Credit where credit is due. Microsoft announced an interesting twist in marketing enterprise software today – ship the tirekickers a preconfigured virtual machine using Microsoft’s virtual hard disk image format:
At VMworld 2006, Microsoft is making available their new virtual hard disk (VHD) Test Drive Program, which allows customers to confidently evaluate enterprise software from Microsoft and its software partners in a fraction of the time.
Mike Neil, senior director of virtualization strategy in Microsoft’s Windows Server Division:
This program enables Microsoft and its partners to distribute their enterprise software and applications within a virtual machine so that IT professionals can confidently and quickly evaluate Windows Server-based software. A similar program for Windows Vista will be available in the first quarter of 2007.
These virtual machines, which are provided in Microsoft’s virtual hard disk image format, are pre-built and pre-configured so that they can be downloaded or distributed for easy setup and evaluation. This allows customers to evaluate software in a fraction of the time it usually takes, such as setting up SQL Server 2005 in minutes instead of hours.
The VHD Test Drive Program is a first for Microsoft software and the more than 7,000 software vendors who can now deliver pre-configured applications within Windows Server-based virtual machines to their customers. Today the program launches with the latest versions of Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition, SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition SP1, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 (32-bit beta) with Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005, and Internet Security & Acceleration (ISA) 2006 Standard Edition. Partners and customers can expect to see additional Microsoft software added to this program.
We expect more than 20 partners to begin distributing their software via the VHD Test Drive Program later this quarter, including Altiris, BEA Systems, Check Point, Citrix, CommVault, Dell, FullArmor, HP, Network Appliance, Platespin, Portlock, Quest Software, SourceCode Technology Holdings, Symantec and UGS. Over the coming year, we anticipate our partners will use this program to get more than $10 billion in software into the hands of IT professionals to evaluate.
Virtual machines are incredibly convenient for testing server software unless you really like wiping and re-building test machines, and VHD is a perfect fit for shipping a pre-built system image. Also don’t forget that Microsoft’s Virtual Server is free. VMs would also be good for demoing client software too, but I suspect that they are beyond the average user.
Update: Patrick at Microsoft’s Windows Server Division WebLog says the VHD Test Drive Program is now live and remarks the similarity to VMware’s Virtual Appliances.