Microsoft Backtracks on Live Migration, Again

For the second time, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has put off including live migration
features in its virtualization technology.

Live migration capabilities enable users to move a virtual machine (VM) either
manually or automatically from one physical server, cluster or processor to another,
instantaneously, while the VM’s still running. This can help IT prevent overloading of
the infrastructure’s physical computing resources.

Microsoft has twice promised that live migration would make its way into its own
virtualization products, which would better enable them to compete with rival offerings
from vendors like VMware and Citrix, both of which offer the feature.

The company has suggested an alternative to live migration, however: quick migration,
where the VM is saved to a disk, then that saved state is reassigned to a new physical
core, server or cluster and then brought up again.

That process will take six seconds, according to Microsoft’s engineers. This might not
seem like a lot, but six seconds is an eon to any device where time is measured in
nanoseconds or picoseconds.

Patrick O’Rourke, Microsoft’s group product manager, told in
an e-mail that true live migration “will be available in the next version of Microsoft
Hyper-V Server” and also in the Enterprise and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2008
R2, codenamed Windows Server 7.

Windows Server 2008 R2 is a minor release for Windows Server 2008. Microsoft releases
minor releases for products every second year and major releases every fourth year.

O’Rourke would provide further details about when live migration would be integrated
into Microsoft’s virtualization products.

“We do not have specific timing details to share at this time, but you can expect us
to continue to deliver against our established release cadence,” he said.

Eager for a Slice of the Market

Microsoft first
scrapped plans
to include live migration in its virtualization products in May of
last year, after promising it for a product codenamed “Longhorn,” which later became
Windows Server 2008. It pushed the inclusion of live migration to the second half of

Live migration, which VMware (NYSE: VMW) has offered since 2004, is a key feature for
virtualization vendors in this highly competitive market, which has seen major vendors
announcing new products almost every week. Any hypervisor (define)
offering that lacks this feature will find it difficult to compete, industry watchers

“VM migration is an important part of datacenter automation and orchestration,”
analyst Dan Kusnetzky, principal of the Kusnetzky Group, told in
an e-mail. “VMware, Citrix and Virtual Iron offer that today.”

So does Sun Microsystems, (NASDAQ: JAVA) which yesterday unveiled updates to
its own virtualization technology

Microsoft’s delay is believed to be due to technical difficulties, which also plagued
it when it first tried to release live migration last year. “Migration is a very
difficult technology to develop, and so it is not entirely surprising that Microsoft is
experiencing delays,” Kusnetzky said.

While it’s difficult to say how much the delay could impact Microsoft’s position in
the competitive virtualization market, it comes at a time when it’s pushing hard to gain
traction against market leader VMware.

This week, Microsoft unveiled its Hyper-V Server 2008 and promised that its System
Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 offering would be available within 30 days. Those
announcements came during the
first of a series of worldwide events
designed to promote its virtualization
offerings — with this inaugural show coming a week ahead of VMware’s own VMworld user
conference in Las Vegas.

But at the same time, rivals’ announcements are coming thick and fast as well. For
example, last month, Oracle launched Oracle VM Templates, while last week,
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) and BMC Software (NYSE: BMC) announced new virtualization
management tools.

Meanwhile, VMware just lost two major technology figures. Most recently,
co-founder and chief scientist Mendel Rosenblum
quit nine weeks after Diane Greene —
his wife and the second VMware co-founder — was pushed out the door. Top product
development executive Richard Sarwal also recently departed VMware, returning to a
position at Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL).

The open source virtualization camp is also being closely watched by industry insiders
following Red Hat’s (NYSE: RHT)
acquisition last week of virtualization player Qumranet
for $107 million. Qumranet’s
solution is built on the open source Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM), which goes
head-to-head with Xen — Red Hat’s longtime virtualization partner.

It’s not clear whether that move would hurt Xen — which is backed by Citrix-owned
XenSource and used by several other major vendors, like Sun. Red Hat has said it would
continue to support Xen in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, although it prefers KVM technology
for what it described as better performance and management. Citrix
fired back at the charges
following the acquisition.

Article courtesy of

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