Microsofts Virtual Hard Disk Program to Speed Software Testing

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-11-06 Print this article Print

The new program is a first for Microsoft, and for the more than 7,000 software vendors that can now deliver pre-configured applications on Windows Server-based virtual machines.

Microsoft has unveiled a virtual hard disk test drive program, which allows customers to evaluate its enterprise software and products from its software partners in a fraction of the time it would normally take. The software maker announced the new program ahead of VMwares VMworld show, where it will give booth demonstrations of its application virtualization, server virtualization and virtualization management tools. The VHD program is a first for Microsoft and for the more than 7,000 software vendors that can now deliver pre-configured applications within Windows Server-based virtual machines to their customers, said Mike Neil, senior director of virtualization strategy for Microsofts Windows Server Division, in Redmond, Wash.
Click here to read about how Microsoft removed an obstacle to the adoption of its VHD format.
The VHD format captures the VM operating system and the application stack in a single file to create a larger virtualized system. The program launches with the latest versions of Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition, SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition SP1, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 (32-bit beta) with Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005, and Internet Security & Acceleration (ISA) 2006 Standard Edition. More Microsoft software will be added to the program over time, Neil said. "This program enables Microsoft and its partners to distribute their enterprise software and applications within a virtual machine so that IT professionals can confidently and quickly evaluate Windows Server-based software," he said, adding that a similar program for Windows Vista will be available in the first quarter of 2007. The virtual machines are pre-built and pre-configured so that they can be downloaded or distributed for easy setup and evaluation, allowing customers to set up SQL Server 2005 in minutes instead of hours, Neil said. "We expect more than 20 partners to begin distributing their software via the VHD Test Drive Program later this quarter, including Altiris, BEA Systems, Check Point, Citrix, CommVault, Dell, FullArmor, HP, Network Appliance, Platespin, Portlock, Quest Software, SourceCode Technology Holdings, Symantec and UGS," he said. Microsoft also anticipates that its partners will use this program to get more than $10 billion in software into the hands of IT professionals to evaluate over the coming year. The VHD format has been available as a royalty-free license since May 2005, but was recently made freely available under the Open Specification Promise. "In the three weeks since we introduced VHD under the Open Specification Promise, VHD adoption has more than doubled. The format also offers investment protection for customers, in that VHDs can be migrated from todays Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 to Windows Server virtualization in the next version of Windows Server, code-named Longhorn Server, and todays Virtual PC to Virtual PC 2007 supporting Windows Vista," Neil said. Microsoft has also adapted licensing for its server operating system and server applications, allowing customers to run an unlimited number of virtualized Windows Server instances with servers licensed with Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition. Read more here about how Microsoft simplified Windows Server licensing. "This means that by simply licensing the servers processors with Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition, customers will be able to run Windows Server Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, Datacenter Edition or a mix of the three without having to track the number of virtual machines or pay for additional Windows Server licenses," he said. Those benefits will be extended over the next two years through virtualization services, which will be part of Windows Server Longhorn, in which Microsoft will introduce a hypervisor-based virtualization architecture, he said. To read more about the Windows hypervisor technology, click here. The hypervisor is a thin software layer between the hardware and Longhorn, in contrast to the current Virtual Server 2005, which is a service that runs on top of Windows Server 2003. "This change provides customers better reliability, greater scalability and dynamic capabilities that allow them to virtualize most workloads in their infrastructure," Neil said. Microsoft is also committed to interoperability on several fronts, he said. The week of Oct. 30 it announced a set of broad collaboration agreements to build, market and support a series of new solutions to make Novell and Microsoft products work better together. Earlier in 2006, it also entered into a collaborative agreement with XenSource to provide interoperability between Xen-enabled Linux and the Microsoft Windows hypervisor technology to appear in Windows Server Longhorn. Neil said Microsofts recent acquisition of Softricity will help customers, as once Softricitys SoftGrid is combined with its streaming delivery mechanism, customers will be able to turn any Windows program into a dynamic service. "Integration into the Microsoft management infrastructure means that these application services are easily administered using policy-based management with existing tools. This streamlines almost every aspect of desktop management, from operating system migrations, to business continuity, to reducing the costs associated with software deployments and updates," Neil said. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel