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Intel, Microsoft Collaborate Virtually

Intel and Microsoft lifted the veil on further collaborations around the chipmaker’s virtualization technologies, including efforts to let two of the companies’ key management products interoperate.

At the top of the list is a coming Intel add-in for Microsoft’s Systems Management Server that will let it interoperate with Intel’s Active Management Technology (AMT). Intel also trotted out a specification for assigning input and output devices to virtual environments.

The AMT add-in will enable network managers, using SMS, to perform management tasks on PCs on their networks equipped with Intel AMT. Because AMT stores hardware and software information in non-volatile memory, tasks can be performed even if the computers are turned off, or have a failed hard drive or operating system.

Intel also introduced a new specification – named Intel Virtualization for Directed IO but shortened to “Intel VT-d” – meant to enable mapping of input/output devices to specific virtualized environments.

Existing users of SMS 2003 will be able to begin using the new capabilities with the advent of Intel’s Professional Business Platform, code-named “Averill,” set to be delivered in new PCs later this year. Intel’s Professional Business Platform will combine Intel’s latest microprocessor, chipset, communications and software technologies, according to an Intel statement.

Microsoft also announced that Intel’s VT will be supported in Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 Release 2 Service Pack 1, which the company says is scheduled to begin beta testing within the next three months. In addition, the service pack aims to improve isolation to help keep one corrupt virtual machine from corrupting others on the same system, and to provide improved performance for non-Windows guest operating systems.

The service pack will also provide an important transition to the Windows hypervisor, which will be delivered in the wave of products surrounding the release of Windows Server “Longhorn,” according to a Microsoft statement.

Meanwhile, virtualization platform vendor VMware said that it plans to support Intel VT in its enterprise class ESX Server by the second half of 2006, and that it plans to enable support of Intel VT–d in its enterprise virtualization products, including VMware ESX Server, for “upcoming Intel platforms.”

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.