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Microsoft offers virtualization tool to ease OS migrations

The free toolkit is designed to help shift applications from a physical server to a virtual server.

Hoping to get more traction in the virtual server market, Microsoft will release a free tool on Friday that will help users move applications from a physical server to a virtual machine running Microsoft Virtual Server 2005.

The toolkit, called

Microsoft has its work cut out for it, and that competition is not exactly a bad thing.

Peter Pawlak, analyst,

Directions on Microsoft

the Virtual Server Migration Tool, will help expedite Microsoft's entry into this market, which is currently dominated by EMC Corp.-owned VMware Inc. Virtual Server 2005 was released in September.

The software supports the migration of Windows NT 4.0 Server with Service Pack 6a, Windows 2000 Server Service Pack 4 and Windows Server 2003. Users need to be familiar with Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), PXE -- a pre-boot execution environment -- and Windows Server 2003 Automated Deployment Services (ADS).

The toolkit relies on ADS, which uses DHCP and PXE booting capability to create that virtual image, said Jim Ni, a senior technical product manager for Virtual Server 2005.

"[The tool] goes to your physical server and figures out all the various components on that system, and then tries to figure out what are the hardware dependencies on the physical box," Ni said. "It takes the physical dependencies and strips them out and replaces them with this generic hardware set that is well known to the virtual machine software."

No path from virtual back to physical

The toolkit does not support moving virtual machines to physical machines, the company said.

There is a high degree of interest in the concept of virtual machines as a way to partition machines while taking advantage of the benefits of consolidation, said Peter Pawlak, an analyst at

For more information

Why EMC and Microsoft lend credence to virtualization


Learn how virtualization is changing IT

Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm.

But Microsoft is significantly behind VMware in terms of its market share and level of sophistication in the product. "VMware hasn't exactly been standing still while Microsoft was getting its act in gear," Pawlak said. "Microsoft has its work cut out for it, and that competition is not exactly a bad thing."

Virtual Server 2005 is based on technology that Microsoft purchased from Connectix Corp. in February 2003. It is designed for use in several ways, including test and development environments, to run legacy applications on new hardware and for workload consolidation in disaster-recovery operations.

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