Microsoft Touts Virtualization Management for Smaller Businesses

Microsoft may be blocked from advertising its virtualization offerings on the convention floor at VMworld 2009, but Redmond has nonetheless announced a virtualization management package for SMBs along with partners Fujitsu and Lenovo. As the virtualization market increases and becomes the scene of fiercer competition, Microsoft, VMware and Citrix could all benefit financially.

Microsoft is offering a new software license, called Microsoft System Center Essentials Management Suite, which combines Microsoft System Center Essentials 2007 and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 into a virtualization management package for small to medium-size businesses.

"We're helping midsize organizations optimize IT productivity and manage desktops and servers through a single management console," said Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of the Management and Services Division at Microsoft. "We're partnering with Fujitsu, Lenovo and other OEMs so customers can work with familiar and proven solution providers.

"Together," he added, "we're delivering a solution that has been built and packaged to address the needs of these customers-an easy-to-use, integrated solution that helps reduce IT costs and streamline control of physical and virtual desktops and servers."

The license will also allow customers to acquire System Center Essentials 2010, when released in the second quarter of 2010, without needing to repurchase that program. System Center Essentials 2010 "will include functionality of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2," according to Microsoft.

Microsoft's Sept. 1 announcement came in the midst of VMworld 2009, where VMware has rolled out a number of virtualization services-including Go, a zero-cost service intended to help both SMBs and larger companies install ESXi, VMware's free hypervisor. ESXi is intended to help those organizations streamline the virtualization of their IT infrastructure.

Microsoft, while present at the event, is contractually muzzled from competing directly with VMware on the convention floor. Its competitive solution, it seems, is to attempt to persuade customers to sign on for a software license that, in turn, will on-ramp into Redmond's next-generation offering.

Nonetheless, clearly viewing VMware as a major force within the virtualization space, Microsoft has taken steps in the past to support the company's technology. Its System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 includes support for VMware ESX infrastructure.

According to a March report from research firm Gartner, the worldwide revenue for hosted virtual desktops, which are run as virtual machines on an enterprise server and accessible by end users via a remote device, will grow from around $1.5 billion in 2009 to $65.7 billion in 2013. The report suggested that VMware, Citrix and Microsoft will all benefit from this growth.