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Microsoft Virtualization Technologies

Published: November 12, 2007   |   Updated: February 25, 2008


Microsoft has a comprehensive portfolio of virtualization technologies that can be used either independently or together to enable the widest variety of desktop and server virtualization scenarios.

The following table describes the virtualization capabilities available from Microsoft and how they map to the virtualization types.

Table 1. Microsoft Virtualization Technologies

Microsoft Capability

Virtualization Type

Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V™

Server Hardware Virtualization

Virtual Server 2005 R2

Server Software Virtualization

Terminal Services

Presentation Virtualization

SoftGrid Application Virtualization

Application Virtualization

Virtual PC

Desktop Virtualization

Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD)

Desktop Virtualization

Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V

Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V is a built-in operating system technology that hosts virtual machines on the Windows Server 2008 platform, using server hardware virtualization. It provides a scalable and secure platform for supporting enterprise server virtualization infrastructures.

Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V uses Type 1 hypervisor-based virtualization, which runs directly on hardware, thereby enabling direct access to difficult-to-virtualize processor calls. Other features of Hyper-V include:

  • Ability to run 32-bit and 64-bit virtual machines concurrently.
  • Multiprocessor virtual machines.
  • Large memory support.
  • Virtual LAN support.

Hyper-V requires an x64-based processor with hardware assisted virtualization (commonly called VT/V support). Data Execution Protection (DEP) must be available and enabled.

For more information, see the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/default.mspx.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1

Virtual Server 2005 is a server software virtualization product that runs most major x86-based operating systems within virtual machine environments. It supports multiple scenarios, including server consolidation, support for hosting legacy operating systems and applications, automation of software test and development environments, and simplified disaster recovery. 

Virtual Server runs as a service on Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008; it provides administration features for managing production virtual machines. Virtual Server can also be run on Windows XP and Windows Vista for non-production purposes such as test and development. 

Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 is available as a free download from the Microsoft Virtual Server TechCenter at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/virtualserver/default.mspx.

Windows Server Terminal Services

Terminal Services provides the ability to centrally host client applications, using presentation virtualization. Terminal Services is a feature that is included in the Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008 platforms.

All application processing occurs centrally on the computer that is running Terminal Services. Users can connect to these applications either through traditional Windows-based client machines, using a remote desktop application, or they can connect using a thinner, stateless Windows-based terminal device. Keyboard and mouse input is sent to the server, and video output is sent to the client, using a network connection.

For more information on Terminal Services, see the Technical Overview of Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services on the Microsoft Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/techinfo/overview/termserv.mspx.

Microsoft SoftGrid Application Virtualization

Microsoft SoftGrid Application Virtualization provides the ability to create isolated environments in which applications can execute on end-users’ computers. The applications are cached on the client system and execute locally; they do not change settings on the client, such as registry or program mappings.

This eliminates application coexistence issues as well as automating and streamlining the process of deploying and managing the applications.

Applications installed using SoftGrid can be distributed in either of two ways:

  • Installation. Applications are placed into the cache on the client system using traditional software distribution methods.
  • Streaming. Applications are dynamically delivered to the client on demand and are cached for later use.

Microsoft SoftGrid Application Virtualization is available as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack. More information is available from the Microsoft SoftGrid Application Virtualization Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/softgrid/default.mspx.

Virtual PC

Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 is a desktop virtualization technology that is designed to create virtual machine environments on client computers, such as those that are running Windows XP and Windows Vista. Virtual PC provides a simplified method of setting up and using virtual environments that support a wide variety of different operating systems. For more information, see the Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/virtualpc/default.mspx.

Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktops (VECD)

VECD provides desktop virtualization for enterprise customers who want to host desktops as virtual machines in central locations. VECD provides licensing rights to centrally install copies of Windows Vista Enterprise and to make each copy available to its users through virtual machines that are hosted on Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1. Organizations can choose to create one virtual machine per user or to allow a user to simultaneously access multiple virtual machines. 

Users can connect to these virtual machines either through traditional Windows-based client machines, using a remote desktop application, or they can connect using a thinner, stateless Windows-based terminal device. Keyboard and mouse input is sent to the server, and video output is sent to the client, using a network connection.

For more information on VECD, see “Windows Vista for the Enterprise” at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/enterprise/fdcoverview.mspx.

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