From the Wall Street Journal: Microsoft Corp. this week is disclosing more details of its plans to take on VMware Inc. and others in a hot field called virtualization.

The software giant’s moves include the purchase of a Silicon Valley startup called Calista Technologies Inc. Terms of the purchase weren’t disclosed.

Microsoft is also relaxing some of its licensing policies to allow use of virtualization software with more versions of its Windows Vista operating system and lowering some fees associated with using the technology.

The company plans to offer a free virtualization component with its upcoming Windows Server 2008 operating system, which is scheduled to be delivered this quarter. But the feature, known as Hyper-V, won’t be ready for six months, or sometime in the third quarter, said Larry Orecklin, general manager of Microsoft’s server infrastructure business.

Virtualization isolates a computer’s hardware from key pieces of software, bringing such benefits as the ability to run multiple operating systems simultaneously on one system. The technique, pioneered by International Business Machines Corp. in the 1960s, has been particularly popular at wringing more work from low-end server systems. Without virtualization, many servers used by companies run at 15% of their capacity or less.

The technology is also moving to desktop PCs. Apple Inc.’s Macintosh systems, for example, can be used with virtualization software to allow them to run both Microsoft’s Windows as well as the Macintosh operating system. In the future, technology companies hope to make it easy to transfer bundles of application programs and operating systems — sometimes called virtual machines — from computer to computer to be processed most efficiently.

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