Microsoft partners are eagerly anticipating the new features of Windows Server 2008, which include network access protection, terminal services, Bitlocker, and beefed up Active Directory services.
But for many partners, the virtualization features of the next Windows Server are the biggest game changer.
"Virtualization is the next big thing and it's what makes utility computing possible. In addition to allowing you to deliver backup and disaster recovery solutions, it also lends itself to hardware portability," said David Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based solution provider.
What Windows Server 2008 won't have, at least not initially, is live migration. Live migration, part of the VMware and Xen-based virtualization platforms, enables users to quickly and easily migrate virtual machines from one system to another system.
In April, Microsoft said live migration, and hot-add capabilities, another key virtualization management feature, won't be part of the first version of Viridian, the virtualization hypervisor that's slated to ship six months after Windows Server 2008 ships.
But that's not a problem, says Andy Lees, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Server and Tools Marketing and Solutions group. In a keynote at last week's worldwide partner conference, Lees said Windows Server 2008 will include a technology called Quick Migration, which is almost as fast as live migration.
"The difference between Quick Migration and live migration is actually about six seconds, because in Quick Migration we go from one machine to the other machine via a disk. In live migration you just go memory to memory," said Lees, adding that live migration will be available in a future version of Window Server 2008.
Despite the live migration delay, Neil Rosenberg, president and CEO of Quality Technology Solutions, Morris Hills, N.J., expects Microsoft's virtualization capabilities to catch up with competitors like Vmware and the open-source Xen hypervisor in about six months.
"Customers tend to look at virtualization as a point-in-time decision based on where the vendors are today, which is why I try to get them to look at it as a platform decision that will affect their architecture for the next 10 years," said Rosenberg.
Microsoft's Lees says that System Center Virtual Machine Manager, currently in its second beta, gives Microsoft a leg up on the competition by giving Windows Server 2008 users a way to manage their entire network through a single tool. "For example, if you want to manage machines, you want one management tool for your physical world and your virtual world," said Lees.
The fact that Microsoft offers a common set of management tools, as well as an easier learning curve than its competitors, means that small and midsize organizations are likely to gravitate to the Windows Server 2008 soon after it's released, Rosenberg said.
"The human factors of how you're going to use and manage virtualization are important, particularly with smaller organizations that have few IT people," said Rosenberg.
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