VMware, Microsoft Give Virtual Machines a Tuneup

VMware and Microsoft push data center flexibility.

VMware Inc. and Microsoft Corp., by years end, will provide IT administrators with options for using virtual machines to increase the flexibility of data centers and consolidating servers.

VMwares VirtualCenter, which will be unveiled this week, is a renamed and upgraded version of its Control Center software that officials said will decrease the time needed to provision servers, reduce downtime and give users a view of all virtual resources running in a data center.

With the VirtualCenter management software, a data center manager can create a standardized hardware image in software that operating systems and applications can run on. The resulting uniform virtual hardware platform enables software to be deployed on a piece of hardware or moved from one piece to another without reconfiguring or rebooting the software, all through a single management console. Templates can be created to more easily provision servers, said officials at VMware, in Palo Alto, Calif.

An interface enables IT administrators to drag and drop server images into a physical system, drastically reducing the amount of time needed to get servers up and running. That is a key feature in VirtualCenter, according to beta tester Eric Kuzmack, an IT architect with Gannett Co. Inc.

"It lets us very rapidly deploy new virtual machines," said Kuzmack, in Silver Spring, Md. "We can deploy a new machine from bare metal in less than 10 minutes." That process previously took 4 hours, he said.

Separately, Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., last week announced that later this year it will release Virtual PC 2004. The virtual machine software will let administrators on a single server run legacy applications under Windows NT, Windows NT Workstation, and Windows 95 and 98 while running newer applications under Microsofts latest versions of its Windows operating system, such as Windows Server 2003.

Microsoft will not offer official support for other operating systems, but Virtual PC 2004 will be able to run most variants of Linux, NetWare and BSD as guest operating systems on the software.