Microsoft has said that system management will be its way of standing out from the crowd in the virtualisation market.

Windows Enterprise and Management Division General Manager Larry Orecklin said that as the market for virtualisation software, such as Microsoft's Hyper-V, would eventually be commoditised, "Management becomes really the thing we believe is critical to ensuring customers can get full value from the virtualisation opportunity."

Orecklin said that for all the hype around virtualisation, fewer than 10 percent of data centres are virtualised today, according to research firm IDC. The reason for the slow adoption is that once companies began to virtualise their environments, they realised that the economics and logistics of managing them was quite difficult, he said.

Because of this, Microsoft aims to make easing management headaches the key to its virtualisation strategy rather than to battle competitors purely on the technology, Orecklin said. "Rather than either go fight for that 10 percent, [we're] actually fighting for the 90 [percent]," he said.

Microsoft has been slow to offer built-in virtualisation for its Windows Server platform, letting competitor VMware take a sizeable lead in the virtualisation market. The company had intended to release Hyper-V as part of Windows Server 2008 in February, but delayed it until six months after the OS came out because Microsoft opted to remove some originally planned features.

"I would love to have had this product (Hyper-V out sooner," Orecklin acknowledged. The product is currently available in beta as a feature of Windows Server 2008 and will be available in July in full release.

Microsoft is so keen on making management the linchpin of its virtualisation strategy that it plans to open up management for other virtualisation platforms, such as VMware and XenSource, with its Virtual Machine Manager tool, which it released last September. Virtual Machine Manager is part of Microsoft's System Center set of data-centre management products.

The current release of Virtual Machine Manager supports only Virtual Server, Microsoft's stand-alone virtualisation technology. Once it is released simultaneously with the full production release of Hyper-V in July, Virtual Machine Manager will support Hyper-V and VMware ESX virtualisation.

The following version of Virtual Machine Manager, the details of which have not yet been discussed publicly, will extend management to XenSource's virtualization product, he said.

Microsoft plans to outline its virtualisation strategy further at its Microsoft Management Summit next week, said Orecklin, who suggested that a beta of Virtual Machine Manager with support for Hyper-V and VMware ESX also will be available at that time.