Microsoft rolls out beta of Virtual Server 2004

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced it has sent out to more than 15,000 testers the first beta of its Virtual Server 2004 , which features a number of new capabilities including improved security.

The upcoming server, built on the virtual machine technology Microsoft acquired from Connectix in January 2003, now contains new support for a range of SCSI drives and two-node clustering that will allow failover from one virtual machine to another.

“We have also improved and enhanced what we think is one of our biggest competitive differentiators, which is our COM API. We have a very rich, programmatic interface into Virtual Server. This will make it easier for administrators to script and automate a lot of the different capabilities,” said Eric Berg, a product manager in Microsoft’s Windows Server group.

Microsoft has also spent a lot of time integrating the upcoming server with its management tools, according to Berg, to ensure that a single set of tools can manage both virtual and physical servers existing side by side.

“Rather than taking the approach of having a separate tool manage virtual machines, we wanted to have tools that could manage Virtual Server and associated physical servers in harmony. That was clear from the user feedback we got,” Berg said.

The beta program for the product has two tiers. The first is the smaller of the two, a joint development program consisting of 30 key users. The second is much broader offering: “news group level” support to about 15,000 developers, according to company officials.

Microsoft continues to believe the best market opportunity for the product is among those looking to do software testing and development as well as in a number of production scenarios, including corporate users wanting to consolidate under Windows Server 2003 their line of business applications working on different versions of Windows.

“This is a good product for those with legacy apps running on a Windows 2000 or NT 4.0 and to put them all up under the latest version of our server operating system,” Berg said. “It is also good for those looking to consolidate servers within a disaster recovery environment. So instead of having an equal number of servers in both disaster recovery and production, they could use Virtual Machine to reduce their number of physical servers,” Berg said.

Berg sees the product benefiting those in software and testing environments by allowing them to more easily create a centralized server development testing farm. This would allow them to more automatically bring servers up and down for different developers as they needed them.

“Individual developers who want to simulate multi-server environments for testing applications being developed can carve up a (server) box into virtual machines and simulate a distributed server,” Berg said.

With x86 emulation built in to Virtual Server 2004, it can support a range of different Intel-compatible operating systems, including Linux.

Microsoft officials said they hope to release the product to manufacturing by the middle of this year.

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