Microsoft: Virtualization customers in AP to double

The software giant says more customers in Asia are using its server virtualization software. Rival VMware says it's no big deal.

SINGAPORE--Microsoft expects the number of its customers in the region deploying its server virtualization technology to double by next year. And it is aiming to do this by offering Virtual Server 2005 R2 as a no-charge download.

Microsoft made the global announcement on Monday in conjunction with LinuxWorld in Boston.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 is a tool that allows companies to run multiple operating systems on one machine, which Microsoft previously charged US$99 for systems running up to four physical processors, or US$199 for an unlimited number of processors.

Chris Sharp, general manager at Microsoft Asia's servers and tools division, told ZDNet Asia that about 10 percent of its large customers--companies with more than 500 employees--already deploy virtualization. "With the changes in [Virtual Server's] pricing and licensing, Microsoft expects that number in the Asia-Pacific to double within the next fiscal year," he said.

Virtualization is a technique that allows a single server to run multiple operating system flavors. This allows an organization to consolidate many applications on a single hardware server, and can help improve utilization rates, amongst other benefits.

Microsoft's Sharp expects many of the company's customers to deploy server virtualization for server consolidation, manageability and disaster recovery purposes. "We believe companies are looking for self-managed dynamic systems in the future. Many of them already have server power, and are now looking to get utilization up for existing servers, [as well as achieve] high availability ad [perform] platform simulation," he said.

Microsoft on Monday also announced that it will support customers running Linux on the Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2.

However, the software giant's stiffest competitor in the virtualization arena, EMC-subsidiary VMware, was unimpressed by the announcement.

When contacted, Raghu Raghuram, vice president of datacenter and desktop platform products of VMware, noted that the Microsoft Virtual Server has been "effectively free to most Microsoft customers for a long time" under the MSDN program and Volume licensing program.

"This announcement is therefore more of a formality than something that's new," he said.

Raghuram also dismissed Microsoft's outreach to the Linux community as "nothing new".

"They announced support for Linux on Virtual Server in 2005, and the market hasn't found this very credible," he said. "Linux customers will have to adapt to [Microsoft's] licensing [structure] and run Windows operating systems and management tools. This is not an attractive proposition for most of them."

Trimming the fat
One Microsoft customer, however, Carter Holt Harvey (CHH), says it is reaping the benefits of server virtualization.

Previously, the New Zealand-headquartered forest products company had a total of 400 servers spread across the Asia-Pacific region, that were underutilized because they were on a "traditional one-chip, one operating system" environment.

Krassi Modkov, design and implementation manager at CHH's Infotech Center, said in an e-mail interview: "The more servers you have, the greater the management required."

In 2004, CHH embarked on a server consolidation project with three primary tasks in mind: logical consolidation, migrate applications to server farms and virtualization. A year later, the company selected Microsoft's Virtual Server 2005 to fulfill the last requirement, said Modkov.

"CHH expects to reduce the number of physical servers by over 50 percent," he explained. "Over the next year, our goal is to consolidate 110 physical servers, and virtualization will be a critical element of the process." He added the company is about a year away from fully evaluating the success of implementing Virtual Server 2005 against these goals.

Modkov noted that the future product roadmap of a 64-bit version of Virtual Server 2005 and integration into the Longhorn operating system, were also "important parts" of the decision to deploy the software.

According to Sharp, Microsoft will help customers move from Virtual Server 2005, to its hypervisor software, code-named Viridian, when Longhorn Server becomes available.

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