If there was one thing missing from Microsoft's Virtual Server product, it is and has been for some time now a centralised management tool. But now, it appears as though Microsoft has heard the call and answered it by preparing a Virtual Server Manager code-named Carmine. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of information known about the project right now.

What has been reported is that Carmine will not be as sophisticated as VMware VirtualCenter but that it will provide users with the ability to add, delete, move and patch virtual machines on its virtualisation platform. But is that enough? And is it too little too late? And when can we expect it? And how much will it cost? There are so many questions.

But VMware isn't wasting any time, and it doesn't seem to be fazed by the news. It seems to be on track with delivering its own product, a new version and more up-to-date version of VirtualCenter and combining it with a newer release of VMware ESX Server, version 3.0. Both products are on target to be released by the end of this quarter.

With the known features that ESX Server 3.0 and VirtualCenter 2.0 are going to offer, it's no wonder VMware hasn't skipped a beat with the announcement of project Carmine. VMware plans on adding four-way Virtual SMP support, Distributed Resource Management (DRS), and Distributed Availability Service (DAS) offerings with the new releases keeping it a few more steps ahead of the game, even with Carmine on the horizon. Package that in with the already available VMotion and P2V Assistant, and it seems like the fight rages on.

It is like watching a really well played chess match between two experts. When one offensive move is made, it gets countered and with an equally strategic move. There are still too many questions, and too many unknowns.

When do these products come out? Will prices get cut? Will products become free? What other features will get released? This is a match worth watching, and I can only think that the ultimate winners will be the customers as we continue to get great products from both companies, and hopefully with continuing cheaper prices.