by Kevin Fogarty

Microsoft Starts Virtualization Hype Blitz

Aug 27, 20084 mins

If VMworld is in a few weeks, what will Microsoft do? Talk, talk, talk. As Microsoft prepares to outline its entire virtualization strategy, IT pros must keep the talk in perspective.

Microsoft is working hard to gin up some excitement about its “virtualization launch” event on Sept. 8. Given that virtualization has been out of the paddock for quite a while and that Microsoft’s own hypervisor is actually out on the market, it’s hard to figure why Microsoft should be re-launching virtualization as a concept.

The lead news items at the Microsoft launch event will be Hyper-V (which apparently hasn’t been announced enough, even though it’s already shipping) and Virtual Machine Manager 2008, which is the key part still missing from Microsoft’s virtualization puzzle.

Now, remember VMware’s VMworld show, being held the following week, will be VMware’s opportunity to be guaranteed a lot of attention from customers and the press for its refutation of Microsoft’s various comparative ROI analyses and pitches on why Microsoft is a better virtualization supplier than Microsoft.

Given the way Microsoft sucks up attention when it really tries—and right now it’s trying, if the amount of attention writers are getting is any indication—people could very well be tired of virtualization coverage by the time VMware gets to the mike.

The question is whether Microsoft’s content is worth the time and attention.

In general, the answer is probably yes. Microsoft’s virtualization software still doesn’t compare to VMware’s, according to most of the experts I talk to, but it’s much closer than a major Microsoft product could be expected to be at this stage of its development.

Even Microsoft can’t hold center stage just talking about a hypervisor that’s already been released, though. Even offering exclusive or semi-exclusive interviews with rarely accessible top Microsoft execs—which Microsoft is currently doing with both Kevin Turner and Bob Muglia—won’t guarantee the amount of space needed to affect the potential impact of VMworld.

So Microsoft’s expanding to take on the rest of the virtualization universe as well. The event materials it posted and distributed to the press say the company will roll out new products designed to build virtual infrastructures “from the data center to the desktop,” that are manageable with “the same tools you’re already using for your physical infrastructure.”

Besides Hyper-V and Virtual Machine Manager 2008, Microsoft will also be talking about a desktop and application virtualization suite nicknamed App-V, and which veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley of the All About Microsoft blog, reports is actually named Microsoft Desktop and Application Virtualization. Given the repetitive silliness of the nickname and the overlong banality of the proper one, I’m assuming both are genuine Microsoft tags.

Microsoft will also talk about Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), which is designed to automate and mange the deployment of virtual PC images on Windows machines independent of the desktop operating system itself.

MED-V and App-V will both be available, Foley reports, in the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, which is available to Software Assurance licensees.

Know this: very little of what Microsoft will announce is actually new. Both App-V and MED-V are repackaged acquisitions from other companies, and Microsoft has not had time to package and streamline them as fully borged Microsoft products.

The Sept. 8 event will give Microsoft the chance to articulate its virtualization strategy clearly and describe the links, licensing and support of all the various piece parts.

The more important information, however, will be best-practices stories from beta testers who have been working with Microsoft virtualization products and have figured out how to get around its weaknesses.

Microsoft PR is promising step-by-step guidance for customers on how to build out Microsoft-centric virtualization infrastructures.

That won’t be much good for companies or IT managers opposed to using Microsoft virtualization products. Very few companies fall into that category, however.

However focused on VMware or Xen your company is, there will be places in the organization where Microsoft stuff is just cheaper or easier to use.

Don’t let the volume of coverage in the next couple of weeks give you the idea Microsoft virtualization is suddenly more effective or more popular than you though it was.

It’s probably not. Much of the technology Microsoft will be announcing might not be available until the first half of next year. And some of the technology that is actually available may not meet either the feature or quality requirements of the organizations at which Microsoft marketing efforts aim.

That doesn’t mean some of the information isn’t worthwhile, but it’s going to come with more than a bit of hype. Stay tuned; we’ll help you sort through it.