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Microsoft version of VMware competitor reveals much

Nov 17, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMicrosoftVMware

* Microsoft’s take on virtual machine software shows company strategy

I’ve been a fan of VMware for a long time. The company’s products allow you to create virtual machines on a single hardware platform, so you can easily move to a different operating system – to test different versions of an application, for example. Or you can simultaneously operate two or more different systems – for testing, say, client-server relationships.

I’ve always used VMware to get a “network in a box,” one computer with multiple servers and clients that can quickly be set up to demonstrate a service, an application or an idea. It’s a boon to those of us who give presentations but like to travel light.

Last winter, Microsoft acquired Connectix and its product Virtual PC, which has been the major competitor to VMware (but not that big; VMware dominates the virtual computer market the way Apache dominates Web servers). A lot of people wondered what Microsoft (not known for enabling or enhancing the non-Windows computing experience) would do with the product. Now we know.

Redmond recently released its first Microsoft-branded version of Virtual PC and the changes were, perhaps, predictable.

The last version that Connectix released included wizards for setting up multiple operating systems (Windows, NetWare, Linux, FreeBSD, OS/2, etc.) on a single Intel-based PC. Microsoft’s version also includes wizards that will automatically configure multiple operating systems, but the list has changed – Windows XP, W2K, NT Workstation, 98, 95, ME, Windows 3.1, and OS/2. Yes, OS/2 is still in there – but it was, after all, developed by Microsoft and was the progenitor of Windows NT.

You can still install other operating systems (NetWare, Linux, and so on), but it’s a more laborious manual operation and is only briefly addressed in the documentation.

According to Microsoft, this is what its customers want. It’s being positioned as a way to run legacy applications and services on legacy operating systems. That means Microsoft could save a bundle on regression testing of new products (i.e., testing old apps on new operating systems and new apps on old operating systems) by providing a way for you to continue using the old stuff on your current network.

It also, though, could presage a move on Microsoft’s part to remove a lot of the “backwards compatibility” which has caused so many security holes in recent operating systems. There’s been no official word on this from Redmond, but lots of rumors and speculation.

This could turn out to be a good thing. I’d give up a “Linux wizard” for Virtual PC if it meant my Windows server could be made more secure “out of the box.” Would do you think?