Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 SP1 renamed Virtual Server 2005 R2

Quoting from ENT News:

If you’ve noticed that Microsoft service packs seem to be flush with new features, apparently Microsoft has too. The company announced a new name for Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1 on Wednesday. It is now called Virtual Server 2005 R2.
Virtual Server 2005 SP1/R2 has been in beta testing since April and remains on schedule for release by the end of the year. The new “R2” name will take effect at the release to manufacturing milestone.

Meanwhile, Microsoft added a post-R2 version of Virtual Server to the roadmap. Not yet named, the new version of Virtual Server will support the hardware-level virtualization platforms being developed by Intel and AMD.

Virtual Server 2005 R2

The most notable new feature of the R2 version of the year-old Virtual Server 2005 is support for Linux guest operating systems. Other new features include: support for x64 versions of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP, allowing more virtual machines per host; performance enhancements such as improved hyper-threading; built-in support for network installations of guest operating systems; and higher availability through support for clustering across hosts.

“The addition of the new features is the reason we are renaming the release to R2, in line with our release naming guidelines,” Microsoft said in a statement.

The name change has important implications for licensing. Had the new features been delivered in a service pack, they would have been free for customers already running Virtual Server 2005. In an R2 release, current Virtual Server customers without Software Assurance contracts must purchase a new license to get the new features.

Post-R2 Virtual Server

The post-R2 release is scheduled for beta testing in the first half of 2006 and general availability in the second half of the year, Microsoft said. Introduced via a demonstration this week at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, the post-R2 version will be the first version to support the Intel VT, or “Vanderpool,” and AMD “Pacifica” chip-level virtualization capabilities. Both Intel and AMD are working to make their chips more adept at running multiple operating systems simultaneously.

The beta release should roughly coincide with the first availability of server chips from the two chipmakers sporting the new virtualization architectures.

Microsoft has been hinting that Virtual Server might go away after virtualization is integrated into Longhorn Server through Microsoft’s “hypervisor” technology. To be clear, Microsoft has not been promising that hypervisor would be available with the initial release of Longhorn Server, which is currently set for 2007. Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Windows Server Division, has said that the hypervisor technology might debut in a Longhorn Server service pack or R2, in the 2008 or 2009 timeframe.

“This release will provide customers and partners an important transition from Virtual Server 2005 to the Windows hypervisor technology, which will be delivered in the Windows Server ‘Longhorn’ wave of products,” Microsoft said in a statement about the post-R2 version of Virtual Server.

A bad move here: Microsoft should work hard on bridging the gap with the upcoming VMware Workstation 5.5 and instead is asking customers to pay a new product (which is just a small upgrade).

Anyway what this R2 release will bring? John Howard explains this on his blog:

At the IDF (Intel Developers Forum) yesterday, Microsoft made the announcement I’ve been waiting to go public on for a couple of months now. Virtual Server 2005 SP1 is no more. Well, that isn’t exactly true, the changes which are present for those of you beta-testing SP1 will be released, and in the same timeframe (ie end of this year) but it is now going to be called Virtual Server 2005 R2. This ties in very much with the Windows Server 2003 R2 release also due at the end of this year.

To recap on some of the changes in Virtual Server 2005 R2, you will see x64 host support, changes to ease the use of Virtual Server on hyperthreaded architectures, PXE booting, performance improvements, both when running guests and installing guests (the SCSI shunt driver being one of those improvements for example) and the support of non-Microsoft guest OS’s including Linux and Solaris.

As you are no-doubt already aware, announcements back at the MMS this year for the future of virtualisation within the Microsoft product set, specifically the “hypervisor” or Windows Virtualisation in the Longhorn Server timeframe. This still stands, but many of you felt there was a long way between SP1/R2 of Virtual Server 2005 and that future release. Hence, there will be a future release/update to Virtual Server due out which is due to beta in the first half of next year and release in the second half of next year. Un-named currently, and also at this stage, without detailed public specifics on what will be in this release, significantly it will take advantage of the VT and Pacifica technologies present in Intel/AMD processors. This will make the transition towards windows virtualisation in the future much easier.