Microsoft gives away virtualization

Microsoft said this month it would remove the price tag from its Virtual Server and begin offering the virtualization technology as a free download.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition has carried a price of US$199 since it shipped in December 2005. The news came on the opening day of the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in Boston, where Microsoft also said Virtual Server add-ins to support Linux were available and that it would provide support under current Microsoft contracts for Linux guest operating systems running on Virtual Server 2005 R2.

In addition, Microsoft said the first service pack for Virtual Server 2005 R2, which features integration with virtualization technologies from Intel and AMD, would be delayed until early 2007.

Microsoft also said the standard version of Virtual Server was being discontinued. For the 5,000 customers that have purchased Virtual Server, Microsoft said those with Software Assurance maintenance contracts would be “taken care of,” but stopped short of saying Microsoft would offer refunds to those that had licensed the server. “It could mean different things for different [Software Assurance] customers,” said Jim Ni, a group product manager for Microsoft’s Windows Server team. “We want to craft something that is a win-win situation.”

Ni said users without contracts had probably realized the value of their investment through consolidation and other cost savings supported by virtualization. Experts say Microsoft’s hand was forced by market leader VMware, which said in February it would offer VMware Server for free this summer, and by Red Hat and Novell, both of which plan to make open source Xen virtualization technology a part of their respective Linux operating systems.

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