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Microsoft tries to hit VMware where they ain't

Facing an uphill battle in wooing existing virtualization customers, Microsoft executives say initially they expect the biggest market for Hyper-V to be among companies that aren't already using server virtualization.

In Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner is wary of building a baseball diamond on his farm, which is already near foreclosure. But a voice tells him, "If you build it, they will come."

Microsoft has the same vision for its virtualization technology. Several years in the making, Microsoft's Hyper-V officially entered on Thursday a field dominated by VMware and other competitors, including the open-source Xen product.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Bill Laing told me that he understands his company faces an uphill battle in trying to win over customers that have been using VMware and Xen, in some cases for many years.

"I think we'll do best initially in 'green field' opportunities," Laing said. "Small business, I think, is a completely green field. In the enterprise, where customers haven't deployed (another virtualization technology), I think we'll do well."

Over time, Laing said he wants Microsoft find its way into data centers that already use VMware.

"I think it will take longer to rip and replace, but that's certainly our ambition," Laing said.

As expected, Microsoft announced on Thursday that it has finished work on Hyper-V. For now, Microsoft is making Hyper-V available for download via its Web site, though it plans on July 8 to make it an option via Windows Update. By releasing it now, the company is following through on its pledge to ship the virtualization hypervisor within 180 days of the release of Windows Server 2008.