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Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 days numbered, users say

Beth Pariseau

Microsoft says Virtual Server 2005 won’t officially reach end of life for another few years, but industry observers say they are watching its ride into the sunset.

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Microsoft has been trying to kill off Virtual Server anyway.

Al Gillen, an IDC analyst

Virtual Server, an OS-dependent Type 2 hypervisor, was the predecessor to Hyper-V. The latest nail in its coffin is that the next version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2012 will not support it, according to the Microsoft document, “What’s new in SCVMM 2012.”

That’s a shame, according to some users.

Rob McShinsky, senior systems engineer for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., has about 50 VMs still in the Virtual Server environment. 

“All of these technically could go to Hyper-V, but there are about 20 VMs that are either Linux 4.X or Windows 2000 which we have decided to not include in the Hyper-V environment since they do not get full integration services support on that platform,” he said. The rest, based on Windows 2003, are in the migration queue, but “I suspect there will be some stragglers on the Virtual Server 2005 platform even after VMM 2012 RTM [release to manufacturing].”

McShinsky questioned Microsoft representatives on forums on the Microsoft Connect site about SCVMM 2012 support, asking them to reconsider, but the responses he got indicated that Virtual Server is nearing its end of life and encouraged him to migrate hosts to Hyper-V.

The writing on the wall
Even before the SCVMM 2012 news, it was clear that Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 wouldn’t be around forever.

According to Microsoft’s Support Lifecycle website, the most recent update to Virtual Server was made in 2007, with version R2 Service Pack 1. Previous versions of Virtual Server have already reached the end of mainstream support as of this past April, which means users must purchase extended hotfix contracts to receive extended support.

Microsoft’s general product lifecycle policy states, “Mainstream Support for Business and Developer products will be provided for 5 years or for 2 years after the successor product … is released, whichever is longer. Microsoft will also provide Extended Support for the 5 years following Mainstream support or for 2 years after the second successor product …is released, whichever is longer.”

Barring a new service pack for Virtual Server over the next year, this would mean mainstream support for Virtual Server R2 SP1 would end in early 2012, five years after the more recent release date, with extended support ending in 2017.

Even so, Virtual Server still has a sizeable user base. According to market research by analyst firm IDC, Virtual Server accounted for 4% of new x86 license revenue as recently as the fourth quarter of 2010, per IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Server Virtualization Tracker, published in March 2011.

That’s in spite of Microsoft’s best efforts to move users to Hyper-V.

“Microsoft has been trying to kill off Virtual Server anyway, since users can get a free hypervisor with Hyper-V,” said Al Gillen, an IDC analyst. “There are also lots of good reasons customers shouldn’t be using [Virtual Server 2005],” Gillen added, including performance, reliability and scalability.

Channel partners echoed this sentiment, saying they’ve seen adoption steadily decrease for Virtual Server 2005. The legacy hypervisor “is very CPU-intensive for most tasks, and I haven’t come across a workload yet that isn’t portable to Hyper-V,” said William Bressette, a network architect for Ontario-based Horn IT Solutions.

“Support won’t disappear for the current users, but [the SCVMM 2012 support for Hyper-V only] gives them incentive to move to a newer platform,” said Matt Liebowitz, a solutions architect for Manhattan solutions provider Kraft and Kennedy, Inc.  “I don’t think I have any clients that are using [Virtual Server] even in development.  The last time I had a customer using this was in 2008 when we built a Virtual Server 2005 lab for Notes-to-Exchange-2007 migration testing. “

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com.


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