Microsoft is finally catching up with VMware by offering live migration with its hypervisor.

The company announced that Windows Server 2008 R2, which has just been made available for download, will contain the ability to migrate between two CPUs of the same make, even if they're different models.

Microsoft had previously had this ability only for identical processors but now the company offers live migration across different CPU versions within the same processor family, for example, Intel-to-Intel. What the company does not yet offer migrating across platform from Intel to AMD or vice versa.

According to Microsoft, the feature works by abstracting the VM to the lowest common denominator, enabling migration across a broader range of Hyper-V host hardware.

This ability is not before time. The company has failed to make a dent in the virtualisation space since the launch of Hyper-V in June last year with many users citing the lack of live migration as a factor.

According to Neil Sanderson, Microsoft's UK's product manager for virtualisation and management, Microsoft's main strategy has been to focus on the products as a whole. "Much of the reporting from TechEd hsd gone about Windows 7," he said. "But you can't separate the desktop from the infrastructure.

Sanderson said the launch of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) R2 within the next 60 days would be significant. New features will include management functionality for storage migration, SAN enhancements, rapid provisioning and live migration checks.

He said that Hyper-V should be considered as a part of a dynamic Microsoft IT strategy using the SCVMM management tool. Management is fundamental to virtualisation, specifically the ability to manage the physical and the virtual. He said features such as the rapid provisioning would enable dynamic allocation so that it could carry out live migration automatically,

He said that the benefits of the integrated approach would be particularly seen in desktop virtualisation.

"We offer two types of virtualisation: presentation virtualisation and the virtualised desktop (VDI). "With R2 we offer own broker that will enable users to choose between these two types of virtualisation. That breadth of solution is very attractive to customers.

Other features of the R2 launch include the ability to handle 64 logical processors, up from the current 24 being handled. The company said that this was because 64 processor (eight processors and eight cores) servers were now becoming standard. Sanderson said that he couldn't say when Hyper-V would offer migration between different vendors' processors "We don't see this as key. Most migrations will be between one vendor's servers," he said.

Microsoft has made the right noises, said Chris Wolf, virtualisation analyst for the Burton Group but the company still has some way to go. "Live migration was definitely one of the features that VMware had that was hitting Microsoft so this is definitely a significant step."

Wolf said that Microsoft still had someone to go. "They haven't offered memory overcommit in R2. That's definitely an advantage that VMware has." He said that although Microsoft had tried to play down the significance of this, users were clear that VMware had the edge here. "Many virtualisation features would clearly benefit from memory overcommit and Microsoft should offer it as soon as possible.

According to Wolf, the other element that was missing from R2 was the lack of extensions for SCVMM. "It's definitely suffering from the lack of 3rd party add-ons, " he said.

But Microsoft was on the right path, he said. "I can see R2 making some penetration in SMEs but I think we'll have to wait for the next release cycle before it starts making its way into larger enterprises," he added.