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Microsoft adds standalone version of Virtual Machine Manager to lineup

The next release of Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager adds support for the Hyper-V hypervisor as well as VMware's ESX.

Microsoft plans to sell a standalone version of Virtual Machine Manager when the next release comes out later this year.

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The current version of Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2007 now sells as part of a bundle that includes the System Center suite of management products. The standalone version will be delivered as VMM 2008 and will ship in Q4, Microsoft said. Other products in the System Center suite, such as Configuration Manager 2007, Operations Manager 2007 and Data Protection Manager 2007, are already sold as independent SKUs.

Diane Prescott, a System Center product manager at Microsoft, said on the System Center team blog that Microsoft will sell VMM 2008 as a per device enterprise server management license and it will include rights to the management server.

The price will be about 10% to 15% less than the version that is sold as part of the System Center Management Enterprise. The company said it would have more precise pricing and licensing details next month.

VMM allows IT shops to manage physical and virtual machines from the same console, a feature that some experts believe is a key selling point. In the 2008 version, Microsoft adds support for Hyper-V and VMware's ESX.

With server virtualization, particularly for server consolidation, the management of virtual machines will be more important than the hypervisor you choose, said Mike Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based consulting firm.

"What Microsoft is pitching is that you will want to use its [System Center] Operations Manager to gain knowledge of the servers you are running, including the virtual ones," Cherry said. "You then use VMM to look at the Operations Manager data."

"There is a reasonable argument to be made that Operations Manager and VMM are a logical pairing," he added.

Indeed, Microsoft said that one of VMM 2008's new features is called Performance and Resource Optimization. It only works in conjunction with Operations Manager 2007. The feature uses its understanding of the IT environment to improve resource allocation.

Not every enterprise is heavily invested in all the components of the System Center suite, so offering VMM by itself makes sense. IT shops don't need to have the same close connection between Operations Manager, VMM and, say, System Center Configuration Manager and Data Protection Manager.

"There are other ways to do some of what those products do, but at the end of the day you need to be cautious about how you manage virtual machines," Cherry said.

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