Erik Ableson 3 minute read
May 23, 2008

Microsoft Virtualisation Q&A

Q&A: Microsoft’s virtualization chief assesses the competition, licensing and security - Network World

Lots of interesting stuff in here - and a few things that bear examination and questioning. > "The prevailing belief among observers is that Microsoft is way behind VMware. What do you say to the WSV-bashers?

At a high level, I disagree. Server virtualization is still a developing market and technology. Since, to a great degree, the utilization of virtualization has been in relatively confined areas, typically in large enterprises or infrastructure products like [VMware's] ESX Server, Microsoft will be able to have a much broader approach and make virtualization available to a wider swath of the industry."

True, the market is in development, but I disagree with his characterization that it is limited to larger enterprises. I have spent the last 6 months working on a variety of ESX deployments for smaller organisations that are going the VMWare route in order to be able to profit from the feature-set that was once the sole domain of larger environments. Microsoft's current offering does not meet their needs, and they are making their first baby-steps towards storage consolidation. It's doubtful from the roadmaps I've seen that Viridian will offer anything sufficiently compelling for SMBs, especially when compared to the fully featured VI3 offering. Worth noting that virtualisation per se is relatively stable at this point in time. What these people are looking for is ease of administration, flexibility of integration with backup solutions and disaster recovery planning. > "Critics say the delay of the Live Migration feature, which would provide the ability to migrate while virtual machines are running, is a big setback for Microsoft as it tries competing against VMware. What's your take?I dispute it to some degree. From a competitive standpoint, it is a sexy feature and sounds really exciting. But, of the Microsoft customers using VMware or other virtualization technology, few are actually utilizing that type of functionality. It is a relatively sophisticated piece of technology to set up. The capabilities we do have and are shipping -- our ability to cluster virtual machines and the ability to migrate quickly -- will meet most customers' needs."

I have to disagree here. The level of difficulty in implementing VMotion is no more complex (and I would say easier) that preparing a Microsoft cluster solution. And this feature is being used in almost all of the deployments that I've done recently, most of which are small 2-4 server implementations. This is an essential service that permits companies to manage maintenance tasks without downtime, and the transparent integration of new ESX server resources in the environment. Currently, I would say that ESX is being selected as the appropriate solution for departmental and SMB deployments that in 2006 would have gone with VMWare Server or Virtual Server. The excellent integration of iSCSI in VI3 has eliminated the major barrier to entry: the cost of a fiber infrastructure and fiber based SANs. In most cases, latency issues are of no real importance for the majority of the server infrastructures I've seen. The bulk of the servers out there are sorely underutilized and there are some impressive cost savings possible with the implementation of a storage virtualisation solution to complement the server virtualisation implementation.