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Who’s using Microsoft Virtual Server and not VMware?

“Who’s using Microsoft Virtual Server or any Microsoft platform for virtualization?” That question has been asked in at least one session of the many conferences I’ve covered this year, and every time one lone user has raised his hand. I’ve talked to those users, and every one only uses Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 for a few virtual machines.

By contrast, almost every hand goes up when asked, “Who’s using VMware?” The others usually say they’re trying out Xen variants.

Rather than making me play “find the user in the haystack,” I asked’s readers — all IT professionals — to write to me about their Virtual Server experiences.

As Andrew Dugdell noted on his blog, I offered a $5 coffee card to respondents.

About a dozen IT managers responded. For the most part, IT managers are running Microsoft Virtual Server in a limited way, just in a few VMs. Two consultants had clients using VS in production. 

Most are using VS for testing and evaluation of products and not in production. Other than that, some interesting uses for Virtual Server were cited, including using virtualization and VS to run old 32-bit operating systms and applications on 64-bit hardware; providing an environment for quicker, less hardware-bound disaster recovery; using VS to run Linux-based spam filters.

Some had tried VS and turned away from it. One said that “Microsoft is woefully out of touch in not providing USB support for their virtual technology. VMWare Workstation…provides all the connectors and hookups I need.” Another said that getting support from Microsoft is a “chore”. Also, he said, the Virtual Server Web interface didn’t work well, Microsoft didnt’ make release 2 of VS a free update “as they had promised” and it ran slower than VMware GSX Server.

We’ll be posting more responses in the comments for this post. I’d also like to hear more Virtual Server stories, either in comments below or via email at Sorry, folks, the coffee cards have all been taken.

Looking for more about Virtual Server’s pros and Cons? I ran into an interesting conversation on Andrew Connell’s blog, where readers responded to his plea for their experiences with VMware versus Microsoft virtualization products.

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We sent out this query in an e-newsletter, and got a lot of feedback. Here are some responses. Mark, a Sys Admin, wrote to, saying: "I use MS Virtual Server Body albeit in a very limited capacity. We’ve had a lab server running it for several years. It’s been stable, but not stressed. We did find that Virtual Server was not ready for production; we had problems with DCs and timing. We also are less than impressed by the feature set – one of the biggest reasons that we virtualize in the production environment is the ability to vmotion, and there’s no such corresponding functionality in MSVS. Despite being a nearly 100% MS shop, we use VMWare ESX exclusively for production virtualization and have no plans to change."
Steven wrote in to, saying: "We use the Microsoft Virtual PC product (version 6.0) for testing (Longhorn server builds, workstation testing, etc.), since in runs well our desktops and laptops (with sufficient RAM). "For production, we only use VMware. "I don’t see us using any MS virtualization products in production until the Longhorn VM products become a reality (and even then it’s an uphill battle since we already have VMware in place)."
Mike, a Network Admin, wrote in saying: "We are using Virtual Server for our SQL test environment. DL380 Dual Core/Proc with 12 GB RAM. I have 3 SQL 2000 machines and 1 SQL 2005 running. The performance is fine for our test environment, but not for production."
Walt, a Chief Architect, wrote in saying: "We are using Microsoft Virtualization tools, but only for a couple of virtual servers also. We need these servers to host customers operations in different time zones, and MS VS 2005 is about the best and cheapest way to do it. "We are looking at a generalized hosting environment down the road, and it is more likely that we would use VMWare in that situation. But for now, the MS software is plenty good enough for what we are doing. "If the software wasn't free, I wouldn't be using it. Currently, it looks like Microsoft has priced it just right."
An anonymous reader wrote in, saying: "I am working as a contractor for a large retail organization, and have told my client supervisor about this survey. Because of confidentiality, I do not feel safe saying who. BUT my client is definitely utilizing this technology, and I’m on the project that is doing it. BECAUSE I am in the project, and realize the usefulness of it, I also use virtual server and virtual pc to run "experiment" images on my computers at home. I could not imagine my life without virtual servers."
Richard a Senior Systems Architect, wrote in saying: "1. We are using Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 under Windows 2003 R2 in order to accomplish several objectives: •reduce number of servers needed to support SAP (all test and quality assurance servers are virtualized, while production servers are still real servers) •run old 32 bit operating systems and applications on 64-bit hardware while still getting some benefit from the new 64-bit hardware (the host and virtual server are 64-bit) •provide quick ad-hoc test machines by using templates for quick reconfiguration •use virtualization and a SAN to simplify the hardware for several legacy applications that had added disk drives over time as data storage needs exceeded the original server designs •provide an environment for quicker disaster recovery, and reduce the hardware dependencies for disaster recovery 2. We are using Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 under Windows XP SP2 in order to accomplish several objectives: •provide an ability for our business developers on their own laptops to demonstrate our server software on site at prospective clients without affecting their corporate image on their own laptops while reconfiguring to meet the client environment requirements •provide an ability for our software developers to test new versions of our software on their own laptops without affecting their corporate image on their own laptops We are also using VMWARE in limited situations in order to keep up with the functionality differences, but in general we are a Microsoft shop and believe in using Microsoft products where they provide functionality good enough for our purposes. Also, the fact that Virtual PC 2007 is free whereas the workstation version of VMWARE is not is one of the considerations that led us to our decision. We are a small professional services company (under 200 employees). We are relatively new to the virtualization game. We have only a modest infrastructure. We do not intent to virtualize everything. But we did decide to virtualize some servers at the same time we implemented a new SAN for virtualizing data storage."
"I tried to use MS Virtual server and to make a go of it; especially since it's free and I need virtualization to better run, test and learn MS technology for my small business. BUT in this day and age of almost all peripherals going to USB connections, MS is woefully out of touch in not providing USB support for their virtual technology. "I finally went to a trade show where VMWare was giving away vouchers for their VMWare workstation. It provides all the connectors and hookups I need. Is it any wonder that MS Virtual technology is discarded when the user finds out about the cripple-ware it really is???" -Frank
"We are a small consulting firm in Southern California. We are a registered Microsoft Partner and have installed a series of virtual servers on our humble Dell Power Edge 1600C. "We are experiencing great success. We are using the servers to conduct our lab experiments and so far the base server is holding up and we see no degrade in performance. "We were shocked to find that many of our contacts in the IT Business (people who have established businesses) have paid little attention to the concept." -Damien, Consultant
"I use MS Virtual Server inhouse and at several client sites. The ironic thing is I use it to run Linux based spam filters and also as a sentry against email server attacks. It’s been very effective and I like the 2005 interface better since it can autostart when Win 2003 starts. I do periodically use it to load virtual machine‘s for testing purposes on various Windows OS’s. Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with it. "Incidentally, I started with MS Virtual PC 2004 and progressed from there. I also had good success with that and am currently running one instance on a production PC." -Joe, Consultant
"I must point out that my response does not match your request to hear from current users, but as a past user maybe some of the below will help. Also note that without Microsoft Windows I would not own my house, car etc as I work with their products all day everyday. "You asked for feedback from folks who use MS Virtualization products, I no longer fit this profile and here is why: "1. Purchased Virtual Server 2005 (I think that is what it was). I immediately found it to be much slower than GSX server. 2. The web interface didn’t work well. 3. Microsoft, instead of making R2 a free update (as they had promised) made it a paid update. 4. Getting support from MS is a chore (at best). NOTE: When I have run my calls up to PSS they are fabulous but that is a higher level of paid support. "So I purchased (and stuck with) GSX server and took the $500+ loss on the purchase of MS product. Since that time we have kept on the VMWare track and upgraded to ESX3 primarily based on information gained from a local user group. "Of course since that time all of the products have become free except for ESX (VI3). So why pay for it? "1. I have experienced numerous issues with the Windows ISCSI initiator (Note this refers to the host level which would then affect VMWare and MS VS so just eliminate the Windows host to fix it). 2. VI3 is much more refined and "smaller". Smaller meaning it does one thing and does it well and does not include a bunch of "stuff". 3. VI3 borders on black magic (DR, HA etc. will blow your mind). 4. VI3 is almost an appliance technology. Once you get it running you simply forget about it. 5. Stability of server products is paramount. 6. Ability to call tech support and within a couple of hours have a them call me back and take ownership of the issue. "Finally (and probably most interesting): It is becoming more and more distasteful to purchase MS software. I know that sounds like a stupid reason, but almost daily I read a story of an MS acquisition of a smaller company and charging for their "New Products" regardless of the old companies licensing (i.e. Winternals, Desktop Standards), increases in licensing fee, claiming Linux (an open source product!) is using it's patents, elimination of a client (i.e. no longer getting Outlook with purchase of Exchange CALs.) etc. "You kind of have to put everything together and mix it all up, but if all things were equal (which they are not as ESX, and even VM Server are better products than Microsoft's offering), I believe the monopolistic/aggressive behavior of MS is beginning to have an affect on purchasing decisions. "So as a registered owner of Virtual server, the above is why I don’t use it." -Bob, MCSE, MCSA
"I'm in charge of all technology here at our relatively small firm. I recently created a virtual machine to be our Sharepoint server. We currently have only one physical server and I wanted to keep all things Sharepoint separate so I decided to give virtualization with MS Virtual Server a try. I've been very happy with what we used it for so far, and I suspect, with our very limited use, it will more than server its purpose. I can't say anything to VMWare as I don't have any experience with it at all." -Kevin
A lot of people have complained about Virtual Server just not holding up under the kinds of production loads they throw at it. For me, I was irritated enough that Virtual PC still doesn't include USB support when there's now a free and open-source virtualization product -- VirtualBox -- that does. That said, I'd like to see what MS eventually does with hypervisors; if they can leapfrog over their competition, great, but for now I can see why VMware is more satisfying for heavier-duty work.
I find it a very odd thing myself. We see how many times Microsoft Virtual Server or Microsoft Virtual PC has been downloaded. Well over a million downloads have taken place for each product, yet time and again, when asked where these people are and if they would please stand up and identify themselves... silence. I for one have been using the product since it was Connectix, and personally, have had success using it. Does it have faults? Sure. But I find issues with every virtualization platform I use. But the question remains, who else is using it and why aren't they identifying themselves like VMware users? One thing that I have noticed, VMware has built up a community around their product. And when searching for something like that in the Microsoft community, I've come away empty handed. If Jan couldn't get them into the spotlight with a $5 giftcard, I'm not sure what it will take.
I'm currently hosting 72 virtual win xp pc's and 12 virtual ms 2003 servers all on MSVS. This is a development environment for JDE and other application developers. It has grown from 30 virtual XP pc's to the current 90-ish virtual machines, and the requirements have changed to the systems now are expected to be available 24x7. My base platform is 10 Dell PE1955 dual core-dual xeon blade servers with 16gb ram each, connected to a dell Nx1950 iSCSI NAS device. The MSVS product works well to a certain extent. If I were to do it all over I would go with ESX Server VI3. The MSVS requires too much care and feeding, lacks in useful tools, and the performance of the virtual machines degrades over time. Nothing in the way of management and monitoring tools. VMWare kills MS in all of the these areas. I will still use the MS product but strictly for testing new products and platforms but we are currently planning to migrate to VMWare. The reason we chose MS over VMWare was $$$. Microsoft is free, VMWare isn't. I got what I paid for!