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I'm pretty sure that this is part of the reason VMware has pushed so hard with ESX Server 3i - a 32MB version of its flagship product that can and will be embedded into the flash memory of servers. Dell, IBM, HP, Fujitsu and others have lined up to include ESX 3i in the memory of at least one system each. So, you can boot right into VMware without touching an operating system, and VMware's hypervisor starts to look like a standard server component.

Of course, VMware would be in better shape with this play if every server from these vendors included ESX 3i or at least presented it as an option at sales time. That may happen one day. In the meantime, Microsoft is content to downplay VMware's actions.

"It is important to understand that Viridian will ship as part of Windows Server 2008," Microsoft's virtualization chief Mike Neil told us. "VMware is in a situation where they are not an OS vendor. They need a distribution mechansim through the OEMs. This is the approach they have taken."

But would Microsoft consider shipping a separate hypervisor that could slot into memory as well? Viridian is less than 1MB, according to Neil.

"I don't know that (an embedded hypervisor) has substantantial value today," Neil said.

Neil scoffed at the power-saving and performance-boosting claims made by the likes of Dell around a type of diskless virtualization appliance based on the embedded hypervisor. Customers will "have to store their virtual machines somewhere" in the end. And, if they really want to boot from the network, Microsoft can do that as well via Windows.

Beyond all that, Dell, VMware and others threaten to foist "complex" vendor-specific flash update tools on customers with this latest attack. Meanwhile, "serving Windows is a well understood technology," Neil said.

Rather than just dishing out the hypervisor, Microsoft "wants to provide the best experience for customers with virtualization and that includes things such as management tools and an optimized operating system."

Greene Field

Greene has heard and digested Microsoft's virtualization arguments and come away with little more than a mild case of heartburn.

She maintains that VMware has by far the most complete line of complementary management software surrounding its core hypervisor. In addition, she mocked Microsoft for pulling a VMotion-like tool for shifting virtual machines across physical servers from the initial Windows Server virtualization release.

"When (Viridian) ships, it will not even have VMotion," Greene said. "Our customers regard that as a critical feature."

Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to say that despite its lacking product and VMware's blockbuster IPO, it's primed to capture a big chunk of the rising virtualization tide.

"I don't believe we are in any way late to that growth," Neil said.

Which reminds me that I actually rather enjoy covering VMware after all. The Microsoft vs. Linux battle has grown so tired. ®

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