In recent news, Steve Ballmer promised that Service Pack 1 for Virtual Server 2005 will include Linux support. He said this during his keynote address at the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas last week.

Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1 is slated to be released at the end of this year. This move will allow support for non-Microsoft systems that are installed on a virtual server.

Furthermore, CEO Ballmer also mentioned his vision for virtualization. He believes that the future of virtualization is not as an add-on product such as Virtual Server 2005 or VMware but as part of the operating system. Ballmer goes on to say that virtualization is one of Microsoft’s main areas of focus and by leveraging virtualization we can improve our management and deliver the lowest total cost of ownership platform.

Currently, Virtual Server 2005 SP1 is now in beta and includes support for Linux and OS2. Additionally, the beta adds support for 64-bit hardware support and boosts performance by up to 30 percent. Additionally, Microsoft is also licensing (royalty-free) its virtual hard disk to partners. A new Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) management pack will be available for system administrators to monitor the health and performance of physical and virtual machines.

As for the future, CEO Ballmer also stated that Microsoft will build virtualization features and functionality into the Windows platform, which will be available in the next release of Windows operating system code-named Longhorn. The capabilities will be built into Microsoft’s hypervisor technology and will include support for Intel virtualization technology and AMD Pacifica virtualization technology.

As you can see, Microsoft is better positioning themselves to compete with VMWare. By including virtualization within the operating system, it better positions them to compete with VMWare who has successfully virtualized many different x86 systems. With Microsoft including virtualization software within the operating system, a typical Microsoft shop would probably not purchase VMware products because their licensing already includes the use of the virtualization software. At a minimum, many companies would give the Microsoft virtualization software (Virtual PC and Virtual Server) a shot before spending additional money to purchase a third-party software.

I think this a smart move on the part of Microsoft and similar to when the browser wars were taking place and Microsoft released Internet Explorer for free when Netscape was selling their browsers. What do you think of Microsoft’s plan?