Microsoft nabs Softricity in bid to get virtual

Competing with the likes of VMware and XenSource is goal of purchase. Elizabeth Montalbano reports

As part of its ongoing plan to beef up its virtualisation portfolio, Microsoft has announced that it will acquire virtualisation vendor Softricity. Redmond has also outlined a timetable for offering built-in hypervisor technology for Windows Server and will introduce a new virtual machine-management product.

This strategy is aimed at getting into the same space as virtualisation vendors such as VMWare and XenSource, which are ahead of Microsoft in providing hypervisor virtualisation management technology.

Hypervisor technology enables different operating systems — such as Linux and Windows — to run on the same processor, allowing customers to get more mileage out of hardware running on their networks. Virtualisation refers more generally to techniques that create different, virtual versions of operating systems, servers and storage devices.

Softricity offers software that allows desktop applications to run in virtual containers, so different instances of the same applications can run on computers without interfering with each other, says Felicity McGourty, a director in Microsoft’s Windows Enterprise Management Division.

When an organisation deploys new applications across computers on a network there is a need for compatibility testing to ensure the new applications will work with existing applications. Softricity’s software eliminates that need, McGourty says.

Microsoft didn’t disclose the terms of the Softricity deal, which still requires regulatory approval.

Microsoft has also announced it will add hypervisor technology to the next version of Windows Server, code-named Longhorn, no more than six months after the release of the product. Longhorn is expected to be released in the second half of 2007.

McGourty says she expects that once hypervisor technology is available for Windows Server, customers will no longer need to purchase Microsoft’s Virtual Server product, which provides virtualisation and virtualisation management for Windows Server. Microsoft will continue to support Virtual Server while customers use it and will help them migrate to Longhorn with hypervisor when it is available, she says.

Also in Microsoft’s announcement line-up is a new product called Microsoft System Centre Virtual Machine Manager, previously code-named “Carmine” and first discussed at the Microsoft Management Summit last month.

The product, which will be beta-tested in 90 days and released around the same time as Longhorn, allows system administrators to manage virtual machines on a network the same way they manage physical machines.

Because the new product is part of Microsoft’s System Centre family, it will be based on the same code and have the same administration user interface as other products in that suite, McGourty says.

This will make the management of all machines on a network — both physical and virtual — simpler, she says.