Microsoft chief positions Longhorn as mainframe and Unix killer

Speaking on the opening morning of Microsoft's Tech-Ed IT Forum in Barcelona, Bob Muglia, Senior Vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, was bullish about the software giant's chances of moving up the enterprise ladder.

The high end of business systems is traditionally the playground of custom designed systems and Unix mainframes. But Muglia claimed that both the new-found abilities and scalability of Microsoft SQL - in the form of SQL Server 2005 - and more importantly the advent of virtualisation, would enable CTOs to migrate large business infrastructures wholesale to Windows platforms.

He said that in contrast to the situation in the past, there are now "no business problems that cannot be solved" with x86 hardware running Windows.

When it came to keynote demos, the overview of Vista as a business client OS to the assembled group of over 4,000 IT professionals verged on the apologetic, being limited to a quick demo consisting of showing off live preview (hovering the mouse over the taskbar for a real-time display of an application's window), the 3D task-switcher capability and a run through of Vista's search facilities.

More convincing was the real emphasis: the server-side and infrastructure tools. The main attraction - and the theme of the whole of this year's IT Forum - is virtualisation. Rakesh Mahorta, the Group Program Manager of Microsoft System Center, demonstrated a Longhorn Server machine running three virtual machines simultaneously, each with different operating system images: Longhorn server, Windows Server 2003 x64 and Suse Linux Enterprise 10.

"The number one reason behind virtualisation is consolidation", he said. To this end he used the Virtual Machine Manager Administrator Console to dynamically increase the RAM dedicated to one of the virtual machines while it was running; the virtual machine's Task Manager immediately reflected the change.

He also claimed it's possible to increase or decrease the number of physical CPUs a virtual machine has access to, allowing for the virtual machines' loads to be balanced across the physical server without upsetting them.