Microsoft Strips Down Windows Virtualization Software

Microsoft has decided to slash several key features from its Windows Server virtualization software, code-named “Viridian,” in an effort to meet quality goals and a release deadline.

The new hypervisor-based virtualization technology, available as part of Windows Server “Longhorn,” will ship without live migration, and it will not offer the ability to add storage, processors, memory or network cards.

Microsoft has pulled Viridian processor support back to a maximum of 16 cores — for example, a server with four quad-core CPUs (central processing units) or a box with eight dual-core chips.

Universal Truths

The first public beta of Windows Viridian will ship when Longhorn is released to manufacturing (RTM) in the second half of 2007.

Microsoft had to come to grips with some “universal truths” about product development, said Mike Neil, the company’s general manager of virtualization strategy, including the realization that shipping is also a feature, and that the quality bar, the time available for development, and the feature set are directly correlated.

“Resources are also not infinite,” Neil says in a blog post, “and, even if you could add more, it does not help get more done faster.”

The Viridian beta is expected to be ready for downloading when Longhorn goes to manufacturing; the final virtualization code is expected to ship within 180 days of Longhorn’s launch.

Migration Capabilities

The Windows hypervisor is a software layer between server hardware and the Windows Longhorn operating system, which allows users to run multiple operating systems unmodified at the same time.

An oft-cited issue with Microsoft’s virtualization software has been the lack of live migration capabilities, and now, with the slashing of those capabilities, it has taken another hit.

“Many might find that to be a big limitation,” Laura DiDio, an analyst with the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. “The live migration stuff is very important for small businesses.”

Redmond had been counting on the migration feature to help gain some ground on market leader VMware. “Microsoft really needs to step it up now,” said DiDio.

However, it is better for Microsoft err on side of caution, she acknowledged, and not rush the features.”They just need to be up front with their customers. It is better to ship a bug-free release.”

Postponing Features

The company is not eliminating the features — merely postponing them until a future release of Window Server virtualization, Microsoft’s Neil emphasized. It did not provide a timetable, however.

Only last month, Redmond postponed release of the first public beta of Windows Server virtualization from the first half of the year to the second half. At the time, he cited “performance and scalability” goals as reasons for the delay.

Other Delays

Product delays at Microsoft have almost become the norm in recent years. The release of Windows Vista was delayed on numerous occasions, and the much-vaunted operating system also shed some features before its launch date in 2006.

“In Microsoft’s case, as with all software vendors, ship date delays are very commonplace,” said DiDio.

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