Microsoft Readies 'Carmine' Virtual Server Manager

Server virtualization

The product, currently called Microsoft Virtual Server Manager, will allow broad support for administration via "Monad," Microsoft's next-generation scripting platform for Windows Longhorn Server and Exchange 12, according to Microsoft's Web site.

Other sources in the partner community familiar with Carmine said it will contain some of the basic features of VMware's management capabilities in VirtualCenter, but it won't be as sophisticated.

"Today, the problem with Microsoft Virtual Server is the missing management tool for it overall. Carmine is the code name for that management tool," said one source familiar with Microsoft's plans. "Microsoft has to play catch-up to VMware's management console."

Microsoft Virtual Server Manager will allow users and partners to add, remove, drag and drop, and patch a virtual machine without "too much" downtime, he added.

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"If you were patching the host operating system, you can virtually move all the machines to a different server, patch the host and then bring the machines back," the source added. "Some of this can be done today with host clustering and iSCSI, but it is still not where it needs to be."

Microsoft declined to comment.

Some partners said the Virtual Server Manager is a good move by Microsoft.

"With Carmine, Microsoft has the opportunity to develop software that could enable a dynamic and centrally managed virtual environment, which could compete formidably with VMware," said Tom Richer, CEO of DevLogics, a Microsoft Gold Partner in Tarrytown, N.Y.

Microsoft faces stiff competition in the virtualization market from VMware and XenSource, as well as from Linux rivals Novell and Red Hat. The two Linux OS leaders, for example, are integrating the Xen open-source virtualization engine in their upcoming platforms, Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and Red Hat Enterprise Server 5.

At the LinuxWorld Expo, Microsoft made a bold move in the booming virtualization software market by announcing it would give away its Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition and offer full support for Linux guest operating systems running on that platform.

Offering a product like Virtual Server Manager would allow Microsoft to make money in the booming virtualization software market as it continues work on its own paravirtualizing hypervisor code-named Viridian, which is similar to Xen in many respects, said another source familiar with Viridian.

"Viridian will be a tightly integrated hypervisor within Vista Server [R2] and is expected sometime in 2008," the source said. "Architecturally, it has similarities to Xen in that it is a paravirtualizing hypervisor that will allow Microsoft to reuse all of their current driver architecture and virtualization stack capabilities. It is a completely new product and not an evolution of Microsoft Virtual Server."

Alex Zaltsman, managing director at Exigent, a Morristown, N.J.-based Microsoft partner, said it's a step in the right direction, especially for solution providers serving small and midsize businesses, which are more cost-conscious than enterprises.

"Virtual server management is an absolute necessity," Zaltsman said. "Depending on the cost, it may or may not fit into the SMB market. VMware's virtual server management is very functional but also very expensive."