Unlike some of the other players in the virtualisation space, here at Microsoft we firmly believe that virtualisation isn’t the solution for every situation, and hence, our message around Virtual Server 2005 R2 and virtualisation, is to virtualise appropriately.
But what does that mean in terms of using Virtual Server? Virtual Server 2005 R2 has some great features in its arsenal, such as high availability, host clustering, management integration with MOM and migration toolkits to name but a few, and there are even more to follow in the Service Pack 1, currently in the Beta 1 timeframe. However, it does have some limitations, and this is where the ‘virtualise appropriately’ comes in. For instance, if you have an application workload that requires a greater level of memory support than 3.6GB, we would recommend keeping it on physical hardware, rather than in a virtualised environment. The same applies, for example, if you have an application that requires SMP support, or you require 64-bit guests. There may also be occasions where your application in a virtual machine requires access to a specific piece of physical hardware, i.e. it requires access to a PCI card of some sort, again, this is not provided in Virtual Server and running on physical hardware would be the recommended solution.
It is only through appreciating our own limitations, that we can strive to meet them in the future. And striving to meet them is what we are doing. Just looking at the features that are being included in the SP1, such as support for both Intel’s (SP1 Beta 1) and AMD’s (SP1 Beta 2) on-chip Virtualisation Technologies, 64-bit host support, Volume Shadow Service Writer, Longhorn Server Beta Guest Support (SP1 Beta 1) and host support (Beta 2) to name but a few, it is clear that Virtual Server is improving, release on release, as we move closer to Windows Server Virtualisation. One important point to stress however, is that Windows Server Virtualisation is not the next version of Virtual Server. Windows Server Virtualisation is a new virtualisation technology architected to provide highly scalable, enterprise class virtualisation with performance second to none. It will be a feature of Longhorn Server, not, like I said, the next version of Virtual Server.
For those who may be interested in jumping aboard the Virtual Server bandwagon, before Windows Server Virtualisation comes along, you can download the 2005 R2 release for free, here, or alternatively, the beta 1 of Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1, here.