Microsoft: Viridian beta may arrive just before new server software

A top executive on the Windows Server 2008 virtualization team says the next milestone may fall before the new server RTMs in February.

At iForum 07, Citrix Systems Inc.'s Applications Virtualization conference held last week, close partner Microsoft was always somewhere in the picture. Both companies are working closely to build a comprehensive virtualization strategy for users that centers around the Windows operating system. Mike Neil, general manager for Microsoft's virtualization strategy, was on hand to talk to Margie Semilof at SearchWinIT.com about the development of Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 virtualization technology, due out in mid-2008.

SearchWinIT.com: What's happening with the Viridian hypervisor [Microsoft Windows Server 2008 virtualization] at this point, and what sort of early feedback have you been getting on the beta?

Mike Neil, for SearchWinIT.com
Mike Neil: The [Windows Server 2008] release candidate is out. The next milestone is the beta release of Viridian, which will come in the release to manufacturing of Windows Server 2008. [Windows Server 2008] should be done by February 27 [the marketing launch of the server OS]. Our goal is to deliver a [Viridian] beta before then. And the [RTM] guidance is within 180 days.

I make the point that we are building the new foundation for Windows to run on. We will do everything to make that right, to make sure it's high quality and secure. We have been pleasantly surprised in the [community technology preview] that it is extremely stable.

What has been causing the delays?

Neil: It's a complex technology to develop.
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Most people today are developing in high-level languages. Here, people are developing at the core level of the OS in assembly language. We work closely with AMD and Intel because this technology takes advantage of functions in the processors. It's challenging development work. It's a new foundation and we are not going to rush it. We need to make sure we get it right.

There still seems to be a fair amount of confusion regarding software licensing in virtualized Windows environments. Would you please give us a refresher on how Windows licensing is handled in virtual environments?

Neil: Prior to [virtualization], when you licensed and installed the OS, the license consumed that installation. Now you consume the license when you run the virtual machine.

Also, you don't have to buy a copy of a license for every instance. The standard version of Windows gets one [instance], the Enterprise version gets four [instances] and Windows Datacenter has unlimited [instances]. From a cost perspective, we have a good online sizing guide.

For a customer on a typical two-socket box, when you have more than eight virtual machines, it may be more cost effective to go to the [Windows] Datacenter. We made Datacenter available across a broader set of machines so it does not require the largest systems. Since we've changed our licensing policy, we've seen a big uptick in [Datacenter] adoption.

Some other changes we've made are in dealing with the difference between a virtual processor and a physical processor. We had customers that were consolidating and had one virtual machine running a virtual processor on a large eight-processor box. The old license said you had to license all the processors.

Customers with Software Assurance can get something called the Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD). How does it work?

Neil: Lots of people, such as those who use Citrix [Presentation Server], are talking about how to license and run client OSes on servers in remote machines and have access to them. VECD licensing lets you create as many client images as you want. You license the access devices in your infrastructure and from any of these license access points you can access virtual machines.

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