First Read

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For Microsoft, Management Is Key

When talking about Microsoft and virtualization, most people want to know about the company's long-awaited Hyper-V, the hypervisor technology that sources say could arrive as soon as early July. (Microsoft officials will only say that it will ship by their early August deadline, and probably earlier.)

But throughout the TechEd 2008 Professionals show here in Orlando, Fla., this week, Microsoft officials made it clear that management is the key issue in the virtualization space and an important tool for the company in its growing competition with VMware.

"Virtualization without good management is more dangerous than not using virtualization at all," Edwin Yuen, senior technical product manager at Microsoft, said during a presentation June 11 outlining the company's upcoming System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 product.

The management tool, which is in beta right now and will be generally released in the fall after Hyper-V is released to manufacturing, will give IT administrators a host of new capabilities over the current VMM 2007 offering. One of the key new features is the ability to manage both VMware and Microsoft virtual environments, which gives Microsoft a new avenue into VMware's impressive base of customers.

Yuen asked the audience a series of questions, including how many were using the beta versions of Hyper-V and VMM 2008. Most people raised their hands. Many also indicated that they also run VMware technology, to which Yuen replied, "Last year when I asked that question, it ticked me off [to see so many hands]. But not this year" because Microsoft will be able to manage those environments. He said that at last year's TechEd, the top comment from attendees was, "This looks great, but when are you going to get into VMware?"

Microsoft is there now, he said.

"We don't expect people will rip out all their VMware environment and put in a Hyper-V environment," Yuen said. "We want you to use [Microsoft's virtual machine management] tools and let the hypervisor take care of itself."

Yuen said Microsoft through VMM 2008 will be able to do most things -- from managing to monitoring to provisioning to consolidating -- in VMware environments. VirtualCenter can do. A key function that's lacking -- the ability to migrate live virtual machines from one physical host to another -- will be available in the next version of VMM, Microsoft officials have said. In the meantime, IT administrators will be able to use VMware's VMotion technology for that, they said. In VMM 2008, Microsoft offers Quick Migration, which allows for rapid migration of virtual machines, but with some possible downtime.

One attendee asked whether Microsoft planned to add capabilties to VMM that mirror VMware's Storage VMotion, which enables users to migrate virtual machine disk files between storage arrays. Yuen said he was unsure.

"I don't know," he said. "In general, anything that you can do in [VMware's] VirtualCenter [management software], we can do, but we don't have that capability now."