FALL IDF: Microsoft to support Linux with Virtual Server

The next release of Microsoft Corp.’s Virtual Server product will support the virtualization of both Linux and Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Solaris operating systems on servers running the Microsoft Windows operating system (OS), a company spokesman said in an interview Wednesday.

Microsoft on Wednesday also announced a new name for the next interim release of the product, formerly called Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1. Microsoft is now calling it Virtual Server 2005 R2, news unveiled by Microsoft in a keynote by Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group, at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco.

Microsoft changed the name because the release will include significantly more enhancements than a usual service pack, said Zane Adam, director of marketing in the Windows Server division of Microsoft. The software giant typically offers service packs and interim releases called “R2s” between major updates to its server products.

Included in enhancements to Virtual Server 2005 R2 will be support for Linux and Solaris, technology that Microsoft is developing with the help of some of its partners, Adam said. He declined to name those companies, however.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 also will include 64-bit support, which allows more virtual machines to run on one server. Additionally, the product will feature better performance for virtual machines in memory-intensive applications, as well as higher availability through new clustering technologies, Adam said.

Microsoft introduced Virtual Server in October 2004. The product enables virtualization of its Windows Server OS so multiple instances can run simultaneously on one server as if they are running on multiple servers. It competes directly with virtualization technology available from EMC Corp.’s VMWare division.

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer first announced in April that Microsoft would include third-party support for Linux in Virtual Server. At the same time, he also unveiled Hypervisor, a technology that will add the virtualization and management features of Virtual Server directly to the OS.

Hypervisor eventually will be included in the next major release of Windows Server, code-named Longhorn. The Longhorn version of Windows Server is expected to be released in the first half of 2007.

At the time of the Hypervisor announcement, the fate of Virtual Server as a standalone product was widely questioned, but Microsoft said it would continue to add enhancements to the product and sell in as a separate server product.

Zane reconfirmed those plans Wednesday and said a new full release of Virtual Server will follow its R2 version. The beta of that release will be available in the first half of 2006, with full availability of the product scheduled for the second half, he said.

Also in Gelsinger’s keynote at IDF Wednesday, Microsoft demonstrated support for VT, a virtual technology chipset Intel is bringing to market. This support, along with support for Pacifica, the code name for similar technology being developed by Advanced Micro Devices Inc., will be included the release of Virtual Server due out by the end of 2006, Adam said.

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