November 12, 2007 3:16 PM PST

Microsoft to offer standalone hypervisor

Reversing earlier plans, Microsoft said Monday that it will sell its new virtualization technology separately from its Windows Server operating system, in addition to as a bundle.

The software maker said it still expects most people who ultimately get its hypervisor to do so as part of Windows Server 2008, but said the move will allow server makers to include the Hyper-V virtualization technology even on servers that aren't destined to run Windows.

Microsoft also announced that it will have eight versions of Windows Server, ranging from $469 for its Web server product to $3,999 for the data center edition. The software is set for a formal launch February 27, with the code due to be finalized early next year. The company will offer the Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter versions of Windows both with and without Hyper-V, with the virtualization technology costing an additional $28. It will also sell the Hypervisor, formerly code-named Viridian, by itself for $28.

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said the move reflects Microsoft's adjustment to market realities.

"That's a really a complete reversal in position for Microsoft," Haff said. "Microsoft was very much in the 'virtualization is a feature of the operating system' camp. I think they've taken a look at reality and reality is basically not compatible with that view."

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The hypervisor virtualization technology is seen as a key feature of Windows Server 2008, although the company did trim some features to avoid further delays. Virtualization is a broad term for technology that lets one computer act as many, while hypervisors refer specifically to a thin layer that runs on a server and allows multiple operating systems to run on the same hardware, handling functions like memory and storage management.

While the sale of hypervisors by themselves is not seen as a huge financial opportunity, control of that layer is viewed as strategically important, particularly for companies that want to sell management software and services tied to virtualization.

Today, less than 4 percent of servers are virtualized, even though less than a tenth of servers are running at even 10 percent of their capacity, said Andrew Lees, corporate vice president, Server & Tools Marketing and Solutions Group at Microsoft. Over time, more than half of servers will be virtualized, Lees said.

That will lead to a fundamental shift in how data centers are run. Today, he said, it's not uncommon to see servers with sticky notes, such as the blue machine runs enterprise resource planning software, while the green one runs e-mail.

"All of that will go away," Lees said. "In the future the data center is one blob. The only thing that knows what's running on what machine is the management software."

Haff said Microsoft is in a good position to get its revenue from the software and services needed to manage all that.

"Microsoft doesn't need to make money off the hypervisor, which is good because the hypervisor goes to very near zero in terms of cost over time," said Haff, who is a member of the CNET Blog Network.

As Microsoft was talking virtualization at its IT Forum in Barcelona, Oracle also made news at its Oracle OpenWorld show in San Francisco by announcing its own plans for virtualization.

"There are some similarities to what Microsoft is doing, although I think it is coming from a somewhat different mindset," Haff said. "They just want all of the software running on a server to be able to be from Oracle. If the server maker starts shipping a hypervisor as part of the server, I don't think Oracle especially cares."

Microsoft's primary competition in the virtualization world is industry leader VMware, and Lees noted two main areas where Microsoft is trying to set itself apart.

The first is in management software, where he said Microsoft has an edge by having software that not only can manage virtual machines, but also can handle physical servers as well as applications running within a virtual machine. That allows Microsoft's software, he said, to notice a poorly performing application and add additional resources, such as a new virtual machine, automatically.

"With VMware, they do a pretty good job of managing virtual machines," Lees said. "They don't do anything above it or below it."

Microsoft is also competing on cost. VMware can cost as much as $3,000 or $4,000 per processor, Lees said, with Microsoft costing just a fraction of that price. "We're enabling a customer, should they choose to do that, to actually virtualize all the machines in their data center," Lees said.

In other news from IT Forum, Microsoft said it would ship the first service pack for Office 2007 next year. The release is expected to contain mostly patches rather than new features, continuing Microsoft's trend in that direction.

"We're trying to not put features in service packs," Lees said, saying customers prefer that because it means less testing time before they can apply the patches.

Microsoft also announced its latest test build of SQL Server 2008. The database software will be launched at the February event, but won't actually be released until some time afterward.

See more CNET content tagged:
hypervisor, virtualization, data center, Microsoft Windows Server, server


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$28? I can do it for free.
I can just install Xen - total cost: $0.00

If I want VMWare that bad, I can use a tiny Linux distro, stick in the free VMWare Server, and I'm all set again for $0.00

No need to spend $28 and agree to that horrendous EULA just to get some VM action... blecch.

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not sure its the same thing...
I think they're positioning the MSHV as a competitor to the the Virtual Center Management Server - which is assuredly not free. These are both Type 1 'bare metal' hypervisors.

I believe, but cannot say for sure, that the free solutions are Type 2 or host OS layer solutions. MS has a free version of this as well with VPC.
Posted by rapier1 (2722 comments )
Link Flag
Besides which...
In the time it takes you to do it, the rest of us will be out there earning $100.
Posted by benjwah (195 comments )
Link Flag
You have good points
but most people use Windows instead of Linux.
Posted by Andy kaufman (291 comments )
Link Flag
You say...
You talk as if you aren't running a server at a large company, so to me, your comment is null. If you were, and you needed virtualization, you'd already be using it if it was free (to you).
However, I'm fairly sure you're just running a home server, web server, or a server for no more than 10 connected computers... am I right?

$28 might be more than free, but less than other alternatives too. Consider the best option of the person managing the equipment, and people soon to "get their feet wet" with virtualization. (Getting your feet wet... in a server room. Not a good idea probably).
Posted by timber2005 (720 comments )
Link Flag
You talk...
You talk as if you aren't running a server at a large company, so to me, your comment is null. If you were, and you needed virtualization, you'd already be using it if it was free (to you).
However, I'm fairly sure you're just running a home server, web server, or a server for no more than 10 connected computers... am I right?

$28 might be more than free, but less than other alternatives too.
Posted by timber2005 (720 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This was a reply to someone else... not the author. If someone is kind enough to delete?
Posted by timber2005 (720 comments )
Link Flag
run with not windows?
what is next: MSoffice on linux?
DX10 on XP
DX10 on Linux?

MARKETING MARKETING MARKETING - making people pay for betaware for years to come.

looking forward to all the praise from the Microsoft Fanboys: they always make me laugh.

"but also can handle physical servers as well as applications running within a virtual machine"

Is the competition even allowed to do this, or is this another example of an illegal monopoly at work?
Posted by ColdMast (186 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Runing MS Office on Linux
This is a simple thing to do. Using Wine you can install MS Office on any Linux distro. Why you would WANT to is beyond me, Open Office is perfectly usable and, if a bit behind MS Office, it is much cheaper.
Posted by AliciaSimpson (5 comments )
Link Flag
Easy way for Microsoft to make lots of money.
I may be wrong, but I would bet that each virtualization of windows will require its own license.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well Duh!!
as in Of Course! However, it can't be Windows Vista Home edition, they only want experienced users to try virtualization with their products. Actually, they don't want anyone to do Vista virtualization on the cheap. You must pay extra to get more than you need to do virtualization.
Posted by AliciaSimpson (5 comments )
Link Flag
Why do they need to do everything
Microsoft's insistence to be everything to everybody is ultimately going to be their downfall.

There are already several excellent virtualization products on the market, Microsoft really has no pressing need to get into this market. All it will do is direct resources away from their OS.

All companies that try to do everything fail in the end.

Flee the sinking ship, install Linux today!
Posted by AliciaSimpson (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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