Virtual Server SP1 beta readied

If you're testing Microsoft's Virtual Server 2005 R2, support for Intel and AMD hardware is on the way in the form of a service pack beta.

Microsoft has released a beta for Virtual Server 2005 R2 Service Pack 1, which adds support for the hardware virtualization features developed by AMD Inc. and Intel Corp.

The initial beta offers support for Intel's virtualization technology. The AMD technology will be supported in a second beta, which is scheduled for late 2006 with general availability set for early 2007, Microsoft said.

The second beta will also add support for Active Directory integration and management features as well as Volume Shadow Services.

After initially charging for the technology, Microsoft has recently offered its Virtual Server 2005 R2 as a free download.

Some analysts are saying that virtualization is the biggest server trend around. "It's hotter than most people realize and more prevalent than most people realize," said Tom Bittman, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

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Customers are using the software to consolidate their stock of underused servers. Plus the technology is being built into the operating system so current software on the market is now offered for free. The market monopoly of VMware Inc. will be challenged by Microsoft and others.

Eventually the question will become not which VM tool will customers use but how will customers manage it, Bittman said.

Today two fundamental architectures exist. There is the hosted model, where the virtualization software sits on top of an operating system, and the hypervisor model. A hypervisor, which is designed for particular hardware architecture, is a program that lets multiple operating systems share one machine.

The hypervisor will soon be the norm, Bittman said.

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