System virtualization vendor VMware Inc. is readying a new release of its software for desktop users that adds Windows Vista support and an integrated virtual debugger that will let programmers clean up code within a virtual machine (VM) directly from Visual Studio.
VMware hasn't announced the general availability date for Workstation 6.0, but given the company's track record of moving from a first beta to general availability in six to eight months, it's on pace to ship by early summer. An updated beta release candidate was distributed in late March.
While the Palo Alto, Calif.-based subsidiary of EMC Corp. has busied itself adding new workstation tools for developers and software testers, Microsoft in February released an updated version of its free desktop virtualization technology that observers say poses little threat to VMware's market dominance. VMware, Microsoft and major open source players, meanwhile, continue to focus their efforts on server virtualization for IT departments.
Workstation 6.0's new integrated virtual debugger and automation APIs -- as well as Vista support and multiple-monitor capability -- were added with applications developers and testers in mind, says James Phillips, VMware's senior director of virtual software lifecycle automation.
"Say you're working on code in .NET to do automatic trading for a financial services [app]. From within your IDE, you can say, 'I want to build that.' The compile will happen. Then the compiled code is pushed over to a target virtual machine. You can interact with that virtual machine with the debugger in Visual Studio, or in Eclipse," Phillips says.
In Workstation 5.5, which shipped more than a year and a half ago, a developer has to start a VM, copy the code to it and then configure the IDE to point at the VM by hand. "An awful lot of manual effort goes into configuring and getting the code in the right place. That's all seamless now. No flipping around between the [VM] and the IDE," Phillips says.
Microsoft Virtual PC 2007, the latest version of a product Redmond inherited four years ago when it bought Connectix Corp., was released as a free download in February to some grumbles over its lack of support for non-Microsoft operating systems. Virtual PC likely will be of interest to IT departments looking to smooth migration from Windows XP to Vista by at first running the latter on a VM, but it may not have direct appeal for software developers and testers.
"You can never discount Microsoft because they have the deep pockets to do whatever they want to do. But the question ultimately is: Do they decide to pursue Virtual PC?" says Clay Ryder, president of the market and technology research firm The Sageza Group Inc. "I haven't heard a lot of talk about Virtual PC, but, of course, the same could've been said about Internet Explorer years ago."
If Microsoft does decide to jump into the desktop virtualization market in a big way, it would be starting from third place behind VMware and open source firms such as XenSource, notes Ryder. "It's not like Microsoft can just put a stake in a green field and say, 'Oh, come all ye faithful.'"
Microsoft officials declined to comment.
Pricing for VMware Workstation 6.0 hasn't been announced yet. The current version costs $189 to download or $209 in shrink-wrapped form.
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