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Analysis: Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Adds Virtualization -- In Beta Form

When the production version of Windows Server 2008 (WS08) ships -- the official launch is planned for February 27, 2008 -- it will include beta software code. Microsoft announced that Microsoft will include the beta of Windows Server virtualization (WSv) within the release version of Windows Server 2008, its updated flagship server operating system.

Why is Microsoft taking the drastic step of including beta code with the release of an otherwise finished product? According to Arun Jayendran, senior product manager for Windows Server virtualization, it's because customers are so interested in the new WSv.

There is no doubt that there's a great deal of interest in server virtualization. There is also no doubt that Microsoft is behind the competition. As the major server operating system vendor, it needs to get into the virtualization space. But rushing beta code to market may be a risky tactic. Windows Server virtualization will be an unfinished product: it will implement the hot virtualization method of the moment, hypervisor technology, in a kludgey way, and it will lack features like live migration.

Why Virtualization?
Machine virtualization is the simulation of an actual machine running in a virtualized hardware environment on top of a physical machine which acts as the host. What is great about virtualization is that virtual machines behave exactly like a physical machine when you interact with it. End users see no difference at all (and in some cases, they see improvements in performance). In addition, you can run multiple virtual machines on the same physical hardware -- sometimes up to 15 or 20 machines on the same box -- saving hardware, data center space, and power consumption.

Virtualization is taking the IT marketplace by storm. There are already several players, and all have generated significant revenues in the past few years, including VMware, the current market leader in the field, and XenSource, a Linux-based virtualization. And, of course, Microsoft. According to Microsoft, fewer than 5% of servers in the world are currently virtualized. If this is true, then the size of the virtualization market is huge.

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