Microsoft is stepping up the pressure on virtualization leader VMware on the management tools front, releasing its System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 product to manufacturing.
The Redmond, Wash., software maker also plans to support some third-party virtualization software, including VMware and open-source Xen, in the next version of the product.
The news comes as VMware, of Palo Alto, Calif., is preparing for VMworld 2007, which runs Sept. 11-13 in San Francisco and is being billed as the industrys largest virtualization event.
"With the next version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager, customers will be able to manage, configure and optimize virtualized systems running VMware VI3 and Xen," Mike Neil, Microsofts general manager for virtualization, told eWEEK.
He declined to give more details, saying they will come when the first beta of the product is released, currently scheduled for the first quarter of 2008.
Asked what this means for the companys current relationship with VMware, Neil said he anticipates Microsoft having a more technical relationship with the firm as a result of this development.
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With regard to whether Microsoft had talked to VMware about this product development, Neil said, "We dont need to as they already provide some of the information we need, but we will. However, we believe we can be successful with the publicly available information we have."
As Microsoft continues to aggressively compete with VMware for customers and market share, it is also touting its expertise in the management space and the heterogeneous nature of its offerings as key differentiators.
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Its System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007, which will be widely available in October, is a stand-alone server application used to manage a virtualized data center running Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2.
"With System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007, we really have now the enterprise management tool that we were missing before, and integrating that with our System Center Suite gives customers the ability to manage not only their physical environments, but also their virtual ones as well," Neil said.
As such, System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 brings physical-to-virtual-machine conversion and virtual-to-virtual conversion of VMware virtual machines to Microsofts VHD format.
Other new features in the product include centralized virtual machine deployment and management, and end-to-end support for consolidating physical servers onto a virtual infrastructure, he said.
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"Our large enterprise customers are running heterogeneous environments, and so having a solution that manages across that environment is a key benefit to them," Neil said. "With System Center Virtual Machine Manager, we now have an offering in that space. It was also designed and built as a complementary tool to other System Center products, which all work with it."
As many of Microsofts largest customers run Windows and some Linux, they want to be able to consolidate those. "So we support Linux on Virtual Server today; we will support Linux on Viridian as well, and our relationship with Novell allows us to provide an even better level of integration to solutions for the customer," he said.
Microsoft is also introducing a new licensing model for its System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise, which will be available Oct. 1 for $860 per physical server. But customers are also required to buy Software Assurance if they want the software.
Customers will now be able to manage unlimited operating system environments, both physical and virtual, per physical device, as the product brings together the entire management suite under a single license.
It includes a Virtual Machine Manager 2007 license and enterprise server management licenses for System Center Configuration Manager 2007, System Center Operations Manager 2007 and System Center Data Protection Manager 2007.
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"We made the changes to the licensing structure for Windows Server back in 2005, where we made it per-instance licensing and very virtualization-friendly. This is essentially the same kind of change for our management solutions, where a customer managing an environment now licenses the physical server for the management suite and they get to manage their virtual machines on that as well," Neil said.
As VMware is now cash-flush following its recent IPO, it is likely the company will start fleshing out its management environment through acquisitions, which "seems like a logical thing to do," Neil said, noting that the price point of VMwares products remains too high for small and medium-size companies.
As such, Microsoft will offer a product designed specifically for this market. Its System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 Workgroup edition will be available in January 2008 for $499.
It is aimed at midmarket customers and will let them manage up to five physical host servers and an unlimited number of virtual machines, Neil said.
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Microsoft is also betting on the fact that since most businesses already run Windows on the desktop and server, they will continue to look to a single vendor to provide their technology stack.
"Being able to provide end-to-end support for the solution, and the management on top of that, provides compelling value to the customer," Neil said.
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