and software licensing. One place we’re investing heavily in is virtualization management. Until now, the industry conversation around management has focused only on the virtual aspect. Our offering is unique in that we’re capitalizing on the experience we’ve gained over the years in managing physical assets — making the products that have worked well in that world and ensuring that they work in the virtual world.
For example, when looking at systems management, last week we announced that our System Center Virtual Machine Manager product has been released. We also announced plans to deliver a cost-effective mid-market version of that software in January 2008 because customers tell us that even companies with a small number of servers can benefit from virtualization technology. Also in the management space, licensing for our System Center Server Management Suite has been optimized for a world where virtualization is the de facto environment. This software offers our customers an integrated suite that lets them manage physical and virtual assets from the same platform, with pricing per physical server and an ability to manage an unlimited number of virtual machines running on that server.
We’ve also just announced that future versions of our System Center Virtual Machine Manager product is being designed to manage, configure and optimize our customers’ virtualized systems running within Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server virtualization, as well as select third-party virtualization software. Our support for third-party hypervisors will manage virtualized systems running VMware and Xen. By adding this cross-platform support, we help ensure that customers who have already invested in virtualization can continue to manage their environment from one centralized location. Moreover, we make it easier for customers to integrate their physical and virtual IT assets as virtualization takes further hold within the enterprise.
This week at VMworld we’re announcing that the Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Windows Server virtualization is coming soon with the initial release candidate of Windows Server 2008. We’re also announcing the new Microsoft Installer (MSI) Utility for Microsoft Application Virtualization, a utility for our SoftGrid Application Virtualization solution that bridges the gap between traditional physical control of installed applications and the new paradigm of virtual applications.
On the partner front, we’re launching the Quickstart Get Virtual community to make it easier for our solutions partners to offer complete virtualization solutions. And we’re announcing an expanded partnership with Citrix Systems. Citrix has committed to standardize on our Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) image format for operating systems and applications, which will make it easier for our mutual customers to deploy virtualization solutions.
PressPass: Can you elaborate on the application virtualization news with SoftGrid and explain how customers have adopted that technology?
Orecklin: Microsoft SoftGrid Application Virtualization is the anchor of our Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) for Software Assurance. In the first six months that MDOP was available, we sold more than 2.1 million seats. These numbers point to tremendous customer interest in virtualization, and they confirm our thinking that customers want more than just machine virtualization.
The Windows Installer Utility for Microsoft Application Virtualization, which will be available later this year, will extend the benefits of SoftGrid technology by transforming existing and future SoftGrid virtual application assets into a standardized format for Microsoft Windows Installer (MSI). We expect this MSI Utility to be available for download before the end of the year. Customers will be able to use our MSI utility with any electronic software distribution application — including Microsoft Systems Management Server, System Center Configuration Manager and third-party systems — to deliver their virtual applications just like they deliver installed applications. This means organizations can begin accruing the benefits of virtualized applications right away on their current infrastructure while future-proofing their investment in SoftGrid technology. This continues our approach of managing physical and virtual — in this case, applications — from the same management platform.
PressPass: How are software and solutions partners contributing to Microsoft’s virtualization offerings?
Orecklin: To date, nearly 800 of our partners have delivered solutions based on our virtualization platform. We’ve had especially good success with the VHD Test Drive Program we launched 10 months ago. More than 75 partners are providing images through that program, and we’ve recorded more than 300,000 Microsoft image downloads. By standardizing on our VHD format, vendors make it easier for people to deploy and manage the components in their virtual environment.
Today we launched the Microsoft Quickstart Get Virtual Community, which is open to any Microsoft Gold Certified partner. We’re encouraging solutions partners to use our new Quickstart Get Virtual portal to help them roll out Microsoft solutions — not just server solutions but also solutions that use our virtualization platform at the data center and the desktop. The Web site offers partners a simple way to promote their expertise and services as leading Microsoft virtualization solution providers. It also gives them access to information and training across the full spectrum of our virtualization products so they’re well-equipped to help customers think through how this powerful technology can be applied across the board within their IT environment.
In other partner news, our announcement with Citrix around VHD solidifies a relationship that dates back more than 18 years. Since 1997, Microsoft and Citrix have worked together to offer solutions around centralized desktop, application deployment and management with Microsoft Terminal Services and Citrix Presentation Server. As Citrix completes its acquisition of XenSource — another company we’ve had a solid virtualization relationship with — we think our collaboration will produce even more benefits for customers, especially those customers that run Linux on Windows. Given that Microsoft and Citrix have highly complementary products, our mutual customers can feel confident investing in those products now that Citrix is standardizing on VHD. Customers should find it much easier to use our virtualization solutions together, whether they deploy solutions at the platform, management, operating system or application level.
PressPass: How do the new virtualization management tools that Microsoft announced last week tie into Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server virtualization?
Orecklin: System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 (SCVMM), which will be generally available in October, is a standalone server application used to manage virtualized machines running on Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2. With SCVMM, customers can assess and consolidate suitable server workloads onto virtual machines, freeing up physical resources for repurposing or hardware retirement. SCVMM is tightly integrated in the System Center family of products, which together provide comprehensive management of physical and virtual environments. Last week’s announcement that the next version of SCVMM will support Windows Server virtualization, coming out after Windows Server 2008, means that customers will be able to use Microsoft’s System Center management tools to manage, configure and optimize virtualized systems running Windows, VMware VI3 and Xen.
PressPass: What can customers look for from Microsoft virtualization in the future?
Orecklin: We will continue investing in virtualization — not just in products and solutions but also in areas like interoperability and licensing and technical support, to help customers enter the new world of virtualization. We also aim to continue delivering the most comprehensive offering of products and management solutions available. Customers can expect to see even closer integration between products and management solutions going forward. Beyond products, we are gearing up in all areas of the company around virtualization, from our sales force to our partner ecosystem to our consulting services. Virtualization will clearly impact almost all aspects of IT. We want to be our customers’ trusted advisors as they explore, design and deploy virtualization into their IT environments.
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