Microsoft Adds Virtualization to Its Data Center Software Mix

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-09-01

SAN FRANCISCO -- Most people don't yet equate Microsoft with data center management or virtualization software, but the fact is, the world's largest software company has been developing these for a few years in the form of its System Essential data center wares.

At VMworld 2009, Microsoft on Sept. 1 introduced a new option, available immediately, for midmarket enterprises and small businesses: a new, discounted software license that includes both System Center Essentials 2007 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008.

"With the latest version of System Center VMM, what people now have is a full set [of virtualization management controls] and parity in terms of performance, when compared to what VMware has," David Greschler, director of virtualization and management marketing of Microsoft's server and tools business, told eWEEK.

"The difference is, of course, that we're about one-sixth the price," Greschler said, without qualifying the statement. "Let's face it: This is my comparison. For example, when GPSes came out, you have to pay separately for them. Now, cars more and more have them as standard equipment. That's what we offer -- virtualization included within the data center [software] package."

With VMware, you still have to buy a separate system, Greschler said.

"That was great when you had a niche solution, but we believe virtualization should be as ubiquitous as connected to the Internet," Greschler said. "Everybody's going to want to do it; it should just be part of the whole system. You shouldn't need separate training or certification. If you know Windows, you will know virtualization."

When people buy Windows Server now, Greschler said, "it's [Hyper-V] just in there. Customers can now find out what the value of virtualization is and build a foundation for this concept of IP, or infrastructure as a service, which is the whole sort of cloud picture."

System Center Virtual Machine Manager, in combination with System Center Essentials 2007, enables the following: improved physical server utilization, live migration of virtual machines between servers, remote software distribution and update management to servers and clients, inventory management, and centralized management of all physical and virtual machines, Greschler said.

Midmarket enterprises typically have 10 to 200 computers and five to 30 servers, according to industry analysts. They also generally have no more than a few (one to three) IT staff members who cover the entire IT system. According to a recent industry survey by AMI-Partners, only about one-third of midrange-size businesses with servers are currently using network management applications.

This, of course, represents a major market opportunity for Microsoft, Greschler said.

Dell, Lenovo and Fujitsu announced Sept. 1 that they will offer a new technology upgrade for midmarket organizations that acquire the System Center Essentials 2007 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 license starting today and continuing until the final release of System Center Essentials 2010 in Q2 2010, Greschler said. The license also will allow customers to get System Center Essentials 2010 without having to repurchase it.

The license includes an upgrade program in the OEM channel and software assurance via Microsoft's volume licensing channel -- starting  Oct. 1 -- so that midmarket organizations have upgrade rights to Microsoft's next version of systems management tools, Greschler said.

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