There's going to be more than one way for customers to take advantage of Microsoft's server application virtualization (Server App-V) technology when it becomes commercially available later this year.
I didn't understand this until I saw a new blog post on March 25 on the Microsoft Virtualization Team Blog.
I did know that Microsoft officials committed last summer to delivering server app virtualization via the Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2012 product, which is due to ship in the second half of 2011. (Microsoft delivered last week Beta 2 of SCVMM 2012, which included Beta 2 of Server App-V.) This is only half the story -- the private cloud half -- however.
Microsoft also is going to make Server App-V available in public cloud form via Windows Azure. The Community Technology Preview (CTP) test build of Server App-V that Microsoft rolled out on the last day of December 2010 is the public-cloud version. The Azure Server App-v feature will complement the Windows Azure VM role, offering users a way to migrate certain existing applications to Azure. Like the private-cloud version, the Azure Server App-V technology is due to be released commercially in the second half of 2011.
In short: Server App V will be available via either SCVMM 2012 or as part of a coming update to Windows Azure. It's the same technology, just packaged in two different ways.
Server App-V technology is of interest to current and potential private- and public-cloud customers because it could help in moving legacy applications into the cloud. Server application virtualization would be like Microsoft’s existing client-side App-V product; it would allow customers to package applications into virtual containers, each of which would be storable and maintainable as a self-contained stateless environment. Microsoft execs have been talking up the potential for Server App V for the past few years.
It's worth noting that Microsoft is specifying which types of applications will be virtualizable (is that a word?) with SCVMM 2012. From last Friday's Virtualization Team blog post:
"Microsoft is prioritizing business applications such as ERP applications. As with Microsoft Application Virtualization for the desktop there is not a list of applications that Server Application Virtualization will support. However, there are a number of architectural attributes that the initial release of this technology has been optimized for."
The first group of applications that will be supported are those with the following attributes, according to the post: State persisted to local disk; Windows Services; IIS Applications; Registry; COM+/DCOM; Text-based Configuration Files; WMI Providers; SQL Server Reporting Services; Local users and groups; Java. Applications without these attributes "may" be supported in later versions of SCVMM, the post said. Applications and architectural attributes that won't be supported initially include: Virtualization of Windows core component (IIS, DHCP, DNS, etc); J2EE Application Servers; SQL Server; and Exchange Server, Microsoft officials said.