Virtualisation is big and getting bigger. You don’t have to be a top rated analyst to spot that. If you look at it historically then in the early days it was a green screen linked to a mainframe or a DOS PC. In those days you could only work on one application at a time (apart from some programs that could run as a TSR – Terminate and Stay Resident). To see your spreadsheet for results to type into your word processor you had to come out of the word processor program and navigate to the directory where the spreadsheet program was installed and run that. Get the figures (or if you were lucky you could export them as a text file if your wp program could import them) and close the spreadsheet program and then go and open up the wp program and get the figures in. Then Windows came along (I know there was OS/2 and others) and you could run multiple applications at the same time and just cut and past between them. What a time saver that was.
At the moment organisations chose a platform based on the applications they want to run. Most use Windows as that is where the majority of applications that they want are and because of that most software houses develop for Windows as it is the largest market. A chicken and egg situation. One of the nice things about virtualisation is that you can run another operating system within your main one. Handy if you have an app that only runs on NT4 or you want to learn Linux or you are a developer that needs to test your new software against multiple OS versions and service packs. The nice thing about virtualisation is that it is just a file on your hard disk that can be copied easily to another machine. It also allows you discard changes. So the developer can test the software against each version of the service pack but just close down and discard changes so that the virtual machine is unchanged and ready for another test.
The caveat to this is obviously more memory is needed and a fast hard disk is useful and if it is a server product enough processing power to cope. But the other area is confusion for users. I remember when I originally looked at Citrix thin client technology (WinFrame then MetaFrame) and thinking how clever it was but how confused users became when confronted with two desktops. Citrix helped by just showing the application as it would be in a window. You could say that Citrix was an early version of virtualisation. But just as people have got used to multiple applications then multiple OSes should not be a problem. Especially now as PCs are getting to be dual core with 4 core coming soon. And if you have not discovered the joys of working with multiple screens you should try it. It is hard to go back and there is a lot of evidence to show that multiple screens helps productivity if you need to convince your boss.
For an interesting article about where virtualisation may be going in the desktop have a read of Joining Dots post.
There are three major players in the market. VMWare is the acknowledged leader and having been bought by EMC has a lot more clout. Microsoft is there having bought Connectix in Jan 2003 and Xen leads the way for open source.
On the Microsoft web site
REDMOND, Wash., and PALO ALTO, Calif. — July 17, 2006 — Microsoft Corp. and XenSource Inc. today announced they will cooperate on the development of technology to provide interoperability between Xen™-enabled Linux and the new Microsoft® Windows® hypervisor technology-based Windows Server® virtualization. With the resulting technology, the next version of Windows Server, code-named “Longhorn,” will provide customers with a flexible and powerful virtualization solution across their hardware infrastructure and operating system environments for cost-saving consolidation of Windows, Linux and Xen-enabled Linux distributions.
An interesting development. Thanks to Clive Watson (Technical Specialist at Microsoft
UK) for picking that up.
The market is hoting up with VMWare giving away their GSX product renamed as VMWare Server (but not their money making top of the range ESX product) and creating a player for read only virtual machines. Clever in copying Adobe Acrobat. Microsoft started by making Virtual Server free then Virtual PC and changed the licensing so that with certain versions you can run multiple copies of the OS without having to buy additional licenses. And Xen was always free. J And you don’t need a reader if the product is free!
But Microsoft is not just looking at OS virtualisation but application as well with the purchase of Softricity which will go with SMS (System Center Change Manager).
So what has this to do with management? Well one of the big sells of VMWare is some of its management tools and the ability to move VMs from a live server to another server without interrupting users. Microsoft has had a management pack for MOM but that just monitors the health of Virtual Server. Although, very nicely, they have priced the MOM agent per physical device. That means that you can put an agent on every virtual machine running on a Virtual Server but only pay for one license. I think they may realise what a giveaway that was and change that for MOM v3 (System Center Operations Manager 2007)! But if we are lucky they will keep the pricing as is.
But currently is beta is System Center Virtual Machine Manager (codename Carmine) which is designed to integrate with SCOM as well. There are a lot of interesting features in it but have a look at the overview at
With this and SCOM together then provision, monitoring and managing virtual machines should be a lot easier. There is a link on that page to register for the beta.
So Microsoft is serious about virtualisation and especially the management of it. It should be an interesting time for organisations looking at virtualisation and management. Especially if they use MOM and Virtual Server.
- Posted in: System Center