Virtual Strategy Magazine talks with Microsoft

Quoting from Virtual Strategy Magazine:

Eric Berg, group product manager in the Windows and Enterprise Management Division at Microsoft, gives us an insider’s overview of Virtual Server 2005.

VSM: Could you briefly describe your role regarding MSVS 2005, and how long you have been working with server virtualization?

EB: My role is the group product manager in our Windows Management team and Virtual Server is one of the products that my team manages. Personally I have been involved with virtual machine technologies for about 4-5 years, including time with this product at Microsoft and with my previous company.

VSM: Can you tell us why Microsoft thinks it is important to be in the server virtualization arena?

EB: We have a broad initiative called the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), which is a holistic approach we are taking to help customers lower their costs and improve responsiveness associated with developing, deploying and operating their IT systems. A critical part of DSI is how we enable customers to more flexibly use the hardware on which they run their applications. A virtual machine solution like Virtual Server 2005 is a critical technology that addresses this need, and helps companies save up to 50% on hardware costs and improve IT responsiveness by reducing provisioning times by 50-85%.

VSM: What are the important features of MSVS 2005?

EB: In addition to the standard capabilities of virtual machine solutions such as hardware resource virtualization, policy based resource management, and support for a wide variety of storage and clustering options, the differentiating features of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 can be categorized in a few areas:

Easy to Deploy and Configure: With our rich scripting interface, called the COM API, we make it very easy for customers to automate the deployment and configuration of one or many virtual machines in their environment, and our flexible virtual networking support makes it simple to connect those virtual machines in a variety of combinations.
Easy to Manage: Virtual Server 2005 provides an easy-to-use Web-based administration tools for simple, out of the box management. In addition we have responded to the customer’s desire to manage physical and virtual machines from one console, and have integrated support for virtual machine management into our and partners’ standard management products, including Microsoft Operations Manager 2005, Systems Management Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003, Automated Deployment Services.
Easy to Use: With a unified, common Windows experience across the Virtual Server 2005 host and guest environments, we enable customers to leverage their experience and familiarity with working in a Windows environment.

VSM: How does it work?

EB: Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 installs on Windows Server 2003 and allows you to create independent, fully isolated virtual machines that run their own copy of the OS and applications – allowing you to more effectively utilize your existing hardware.

VSM: How complicated is the installation and deployment process?

EB: The setup and installation process is simple and straightforward.

VSM: What expertise is needed to do this successfully?

EB: IT professionals and developers should be able to successfully install and deploy Virtual Server with little additional expertise.

VSM: What is the expected consolidation ratio for physical to virtual servers?

EB: This is heavily dependent on which workload/application a customer is running in a virtual machine, but on average we see customers consolidating 3-4 virtual machines per CPU (not per server).

VSM: Are there any performance standards for applications running on virtual servers?

EB: Again, performance varies depending on the type and characteristics of the workload you are running. We do provide customers guidance in our “Solution accelerator for migrating and consolidating line of business applications” that helps them identify which applications are well suited to be run in a virtual machine.

VSM: What are the network capabilities for virtual servers?

EB: Virtual Server has very flexible networking capability that enables users to configure their virtual machines with a guest to guest, guest to host, and guest to external network configuration, depending on their needs.

VSM: Does your solution help customers with business continuity or disaster recovery?

EB: Virtual Server is used by some customers as a more cost effective way to provide a disaster recovery environment that mirrors their production configuration.

VSM: Can you give us any examples of how MSVS 2005 is being used to deliver specific business value?

EB: One example is Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 customer Jack in the Box, one of the best-known fast-food chains in the United States, who recently determined that it needed to upgrade the technology it used in nearly 2,000 restaurants. Rather than launching a massive code rewrite, Jack in the Box decided to host the older applications and operating system on virtual machines using Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. The company has long-term plans to base the applications on the Microsoft .NET Framework, and to run them on the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 operating system. Currently, however, the use of Virtual Server 2005 makes it possible for Jack in the Box to immediately migrate old applications to new hardware, while also reducing restaurant servers by 50% and reducing server maintenance costs.

VSM: Why should a customer look to Microsoft as they consider some of the advantages of server virtualization?

EB: Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 is the most cost effective virtual machine solution for Windows Server 2003. It enables customers to reduce hardware costs by at least 50% and decrease server provisioning times by 50-85%. Because we develop and support the operating system and virtual machine software, customers have one point of contact for support of their entire stack.

VSM: How does MSVS 2005 compare to VMware products?

EB: There are some pretty significant differences between the two technologies. Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 offers:

Close integration with Windows Server 2003 as the host operating system provides customers the broadest, most robust compatibility with industry-standard hardware, device models, protocols, remote access methods, automation environments.
Rich support of open standards such as COM/COM+, HTTP/S, SSL/TLS, RFB+, RDP, XML.
Higher level of automation (richer API with significantly more calls) enables customers to automate the configuration, integration and management of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005.
Leverages a single, continuous architecture that spans desktop and server lines.
Management strategy targeted at leveraging existing server management tools (MOM 2005, SMS 2003, and 3rd party management tools) rather than creating yet another management tool specifically for virtual machines.
By being part of Windows Server System, Microsoft is assuring its customers greater interoperability. Furthermore, the Windows Server System Common Engineering Criteria requires WSS product to run on Virtual Server 2005. This ensures customers will have a consistent and predictable experience across their investments in the Windows Server System.

VMware’s architecture is characterized as follows:

VMware’s proprietary host operating systems severely limit device compatibility and support.
VMware has a proprietary remote console and security model.
Limited API set limits ability to automate configuration, integration and management.
Virtual Center is a proprietary, Virtual Machine only management console that does not integrate with existing server management tools.

VSM: Who do you perceive as your other key competitors?

EB: VMware and others provide similar virtualization technology; however Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 is uniquely positioned to provide customers with a powerful, cost-effective virtual machine platform, especially for Windows Server 2003 environments.

VSM: Who are the recommended hardware vendors for MSVS 2005?

EB: We are working with a broad range of partners on Microsoft Virtual Server 2005, including hardware vendors such Dell, HP, IBM, NEC and Unisys.

VSM: Server virtualization is really in its infancy. Can you share with us where you might see this technology leading us in the future?

EB: As you know, virtual machine technology on mainframes has actually been around for quite some time. On x86 hardware today we see the technology being used most broadly in the software development and test environment. As the technology on that hardware platform matures, and customers become more comfortable with it, we see it being used increasingly in a wider variety of production environments.