Virtual War Under Way

On Monday, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is slated to announce that it will ship the $499 Standard and the $999 Enterprise editions of Virtual Server 2005 by Oct. 1.

Microsoft claims that the long-awaited Virtual Server 2005 is more cost-effective than VMware's flagship ESX and GSX offerings because it's priced by the server, not by the processor.

This week, Microsoft also plans to unveil updates to its Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 and Systems Management Server 2003 platforms and highlight support for Virtual Server in popular enterprise platforms such as Hewlett-Packard OpenView and IBM Director as well as Computer Associates and Veritas Software storage platforms.

Top systems integrators Accenture, Avanade, EDS and HP will provide services, according to Microsoft. John Parkinson, chief technologist for North America at integrator Capgemini, said the Microsoft platform will be used for server consolidation on the Intel platform. Such partitioning traditionally was confined to mainframe and Unix environments until VMware brought it to the x86 world.

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"The big feature is to be able to run several isolated operating-system partitions on a single hardware base, reducing the number of physical servers in a lot of scenarios," Parkinson said. "This is just as important for multiple instances of Windows Server 2003 as it is for heterogeneous OS use."

Meanwhile, Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware, a subsidiary of storage kingpin EMC, characterized Virtual Server 2005 as an entry-level, version 1.0 product that can't compete with its more comprehensive virtual infrastructure platform. VMware also said it has more than 900 partners supporting ESX and GSX and confirmed that it's beta testing an upgrade, ESX 2.5.

One VMware solution provider said Microsoft's market entry will slow down some purchasing decisions, but he's not concerned.

"There is potential for the sales cycle to be extended while some Microsoft customers consider trying to accomplish virtualization efforts with Virtual Server. I'm not worried because Microsoft provides only a subset of the capabilities of VMware," said Mitchell Northcutt, president and CEO of Chicago-based Rapid App. "Microsoft is really putting this product into play to help organizations migrate to [Windows Server] 2003 from NT."