Microsoft gooses virtualization

GCN Insider

Developers attending Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 workshop in Redmond, Wash., last month seemed to be impressed ' especially with the new server operating system's security improvements and enhanced modularity.

With its hardened core and new Network Access Protection, which lets administrators set policies that determine which client machines get access to the network, Windows Server 2008 offers greatly enhanced security over Server 2003.

And, in addition to dozens of other security enhancements, Server 2008 offers a higher degree of modularity that further enhances security and improves the operating system's manageability.

But there's another new, relatively unheralded feature that may make big waves: Windows Server Virtualization.

Virtual servers have been trumpeted for years as a way to simplify server farms. But they haven't yet lived up to their promise, primarily because they're complex to implement and they give security-conscious administrators the jitters.

The idea of having users of one network running on the same hardware as users of another network, combined with the added risk of a single point of failure, has left government information technology administrators especially leery of virtual servers.

Microsoft, however, is previewing a new module that promises to eliminate many of the drawbacks to server virtualization.

A major plus of the module is that is free. Microsoft expects to make the virtualization software available as a no-cost add-in within 180 days of the release of Server 2008.

The software uses a hypervisor approach, in which the virtualized server is isolated from other servers and from the operating system core.

In addition, security is enhanced because no memory is shared between virtual servers, and there is no sharing of virtualized devices. The software ' which supports 32-bit and 64-bit virtual machines ' can also provide more than 32G of memory space for servers.

We were also impressed with the slick Virtual Machine Manager Microsoft is developing for managing farms of virtual servers.

If Windows Server Virtualization lives up to its promise, it could not only make server farms more manageable but also greatly cut costs and energy consumption.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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