Microsoft Has New Take On Virtualization

While server virtualization is nothing new, Microsoft's approach is different from competitors such as VMware. Virtual Server 2005 creates its virtual machines on top of Windows 2003 Server, compared with products that perform virtualization at the hardware level.

Both styles of virtualization have advantages and disadvantages. Hardware-level virtualization provides an operating system-agnostic approach, but often lacks tight integration with host operating systems. On the other hand, Microsoft's approach requires Windows 2003 Server, but Virtual Server 2005 can leverage the management and performance tools included in Windows 2003 Server, making virtualization almost transparent.

Virtual Server 2005 is a browser-managed product, which allows administrators to manage virtual machines from most anywhere using Internet Explorer. What's more, the management console offers a clean interface that follows Microsoft's standard conventions, making the product quite easy to master.

Administrators will be impressed with the product's ease of use"new virtual machines are just a few mouse clicks away. Remote drives can be connected to a Virtual Server to support the remote installation of new operating systems and applications.

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Microsoft believes Virtual Server will be used primarily as a method to migrate legacy applications. For example, virtual machines can be used to run legacy Windows NT4 applications, or other legacy operating systems such as NetWare or Unix.

Other notable features include the ability to create virtual networks and virtual disks, which will prove to be most important to software developers and deployment testers. Virtual networking allows a pseudo network to be created that is isolated from the host machine's primary network, while virtual disks allow disk space to be put aside and resized as needed for any virtual-machine session. Administrators will also like the ability to save an image of a virtual machine, which can be used to back up a virtual machine before applying any major changes.

All things considered, Microsoft's stab at a Virtual Server product seems to be right on track. The product is destined to become a tool that any administrator can utilize.