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Microsoft delays betas for virtualization software

Beta releases for Microsoft's Viridian hypervisor and Virtual Server 2005 SP1 have been pushed back. Analysts say ship dates and third-party vendors could be affected too.

Microsoft pushed back the first public beta today of its Windows Server virtualization hypervisor, code-named Viridian, to the second half of this year.

Viridian's public beta was supposed to be available by the first quarter of this year. The company also pushed back the release date of Virtual Server 2005 R2 Service Pack 1 from the first quarter to the second quarter of this year.

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Microsoft said the release data for Longhorn public beta 3 is still on track for the first half of this year, as is Longhorn's release to manufacture (RTM) date for the second half of this year.

Mike Neil, general manager of virtualization strategy at Microsoft, said on the Windows Server division's blog that the reasons for the schedule change are centered on meeting internal team goals for performance and scalability.

Windows Server virtualization is being designed to scale up to 64 processors, Neil said. In addition, the virtual machine environment will allow processors, memory, disk and networking to be hot-added. It will also offer greater scalability with more SMP support and memory, he said.

With respect to the service pack, the delay was attributed to adding support for three operating systems – SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, Solaris 10 and the recent community technology preview of Windows Longhorn Server.

Viridian is expected to be available within 180 days of Longhorn's RTM.

Although server delivery is said to be on track, analysts questioned whether Microsoft will be able to maintain its schedule with the betas being pushed back.

"In general, when a beta slips, a lot of the time the RTM slips as well," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata Inc., a Nashua, N.H.-based consulting firm.

As for the competitive landscape, Haff said Microsoft is falling further behind in a market where other vendors' products are being widely adopted by enterprises. "Microsoft is already late. This just means that they could be even later, but I don't see them missing a critical adoption window," Haff said. "There is no drop-dead adoption window for this."

The pushbacks could affect third-party vendors waiting to leverage Microsoft's hypervisor technology, said John Humphries, an analyst at IDC, a Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm. "If we're really talking about the code not being out there until, say, mid-2008, that does put pressure on other vendors to be ready to go with their own products," Humphries said.

As for Virtual Server 2005, Haff said he sees the product having little impact on the competitive landscape against such software suppliers as VMware, XenSource and Virtual Iron. "Virtual Server is not a very important product and never will be," Haff said. "There are already a lot of alternatives."

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