Thursday, March 18, 2004 8:43 PM bart

Forgotten Virtual Server :-(

As I mentioned in my previous post on my blog, it's like that I've forgotten some great products in my list. Virtual Server is one of those products which I was confronted with some minutes ago on Microsoft's BetaPlace. I'm using this beta right now on my machine to test it when developing the SchoolServer solution since it's allowing me to run another instance of Windows Server 2003 in the background as being a real server machine somewhere on the network. As the site mentions: "Virtual Server is Microsoft’s virtual machine (VM) solution that enables Windows servers to run multiple operating systems concurrently" and I can't describe the functionality of the product better myself. The last beta release is a lot better than the initial customer preview which was released some months ago. However, in my opinion, I believe there are still a lot of things which can be improved towards the final release. One of the things I'm confronted with is the lack of a unified way to "connect to another computer". Today we have the Remote Desktop Connection (mstsc.exe) to connect to a machine running Terminal Services or some other RDP-based system such as Windows XP boxes, the tool to view Virtual PCs and a tool to connect to Virtual Servers (using the vmrc protocol). I guess people would like some "unified" way to connect to other desktops in a transparent way. Beside of this remark, I'm missing:

  • For Virtual PC, a real "Microsoft-fashioned" integration of the product with the OS when it's installed. Let me explain: today we have that great "My Pictures" folder that allows you to manage your images in some simple way by displaying the images in slide shows, in a filmstrip view, and so on with access to other tools to open the images etc. Personlly, I'd like to see another folder in the file system that displays the Virtual PC computers in the Windows Explorer instead of having another tool sitting in the system tray (think of a thumbnails folder of all the VPCs).
  • Windows Server 2003 supports things such as hot-add memory which is great to have higher uptimes on servers running Windows Server 2003 on hardware that has support for this feature of course. However, Virtual Server does not support things such as "hot add memory" which would be great to have a higher uptime on the Virtual Servers as well. This is only workable if you're running W2K3 as the guest OS of course (maybe this is not the number one guest OS that will be running inside Virtual Servers since the Virtual Server product is developed to allow a smoother upgrade to a new infrastructure by allowing you to run other OS on top of W2K3 in virtual machines).
  • As mentioned earlier, some integrated tool to connect to several types of 'external desktops'.
  • Some visualization tool of the collection of Virtual Servers running in a network on a particular machine (think of network layout displays in MOM, the new ISA management, Whitehorse, etc) to allow you to see the IP-adresses, NICs, etc of all the Virtual Servers in one place.
  • Beside of a web administrator module for Virtual Server, I'd like to see a MMC snap-in as well.

I'm collecting some feedback right now to submit later on to the dev teams via the beta websites. "Huge testing of Virtual Server" is one of my Outlook tasks since a few days :-)

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