Strange Virtualization Bedfellows

Michael Vizard

Although Microsoft has gotten a lot of criticism for being overly focused on its goals versus customers' needs over the years, a decidedly more practical approach to partnering has definitely taken hold in Redmond.Case in point is Microsoft's relationship with Riverbed Technology. In Windows Server 2008 Release 2, Microsoft not only added Hyper-V virtualization software, it also included a BranchCache capability that is essentially a low-end version of an application acceleration offering.

Prior to the release of Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft had a established a technology partnership with Riverbed under which Riverbed was hosting Windows Server 2008 on its Steelhead appliances as a guest operating system on top of VMware in branch offices with Microsoft's full consent. The purpose of the offering was to allow customers to run Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint on top of a virtual server in a branch office that are augmented by Riverbed's WAN optimization software.

In the old days it's arguable that once Microsoft put virtualization software and WAN optimization software into its operating system, the Riverbed alliance would have been quietly shelved. And yet today, Riverbed and Microsoft are announcing a continuation of that alliance under which Riverbed will support Windows Server 2008 R2 as the first company certified by Microsoft under its Server Virtualization Validation Program.

According to Venugopal Pai, vice president of global alliances for Riverbed, the Riverbed offering differs from BranchCache in that is supports bi-directional traffic, is significantly faster, and works with clients other than Windows 7. So Microsoft may still need Riverbed when it comes to support higher-performance application scenarios. But even so, when it comes to partnering in the interests of the customers, a decidedly more practical approach seems to have finally worked its way into the Microsoft psyche. This may be a reflection of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer overall approach to running the company.

Whatever's driving this approach, the good news is it appears that this new open-mindedness appears to have finally been embedded into the minds of Microsoft managers at a lot different levels inside the company. That may not mean that Microsoft Office is going to be running on Linux any time soon. But then again, as Microsoft gets more use to the idea of being one of many in a diverse IT ecosystem, anything could be possible.

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