Computer-in-a-computer idea gains ground

Software giant Microsoft and start-up VMware are bringing closer to reality a technology for running multiple instances of an operating system on a single computer. The technology, called virtualization, is a layer of software that isolates programs from the hardware they run on. In the near term, Microsoft hopes to use the idea to support customers with newer computers that must run older programs. But VMware is further along in a strategy to make its software a key part of the utility computing concept popular in the industry.

Microsoft plans to announce Monday that it has finished development of a new version of Virtual PC for Windows. The software, dubbed Virtual PC 2004, will be available to Microsoft's volume license customers and on retail shelves later this year, the company said. The same day, VMware plans to release new management software that it revealed details about in July under the name Control Center. The software now is called VirtualCenter, said Michael Mullany, vice president of marketing.

VMware also has released a software development kit, so companies such as IBM or HP can more easily integrate the VMware software into their utility computing technology. BMC Software, Computer Associates International, Veritas Software, Hewlett-Packard and IBM are using the kit for that integration task, VMware said. VMware's main software line now is designed for servers--networked machines for data storage and processing. Microsoft's Virtual Server product, though, isn't expected until early 2004, and for now, the software giant is focused on PCs.

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