Microsoft Virtual Server Manager Augurs Partner Opportunities

Microsoft's planned Virtual Server Manager, code-named Carmine, will spawn much-needed opportunities for the software vendor's partners.

April 21, 2006

3 Min Read
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Microsoft’s planned Virtual Server Manager will spawn much-needed opportunities for its partners.

The server, code-named Carmine, will provide a single graphical interface into host and guest operating systems and allow users to add, move, drag and drop, patch and manage virtual machines on Virtual Server without “too much downtime,” said one source familiar with the project. “Microsoft has to play catch-up to VMware’s management console.”

As the Redmond, Wash, software giant prepares several key upgrades to show at the Microsoft Management Summit, partners hope the slated virtualization management product will prop up Microsoft’s two-year-old Virtual Server platform and help it win share against VMware’s VirtualCenter.

Microsoft declined to comment on Virtual Server Manager, but partners are enthused. “Besides some of the performance constraints, the next biggest downside with the Microsoft product is … a lack of a single management interface to manage all the hosts and virtual machines,” said Ron Oglesby, director of technical architecture at Rapid Application Deployment, a solution provider in Chicago.

Virtual Server Manager will help partners drive more Virtual Server sales in Fortune 500 companies, partners said. If the platform offers programmable interfaces, that also will help partners and ISVs sell higher-margin customization services and build out a virtual infrastructure around Virtual Server, partners add.“With Carmine, Microsoft has the opportunity to develop software that could enable a dynamic and centrally managed virtual environment, which could compete formidably with VMware,” said Tom Richer, CEO of DevLogics, a Microsoft Gold Partner in Tarrytown, N.Y.

Having a Virtual Server management offering is no longer an option, Oglesby said. “A management tool or platform for virtual environments is imperative. With the cost per virtual machine (VM) being as low as it is, we often see VM sprawl once a VM solution is implemented,” Oglesby said.

To date, Microsoft has not made up significant ground against VMware. The widening technology gap between the platforms has made some Virtual Server backers uneasy. In addition, the integration of the open-source Xen hypervisor into the Linux distributions of Red Hat and Novell—and in XenSource’s planned XenEnterprise—will pressure Virtual Server, as well as VMware’s platform, partners said.

But Microsoft is fighting back. It recently began giving away at no cost Virtual Server 2005 Enterprise Edition that offers support for Linux guests. It also plans to offer Virtual PC Express in Vista Enterprise. More significantly, Microsoft is developing into Windows Vista Server R2 a homegrown virtualization hypervisor, code-named Viridian and due in 2008.

Carmine will offer “virtual server across host management” and will include, for example, the ability to set up 10 hosts, view the CPU load on each while also tracking the location of guest virtual machines, he added. It will lack zero downtime and the advanced capabilities of VMware’s VMotion, he said.“Until Microsoft can support P2V [physical-to-virtual] and dynamic provisioning/allocation like VMotion, they will still be behind technically,” said Paul Freeman, president of Coast Solutions Group, Irvine, Calif. “They have such a huge install base that they’ll win market share just by having something out there. Microsoft Cluster isn’t the best on the market, but everyone who has Microsoft servers uses it. Virtual Server will be much the same.”

It will be an uphill battle. But Microsoft’s partners—whose fortunes hang in the balance with Virtual Server—say the war is far from over.

“VMware is so far ahead right now it is difficult to conceive of Microsoft catching up anytime soon,” said Marc Mangus, vice president at MTM Technologies, Houston. “But by working on these enterprise-class features and duking it out with VMware on price, Microsoft is going to create a lot of FUD, and it will sway purchasing decisions or cause IT managers to wait and see what shakes out.”

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