Microsoft Corp.s Virtual Server 2005 offers Windows shops an easy-to-use and inexpensive tool for server consolidation projects, application migration and software testing environments. eWEEK Labs tests show the shipping code is similar to the VS2005 Release Candidate code we reviewed earlier this year. However, the shipping version provides tighter integration with Windows tools such as MOM (Microsoft Operations Manager) 2005 and SMS (Systems Management Server) 2003 Service Pack 1.VS2005 was released last month. The $499 Standard Edition supports servers with as many as four processors; the $999 Enterprise Edition can be installed on 32-way systems and scales to support 64GB of memory.Microsofts aggressive pricing will appeal to Windows-only shops: By comparison, competitor VMware Inc.s GSX Server is priced at about $2,500 for a two-way system. However, GSX Server is a better choice for heterogeneous environments because it supports multiple operating systems. Click here to read about how VMware is extending virtual machines to the mobile enterprise. By the end of this year, Microsoft is expected to release the VSMT (Virtual Server Migration Toolkit), which will guide migrations of physical servers to VS2005 and also facilitates the migration of an existing virtual machine to another. Virtual machines created with VS2005 do not support SMP (symmetric multiprocessing). Integration of VS2005 within MOM 2005 gives IT managers a more powerful, centralized way to manage virtual machines. VS2005 will enable large Windows environments using MOM 2005 to use the same console to manage all of their physical and virtual machines. The console will also show physical versus virtual mappings and will display server and virtual machine health information. The MOM 2005 console provides fine-grained control of virtual machines, script generation and deployment, as well as a flexible rules engine that triggers responses to system events. VS2005s support for SMS 2003 SP1 will help IT managers gain information about their virtual infrastructures. The Virtual Server support will allow IT managers using SMS 2003 SP1 to collect the unique registry keys created from operating systems deployed as virtual machines. The integration will also enable SMS 2003 SP1 to detect the names of host systems supporting a virtual machine and run reports that show details of the relationship between operating systems running under Virtual Server. VS2005 can be hosted only on a server running Windows Server 2003 with IIS (Internet Information Services) 6.0 and ASP .Net extensions enabled. Virtual Server supports all current Windows varieties as guest operating systems running on virtual machines. Any number of virtual machines can be configured on a host. IT managers can dynamically tweak CPU cycles and memory allocations to each virtual machine. We found setting up the host and virtual machines to be straightforward and simple, and the entire system can be managed using the Virtual Server administrative Web site. In tests, we used the VS2005s Web console to easily perform administration tasks. The main page showed us at a glance how all virtual machines were configured on the host, and we quickly drilled down to more detailed information on each virtual device. We discovered some quirks in the VS2005s Web console when we tried to configure virtual machines. For example, when we attempted to add virtual hard drives to a newly created virtual machine, the configuration page asked for the path to the virtual hard drive files. A simple browse button to let us search for the file would make the task much easier. We could add the path to the virtual hard drive folder in the Virtual Server Search Paths page, but again, a simple wizard to add virtual hard drives to the virtual machine would make it easier. Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at email@example.com. Check out eWEEK.coms Windows Center at http://windows.eweek.com for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.