Will Microsoft's virtualization spur a lot more cloud computing?

At this week's Interop show in New York, speakers argued that Microsoft's recent moves could give cloud computing a substantial lift. But they also cited needs for Microsoft to streamline its virtualization products and pricing.

NEW YORK, NY (BetaNews) - Microsoft's recent entrance into data center virtualization could bring big benefits to the cloud computing industry as a whole, especially if Microsoft starts to offer a simple enough product line-up and pricing model, said observers at this week's Interop show.

"The biggest [part of] the cloud right now is open source," acknowledged Michael Crandell, CEO and founder of RightScale, during a panel session.

Yet by and large, panelists seemed to agree that Microsoft's large installed Windows base could ultimately help to drive much greater industry demand for data sharing between virtualized in-house data centers and outside hosts, including third-party partners.

Crandell said he wouldn't be entirely surprised if at least one open source cloud computing maven in the "household name" category eventually provides Windows-based storage as an alternative for customers.

Andrew Gross, chief scientist and architect and Stacksafe, maintained that lots of IT administrators would find data center virtualization more attractive if Microsoft began to supply all needed components though a simple OS upgrade for its installed base.

Some of the administrators out there today are running Microsoft Access databases for personal or departmental use, even if they're also operating huge Oracle or IBM databases for the enterprise, concurred Stuart Charlton, chief software architect at Elastra.

Meanwhile, he noted, these large enterprise databases are expensive and unwieldy to run, typically costing the organization anywhere between about $200,000 and several million dollars per year.

Bert Armijo, vice president of product marketing for 3Tera, told the Interop audience that his company, which originally offered hosting on open source servers only, launched its first Windows-based services this month. Yet before moving into Windows-enabled hosting, 3Tera worked with Microsoft to create a simplified pricing approach for 3Tera customers.

Earlier this month, Microsoft outlined a virtualization strategy encompassing on-site customer data centers, hosted services by Microsoft partners, and Microsoft-hosted cloud computing. At that time, it rolled out three new products for release by early October: Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5; a new standalone edition of Microsoft Hyper-V Server; and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008.

Microsoft had previously integrated Hyper-V, its hypervisor software technology, into Windows Server 2008 as an optional buildout. However, live migration -- a capability originally slated for availability this fall -- has now been postponed to Windows Server 2008 R2, which may not see general release until 2010.

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