Ballmer Lauds Flexibility Through Virtualization

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduces new virtualization capabilities such as performance and interoperability enhancements for Virtual Server 2005, saying better management of IT environments can help customers lower their total cost of ownership.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer dropped the pretense Tuesday around the companys platform-management intentions: Rather than managing only its own platform, Microsoft wants to become one of the primary enterprise management providers.

In his keynote address Tuesday at the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas, Ballmer highlighted Microsofts commitment to helping customers better manage their IT environments to lower the total cost of ownership. He said the company aims to help IT "manage your environment to do more with less, get better operational insight and better meet service-level agreements."

Key enabling technology in that goal is virtualization, he said, introducing several new virtualization capabilities including performance and interoperability enhancements for Virtual Server 2005 and integration of that with Microsoft Operations Manager 2005.

Among the news is the beta release of Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1, which provides 64-bit compatibility and better performance. Generally available by years end, it will allow Windows Server 2003 x64 editions to work as hosts to virtual machines.

The service pack also allows third-party guest operating systems to run on Windows Server 2003—notably Linux.

In the fall time frame, Microsoft Corp. is also licensing for free its Virtual Hard Disk format to third parties so that they can develop products based on it.

Microsoft also added a new MOM (Microsoft Operations Manager) 2005 management pack for Virtual Server 2005 to allow administrators working from a central console to manage availability and performance of physical as well as virtual machines.

Further out into the Longhorn time frame, Microsoft intends to build hypervisor technology into the Windows platform, Ballmer said in his keynote. "Well support key virtualization hardware from Intel and AMD, and we will have System Center support for managing virtualization."

Ballmer also demonstrated Microsofts newfound commitment to managing heterogeneous IT environments using WS-Management technologies, which it is working to standardize with the help of AMD (Advanced Micro Devices Inc.), BMC Software Inc., Dell Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Intel Corp.

In a demonstration in the keynote, Microsoft demonstrated how MOM 2005 could monitor and control a Sun Solaris server. WS-Management will be in Windows Server 2003 R2 late this year.

Ballmer also committed Microsoft to supporting the Trusted Computing Groups Trusted Network Connect architecture through interoperability in its Microsoft Network Access Protection due in Longhorn.

Backing the Trusted Computing Group are Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co., Juniper Networks Inc., McAfee Inc., Sygate Inc., Symantec Corp. and VeriSign Inc.

Although Ballmers assertion that Microsoft tools can manage heterogeneous environments resonated with some attendees, others were skeptical.

"Its one thing to say they are coming out with products. There are tough problems Microsoft doesnt have answers for. What they have is low-end monitoring," said Stephen Elliot, research director at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass.

"Microsoft can do anything they put their minds to. But the Unix guys will fight tooth and nail [to avoid a single management console from Microsoft]," said Micah DeBoer, an SMS (Systems Management Server) user at Pfizer Inc. in Holland, Mich.


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