Microsoft's Muglia on virtualization plans

Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Windows Server division, this week offered an update on the company's long-term vision for its server operating system, as well as related software products. Muglia discussed Microsoft's plans to change its Virtual Server product from a separately sold product to an operating system feature in the time frame of the next Windows Server release, code named Longhorn.

At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in April, Microsoft said it was leaning toward the elimination of future versions of Virtual Server. Can you flesh out any more details on the plans?

Today, we have a product called Virtual Server that sits on top of Windows and provides virtualization capabilities. In the future, we're going to build the hypervisor and the virtualization stack into Windows. So while it's a whole new set of technologies, much, if not all, of what Virtual Server does today goes into the operating system. It becomes an operating system feature.

At the same time, we're building a whole set of management services that will exist under System Center. I do think that this is going to be a new product.

So you'll have management capabilities for a virtualized environment?

Some management capabilities. When we think about virtualization, we think about it as being inherent in all of the things we deal with in our systems. So virtualization itself belongs in the operating system. Patching of images and image deployment, that's in [Systems Management Server]. Monitoring virtualized systems, that's a [Microsoft Operations Manager] feature. But there are some new features that are very important from the management perspective, like moving virtualized sessions from one machine to another. We don't have a product that does that today. And so we do think that's the potential opportunity to build a new product in that space... System Center something. Maybe it's [called] Virtualization Management. I don't know.

Are there any capabilities to that effect in your current Virtual Server product?

Not really.

In third-party products?

VMware has some of those, and there are some add-on products to VMware.

Building virtualization capabilities into the operating system is also happening in the Linux world, where large financial institutions are pushing it. Is that the case for Microsoft as well?

The same financial institutions are driving us. We have conversations with all of those guys.... There are companies that are using virtualization pretty broadly right now, but it's still very nascent. When you look at the... breadth of the industry and what may get used, it's going to grow tremendously in the next few years. And so our job is simple: It's to make it mainstream. I think that's what we focus on.

What do you think will happen to VMware?

I think there's a lot of opportunity for EMC [which purchased VMware in 2003] in general in this space. They can build management solutions. First of all, in our environment, obviously, we'll provide a certain set of capabilities. They might want to provide capabilities in different operating environments. That's one obvious thing. There's a lot management opportunities. There's a lot of opportunity to work with EMC storage.

Will the built-in virtualization capabilities ship with Longhorn, or after Longhorn?

In [April], we talked about it as "the Longhorn time frame." And it still is the time frame. When we think about operating system generations, I think about the '07 generations of the operating system, say '07-'08 as all being Longhorn, maybe even to '09 for Longhorn R2. Whether it's '10 or '11, we'll have to look to see. It will be somewhere in that time frame we would do Blackcomb [the successor to Longhorn]. So the virtualization features are in the Longhorn time frame, but it's not in the initial release of Longhorn.

Will Microsoft ship the virtualization features for the operating system as a feature pack add-on to Longhorn?

Maybe. I don't know. It may be in [Release 2] as well, although it's got some fundamentals that require some changes to the OS. It's not like WinFS, where it can just be put on incrementally. It does require some changes, so we're still thinking about how to deliver that.

So the virtualization technology will have to be delivered with whatever operating system release is ready?

Of some form. One thing we can sometimes do, which we did a lot of in [Service Pack] 1 of Server 2003, is put enabling features into Service Packs and then we turn them on later. So, for example, when we shipped SP1 of 2003, there's code in that Service Pack that gets activated when we ship R2. There may be an ability to do something like that.

Will Longhorn have the enabling capabilities?

Some will be in there. But it will probably be mostly in the Service Pack of Longhorn Server.

Or you could just go with R2 of Longhorn Server.


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