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Given that both Microsoft and VMware have free hypervisors, some users are saying it's time to move on to what really matters … the wraparound tools.

At its virtualization conference in Bellevue, Wash., today, Microsoft said it would eliminate the $28 fee for its standalone Hyper-V Server 2008 hypervisor and release the technology in a month. Last month, VMware released a free version of its hypervisor, ESXi, as well.

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Some enterprise customers already anticipated this pricing move by vendors but believe the driving force behind their adoption of virtualization technology will come down to which technologies work best together.

"Even Citrix has said that as far as they're concerned [the hypervisor] is free, so the game isn't about the hypervisor, it's about the technology that helps me manage the machines," said Bob Menning, practice lead of the application delivery team at systems integrator Inacom Information Systems out of Appleton, Wisc. "It won't be about any one hypervisor, or one company's technology, but a blended solution."

Still, the combination of a free hypervisor and integration with the server operating system will push customers toward Microsoft, believes Christopher Steffen, principal technical architect with Kroll Factual Data, a Loveland, Colo.-based subsidiary of risk consultancy Kroll.

"Everyone is trying to save money, so VMware had no choice but to give away a hypervisor. But while [Microsoft and VMware] both now have free hypervisors, you have to look at the fact that VMware's is essentially a third-party tool and Microsoft's is integrated with the server operating system and its management products," Steffen said.

Microsoft also said it would release System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, technology that allows IT shops to manage physical and virtual machines, in about 30 days.

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