Microsoft executive discusses virtualization

Mike Neil deflects critics’ punches on the company’s virtualization timeline and strategy

Some predict the demise of Virtual Server and Virtual PC, your current server and desktop virtualization products. Are those two in active development or static mode, especially in the light of the delays in delivering updates to Virtual Server?

We released Virtual PC 2007, which has Vista support as both a host and guest, in February. We released Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 in June. We continue to develop on both, and we are actually growing the teams that are developing those products.

Competitors have questioned Microsoft's licensing as it relates to moving virtual machines among different computers. What constraints will users face on how and when they can move virtual machines?

We made changes to Windows Server licensing specifically to address moving virtual machines. With our instance-based licensing, we have moved from the installation of the operating systems being the defining event when a license is consumed, to when you instantiate an image of an operating system. And so from a license perspective, we want the customer to understand the licensing is in the utilization when they run our software. They can move those instances between any two licensed devices as much as they want.

The criticism some folks have had is they don't feel there should be two licenses involved in that case. In reality, customers say they have licensed Windows for their systems and they just want the ability to move around the images and the instances. Customers who want the ultimate in flexibility can use our Datacenter licensing, which allows them to run an unlimited number of virtual machines.

Application virtualization is part of your overall virtualization strategy, so why do you offer it only to customers with Software Assurance contracts?

The basic business model we are using for application-virtualization technology is to provide it as part of the value-add you get with Software Assurance. It provides those customers -- who are typically our largest customers and typically deploying that kind of technology -- with a way to gain that value over time as opposed to licensing it perpetually for each one of their machines.

What role does security play in this virtualization environment?

That is an interesting problem. Today, with the architectures we have, the hypervisor level of the software is being targeted by more and more of the malicious-software industry. You can see that by looking at the security updates that VMware has had. Microsoft has shown we have been responsive to the security threats out there and put in place the processes to make our products secure and react to any security issues.

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