While the features remain the same across the two product versions, the Standard Edition will support up to four processors while the Enterprise Edition will support up to 32 physical processors.
A Microsoft spokeswoman told eWEEK on Monday that product pricing had not been determined as yet, and would probably be announced when the product was released to manufacturing later this summer.
"Virtual Server will be available by the end of the calendar year and the product will be a Microsoft product packaged similarly to Windows Server, she said.
But the company has pushed back the release date by several months. In February, when the beta was announced, Eric Berg, the group product manager for Windows Server, told eWEEK in an interview that he expected the product to reach the market by the middle of the year.
Berg also said at the time that customers should expect pricing to be extremely competitive and that Microsoft would deliver "a great amount of value in terms of price performance for customers and we will be pricing accordingly."
Virtual Server was a virtual machine solution for Windows Server 2003 that "spans development, test and production environments, and delivers improved hardware efficiency and increased productivity for administrators and developers as it will be far easier to deploy and manager these machines in that environment," he said at that time.
The package targets production environments, including those customers who want to migrate their legacy business applications, which could be currently running on Windows 2000 or NT 4.0. "This way they can run that application in a virtual machine on top of Windows Server 2003," Berg said.
Virtual Server will also allow customers to run multiple operating systems concurrently on a single x86 hardware server, including Linux and Unix-based operating systems, he said at that time, but he skirted the issue of whether Microsoft would integrate this virtual server technology into the core Windows kernel going forward, saying that Microsofts current focus was on selling it as a stand-alone, separate server product.
According to Microsoft, Virtual Server will help customers improve hardware efficiency and administrator productivity. The package offers more flexibility when provisioning data center resources and can access a broad set of partner solutions. As a tool, it will let businesses more flexibly utilize their hardware resources, it is part of the Dynamic Systems Initiative, Microsofts industry-wide effort to simplify and automate how businesses design, deploy and operate IT systems.
The Release Candidate follows beta testing of the product earlier this year. Microsoft in February released the first beta of the product to a select group of customers, a year after the Redmond, Wash. software firm acquired the VM (virtual machine) assets of Connectix Corp., a privately held company in San Mateo, Calif., that has been involved in VM technology since its inception in 1988.
Since then, Microsoft engineers put Virtual Server through a security review as well as adding new features and functionality, such as SCSI support, dual-node clustering, improved control through an enhanced Com API (application programming interface), as well as integration with the Windows Server management infrastructure, like Microsoft Operations Manager and Active Directory.
Last November that Microsoft released its Virtual PC technology to manufacturing at a lower price than the original Connectix product.
Meanwhile, interest around virtualization firms has grown in recent months. In December, storage vendor EMC Corp. bought VMware Inc. in a bid to offer combined storage and server virtualization and management tools. 114899
Also in December, open-source and Linux provider Red Hat Inc. announced it would acquire Minneapolis-based Sistina Software Inc., a storage infrastructure software company, for some $31 million, to be paid through the issuance of Red Hat common stock. Sistinas Linux-based software boosts enterprise storage management via virtualized disk volumes.