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Microsoft Shakes Up Virtualization Arena

The Microsoft juggernaut is further shaking up the virtualization arena.

True, VMware (NYSE: VMW) dominates the market now, but Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is rolling on with its plans to build an ecosystem of third-party developers to flesh out its offerings.

At Tech-Ed Pro, held in Florida this week, Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, discussed the company's various moves in virtualization.

Also at Tech-Ed Pro, Double-Take Software (NASDAQ: DBTK), which has supported VMware with its disaster-recovery products since April 2006, announced support for Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization products.

According to Muglia, virtualization software vendors can now test and validate their products to run on Windows Server 2008 and previous editions of Windows Server. Windows Server 2008 will include Hyper-V when it is released this fall.

Muglia also announced that Microsoft is introducing four new virtualization certifications. In addition, the company will unveil Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 release candidate one (RC1) this month; and the Forefront line of security products will support virtualization.

Double-Take will release an edition of its replication and failover product for Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V that will let IT administrators continuously replicate and failover virtual machines (VMs) between Hyper-V hosts for disaster recovery.

This is known as virtual-to-virtual (V2V) recovery.

Double-Take for Hyper-V targets "customers who don't have the expertise or the budget, so they don't have to install a Microsoft cluster and use the built-in QuickMigration feature for replication," Bob Roudebush, the company's director of solutions engineering, told

Double-Take has a large number of Windows installations among the 12,000 customers it claims to have because it focuses on SMBs -- so its product fills a niche otherwise wide open to VMware.

Double-Take for Hyper-V will also let system administrators replicate VMs between hosts whether they are in the same physical location or not, and save money because it does not require shared storage between two nodes, such as a storage array network, or SAN (define); instead, it effectively creates a virtual RAID (define) disk by putting data on both nodes and replicating between them.

Double-Take's products will be available "around the time Microsoft plans on releasing Hyper-V, in the August/September time frame," Roudebush said.

The company plans to add support for Citrix's XenServer hypervisor later, Julie Geer, Citrix's (NASDAQ: CTXS) senior manager, product public relations, told

Double-Take's announcement shows that Microsoft's efforts to build an ecology around Hyper-V well before its release are gaining steam.

Another Microsoft partner, Quest Software (NASDAQ: QSFT), announced at the Microsoft Management Summit 2008, held in Las Vegas in April, that its subsidiary Provision Networks' Virtual Access Suite 5.10 will support Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V.

Quest offers Windows infrastructure management from the desktop to the datacenter.

Virtual Access Suite 5.10 is the first hosted virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to support Hyper-V with full integration for brokering, desktop life-cycle management and power management.

VDI management involves monitoring the complete life-cycle and delivery of a desktop environment to the end user. It lets enterprises consolidate desktop computing environments and maximize their investments in server hardware.

Another third-party vendor, Surgient, announced in March that it would support Hyper-V. Surgient is a leading provider of virtual laboratory management software used to automate and accelerate the application life cycle.

Jonathan Eunice, principal analyst at Illuminata (NASDAQ: ILMN) told that many beta virtualization add-ons for Hyper-V are available because its release is imminent.

Many third-party vendors already part of the Windows ecosystem in the physical world are "positioning and readying themselves for the Microsoft virtual platform," he added.

Double-Take is one of the more aggressive players, Eunice said.

Although its statement that it will be ready for Hyper-V when it arrives is nice for Double-Take and Microsoft says its ecosystem will be for Hyper-V, but it will not have much impact on the virtualization market in general, according to Eunice.

Still, VMware (NYSE: VMW) needs to be afraid. Very afraid.

"VMware is clearly the 600-pound gorilla in this space," Eunice said. "All the vendors doing storage management, high availability, software licensing, Q&A management and dozens of other areas have worked hard to align with VMware."

The trouble is, Microsoft "is not just a big gorilla, it's King Kong." Further, it is willing to make a quality hypervisor widely available at almost free prices, Eunice said.

Many expect Hyper-V, whether stand-alone or built into Windows Server 2008, to "have substantial volumes and seriously rival VMware over the next five years," Eunice added.

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