Scattered in Microsoft’s umbrella press release for the second day of their World Partner Conference 2006 was a variety of virtualization news including that Microsoft’s Virtual PC 2004 Service Pack 1 is now a free download like its cousin, Virtual Server 2005 R2:
One new benefit (of Microsoft’s Software Assurance offering) for Windows Vista Enterprise customers is the right to install four copies of the operating system in virtual machines on a desktop for a single user. This new benefit provides unique value for customers addressing application compatibility through virtualization. Responding to changing market conditions, Virtual PC 2004 SP1 is available immediately for free download. In addition, Virtual PC 2007, which supports Microsoft Windows Vista, will be available for free in 2007.
You can download it here. The “changing market conditions” is the ongoing price war in the virtualization space between Microsoft and VMware (owned by EMC) where the virtualization offerings have become loss leaders to get customers to buy something else like Microsoft Software Assurance mentioned above.
Beginning Oct. 1, 2006, customers will be able to purchase Windows Server 2003 R2, Datacenter Edition, from Microsoft resellers and account managers on their Microsoft Volume Licensing agreement as well as from OEMs preinstalled on servers with two to 64 processors, with or without the Datacenter High Availability Program. Windows Server, Datacenter Edition, licenses will also include the right to run unlimited virtual instances on one server at no additional charge, which can potentially extend the savings customers can realize through server consolidation on the Windows Server platform.
This one is rather odd because part of the cachet of Datacenter was always that you could only buy it from an OEM with strict support guarantees. The unlimited virtual instances of Datacenter isn’t actually new news, but now there’s a new incentive to buy a volume licensing contract and, of course, the real money makers are the Microsoft middleware licenses and associated client access licenses for what will be running on the virtual machines. Microsoft is planning on bundling virtualization directly into Windows Server Longhorn which will make it all the more seamless.
Finally, VMware also had an announcement today that illustrates their monetization strategy as Nate Mook reports at Betanews:
VMware on Wednesday released the final version of its VMware Server virtualization product, the successor to GSX Server. Just like the beta release that debuted in February, VMware is making the software available free of charge, much like Microsoft has done with Virtual Server 2005 R2.
The company hopes that by giving away its entry-level product, it will drive users to upgrade to its for-pay ESX Server, as well as position the company as the leader in virtualization technology. While VMware Server will require a “host” operating system in order to use its features, ESX requires no host.
The selling point for ESX is lower overhead and better resource allocation than virtualization based on a Windows operating system. That certainly has its attractions, but the single revenue source makes them vulnerable to “good enough” arguments and improving Microsoft technology.