Virtualization Center Series: Microsoft’s Vision – Diversity of Virtualization

Microsoft's David Greschler
Welcome to my blog series on the Virtualization Center where we will explore, unravel, define and compose the future of virtualization throughout our computing environment. To begin the series, let's first look at Microsoft's vision for virtualization.

At the 2007 Virtualization Conference & Expo David Greshler, co-founder of Softricity and marketing director for Microsoft System Center, described Microsoft's visions as diversity of virtualization. David's perspective is that virtualization is a lot more than just running virtual instances of operating systems on the same hardware. Virtualization happens at all levels; the OS, storage, networking and applications.

"What we see is virtualization across the board...Virtualization is the ability to compose all of those pieces on the fly... dynamically, in real-time, to give people what they need." Play video of David's presentation >>>

David is taking virtualization well beyond the data center, extending it on the desktop and applications. Essentially the whole software stack is virtualized, but not in one OS instance, rather it's at each level of software. Applications don't install themselves into the OS, they are virtualized and streamed in real time to the desktop. Even though the app may think it is installed into the OS, it really isn't - that installation has been virtualized. Two keys to doing this is; 1) identity, 2) policy based management, e.g., Active Directory. For your apps and data to follow you, both have to be in place in order for you to migrate between virtual desktops, and operating systems. David also stressed managing both the physical world (servers/machines) and the virtual world from one pane of glass. That's obvious since he's part of the Microsoft System Center product group.

I like and agree with much of Microsoft's vision for virtualization. But it is a very software centric view of the world. What's left out of the equation? First, the network. Microsoft assumes the network is just there, a big pipe to pump apps and OSs onto. While it may be further back in its development, the network world will also be virtualized and policy based. Your view of the network will be managed and controlled through policy based mechanisms that not only filter where you can go (access control) but give you your own view of the network topology, services available, paths to reach services and other networks, security, rights and permissions that go along with it. You're not likely going to stream virtual applications and user data spaces over the guest access network unless that data is encrypted, identity managed, access controlled and not accessible by others on the same virtual guest network.

Next. Not every OS will be a Microsoft OS. To see Microsoft's vision really come into play, bringing Linux into the fold would make for a very compelling environment. Stream apps to all users, regardless of OS. Manage virtual instances of desktops, servers, database, web apps and stream apps that are encapsulated in virtualized environments that lessen the technology boundaries between Linux and Windows.

Last but not least is security. Oh ya, security, that thing we think about after we're done doing the cool stuff. Identity management and policy based management are vital. But how this operates within a physical network that traditional secure the network via appliances, content inspection, authentication, and advanced firewalling capabilities. As network security is virtualized, i.e. network security operate as virtualized security services anywhere within the network, application, OS, desktop and storage virtualization must operation within a virtualized security fabric. Some of it may be provided by Microsoft but much of it may be through 3rd party network infrastructure products.

I think David's done the best job yet of laying out a vision for virtualization at Microsoft. His strengths lie in the application virtualization area with I think helps extend where virtualization must play. Whether Microsoft branches out much further and addresses the network and security elements we'll have to see. Whether Microsoft does or not, these are certainly topics we'll explore as part of this Virtualization Center series.

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