Microsoft's new virtualization strategy could include graphics

Press sources were not able to keep a tight lid on impending news from Microsoft tomorrow regarding a new acquisition in the virtualization space, and a change to its licensing policy regarding virtual desktops.

Leave it to The Wall Street Journal to let the news slip a day earlier than planned: At a press event scheduled for tomorrow morning Pacific Time, Microsoft will announce its intent to purchase virtualization tools provider Calista Technologies, the WSJ reported this morning.

Should that report pan out tomorrow, the acquisition would give Microsoft one major new tool in its virtualization arsenal that it has not had up to this point, and has apparently been unable to develop in-house: a full-featured virtual GPU driver capable of rendering 3D scenes with the quality one would expect from a respectable graphics card. Today, Virtual PC 2007 and Virtual Server 2005 R2 are relegated to using virtualized equivalents of low-grade graphics cards, with the result being that Windows Vista's Aero environment cannot be supported.

All that could change starting tomorrow if Microsoft adopts Calista's Virtual Desktop platform (CVD). Currently, that product is not a hypervisor as the WSJ and other sources have implied, but is instead a kind of intermediary that enables one or more server processors to provide virtual desktops between them, and serve those desktops to any number of physical clients.

As Calista describes, it does this by way of a new Remote Display Protocol (RDP) that uses lower bandwidth than a typical hypervisor-to-server remote connection. The reclaimed bandwidth can then be used for such services as full streaming video, which Calista's virtual GPU driver also supports. Imagine simulated microcode for major codecs, so that lower-grade client hardware can get the benefit of higher-end graphics cards. Conceivably, future Virtual Server clients would not need their own high-end GPUs to be able to render respectable 3D graphics scenes.

Microsoft's announcement tomorrow sets the stage for a full-scale Virtualization Deployment Summit, which also launches tomorrow.

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