Microsoft Makes Virtualization Play

Plans to buy Softricity while pushing hard to challenge VMware's dominance

May 23, 2006

3 Min Read
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Microsoft's acquisition of application virtualization startup Softricity, announced today, gives it a powerful tool that can come in handy if it is to challenge EMC's VMware as a server virtualization force. But some users question whether Microsoft will make the best use of its new technology.

VMware has moved to the front of the pack in server virtualization, while Microsoft is developing its own virtualization platform. Softricity gives it a quick fix in one area of virtualization. But some Softricity customers hope Microsoft will support Softricity's current line instead of making it disappear inside the Windows operating system.

Softricity's SoftGrid Desktop Virtualization Platform loads an application's registry settings, DLLs, .ini files, and other components the application needs the first time the user requests it. (See Tacit, Softricity Extend Apps). The code is cached on the client PC for subsequent requests. This lets admins install and centrally manage applications and send them directly to user's desktops.

Microsoft disclosed the deal today on the eve of its annual Microsoft Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) along with several other virtualization announcements.

Microsoft didn't reveal its exact plans for Softricity, but spokespeople expect the technology will help users migrate to Vista, Microsoft's next commercial operating system due out later this year.Meanwhile, Microsoft revealed that its hypervisor product will be available with its next Windows Server operating system -- code-named Longhorn -- due next year. The Windows hypervisor will allow multiple operating systems to run simultaneously on a physical server. Microsoft has also announced the Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager is due for beta release within the next 90 days and scheduled to ship in late 2007.

The announcements arrive weeks before EMC is expected to make available the next version of its ESX Server virtualization application and VirtualCenter virtualization management platform.

Andy Gerringer, senior network administrator at Burlington, North Carolina-based Alamance Regional Medical Center, expects Microsoft to continue to support Softricity's existing product line while beefing up its overall virtualization story.

"They are competing with VMware in the virtualization space," he says. "Microsoft doesn't have anything that does application virtualization."

Another user fears Softricity will disappear inside Windows. Paul Theisen, director of information services at Scottsdale, Arizona-based manufacturing firm and Softricity customer The Tech Group, which started using Softricity more than two years ago, told Byte and Switch he would have been happier if the startup had remained independent."The technology is powerful, I wouldn't want to see them break it up," Theisen admits.

Theisen, who is using Softricity to manage applications for 500 users spread across 12 sites, would like to see Microsoft lavish resources on the application virtualization software, instead of spending to integrate it with Windows. (See Tacit, Softricity Extend Apps.) "If they are going to buy it, I would like to see them infuse it with money and infuse it with engineers," he says.

Gerringer expects Microsoft to do just that. "To me, it's quite possibly a good thing, simply for the fact that Microsoft's dollars are behind [Softricity]," he says. "Personally, I don't see Microsoft burying it, because they are trying to do a lot with virtualization."

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Softricity Inc.0

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