Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition goes Free

I guess that now I'm part of the VM team rather than being an "inside-outsider", I can blog this authoritatively. Not that it's the best kept secret in the world - it appears that someone from Microsoft leaked this information to several sources last week :(, although from what I can see, it was as publicised as "rumoured".

Well, the rumour is indeed true. From today, 3rd April 2006, the full version of Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition, both 32 and 64 bit, is free - there is no charge. This has a number of points requiring clarification.

First, the difference between standard and enterprise editions. They are, functionally, idential apart from the amount of memory and physical processors supported. Hence, in effect, there is no reason to continue using standard edition - it can be effectively considered a "redundant" product. Standard edition will no longer be available, but will be fully supported if you continue to use it. Of course the upgrade to Enterprise edition is pain-free should you choose to go that route.

Second is the why part. Although there are many reasons (see presspass site), the nutshell answer is relatively straightforward. If you look into the future of where we're heading with Windows Virtualisation in the Longhorn Server timeframe, virtualisation can be thought of as a "commodity" - commonplace, extensively used and most importantly free functionality out of the box. Windows Virtualisation will include full migration capability from Virtual Server 2005 R2 to Windows Virtualisation, so this is somewhat of a no-brainer to get people onto the next release.

More details can be found on the Microsoft Presspass site
The home page of Virtual Server 2005 is here
Download & CD Order Page can be found here

[Link to later blog entry about availability of Linux additions for Virtual Server 2005 R2]



Comments (14)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I still like VMWare better than Microsoft Virtual Server, mostly because I’m more familiar with VMWare, but it is nice to know that free enterprise (pun intended) still works in the US.

    It is even better news for Windows 2003 R2 since you can run 4

  2. Anonymous says:

    Not the best kept secret I know (and so do you all by now), but the press release is here,

    In summary,…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yup that’s right free for ever, and never expires.  And it fully supported in production environments,…

  4. Anonymous says:

    Co-inciding with the announcment of Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition being free, it was also…

  5. Philipp Kohn says:

    Hi John,

    I appreciate this step by MSFT, but wondering if this involves any change to the supported scenarios. How long will Virutal Server 2k5 R2 be supported?

    Is it safe to rely on this product to virtualize a production enviroment. (Support Policy)

    Are the Roadmap changes too?

    Regards Philipp Kohn

  6. Hi Philipp

    Absolutely, 110% and more! Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition is fully supported for production use and recommended to use in production. Further there will be a full migration path to Windows Virtualization in the Longhorn Server Timeframe. Virtual Server 2005 will remain fully supported according to the standard support lifecycle (I need to look the end date, but normal policy is 5yrs standard support plus 5 years extended support).

    The only changes in this announcment are that standard edition is no longer available (but of course is supported), and the pricing for Enterprise edition going to free.

    This announcement does not affect the future roadmap in any way.

    Hope this helps.



  7. Philipp Kohn says:

    Hi John,

    yes this helps… I had the suspicion that MSFT would going to slowly take the product out of the market => let it slowly die…

    So when the only change is that it´s free.. then I will use this product without concern … => very cool

    This brings virtualization more and more up even for smaller businesses..

    BTW: Today (Tuesday, April 4, 2006, at 12:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time). is a very interesting webcast about W2k3 R2 and VS’05 R2 by WindowsITPro, I watch it for sure:

    Regards Philipp Kohn


  8. llee says:

    After VMWare went free on their VMWare Server, it was already known that it was just a matter of time until MS did the smart thing also.  As a feedback to the VM/VS team, please improve the performance.  Although the performance has improved in VS, it is nowhere near the performance of VMWare.  On the other hand, the web based feature of VS beats the Windows form only base of VMware.  

    To the people who do not like VS web front end, there is the client in your prgrams directory for remote control (alot of people who complain do not know this).

  9. LLee – thanks for the feedback. Will pass it on. I wasn’t aware that some people weren’t aware of the VMRC program for remote control… I see another blog entry coming on 🙂 Quick question about the performance to complete the feedback though – do you mind me asking which version of VMWare? Server (architecturally similar to Virtual Server) or ESX (architecturally "more similar" (quotes deliberate) to Windows Virtualization in the future)?



  10. llee says:

    John, the products I am comparing are VMWare GSX Server 2.1 and MS VS 2005 R2 (GSX latest non free version I am using which recently gone free/beta).  This product is equivalent to MS VS 2005, in that the Host OS available is Windows 2003.  I am not speaking of VMWare ESX, which can not be compared with any Virtualization product currently of MS.

    As far as VMRC, quite a few people (even Fortune 500 companies in Houston) do not know of this and only rely on the web front end, and they complain (I personally like this).  I have to show them VMRC and an unsupported client by one of the MVP which is richer in the interface – attempting to resemble VMWare UI.

    For VS 2005 and beyond, performance is the KEY item for me and the clients I work for.  

    Secondly, having multiple snapshots will be a factor.  VMWare Server will have this eventually – just like the VMWare Workstation.  If you have not tried the multiple snapshot feature, you are missing  ALOT.  I am not talking about the complexity of child disk or differncing disk – much easier and elegant.  As MS says, simplicity.  

    Lastly, we need tools around Virtual tools from MS.  For example, you guys provide the Virtual Migration tool, and other loosely based tools around VS – that will not cut it.  People even prefer to buy 3rd party rather than use something free from MS due to its complexity and loose couplings.  Release some free tools around management and migration (P2V – even V2P) and I assure you that more people will switch over eventually.

    Sorry for the long post, but now at least I know someone listens.  I have been a user of virtual technology since VMWare 1.x, thus I know the goods / frustrations among the products.

  11. Thanks – I’m very glad to take on board any comments people provide – customer feedback and comments is the best way to make sure we’re heading in the right direction. I’ll make sure these comments get to the right people in the group, but FWIW, most of these are known about loud and clear (VMRC was a new one to me). There are several MSFT partners who have management tools for P2V (and V2P) such as PlateSpin and LeoStream if you weren’t aware. We have a team dedicated to working on increased management capability and more info will be released publicly soon, I hope.



  12. Josh Christian says:


    I am in complete agreement with LLee.  PlateSpin and LeoStream have tools, but they are at a cost.  VMWare’s P2V is a free download ( as is Citrix Xen.

    Why would anyone pay extra to a thrid party to switch to a virutal platform to leverage the ability to convert to a .vhd?  That would require managing an additional vendor, complicating the support structure.  I can install ESXi server or Xen Server, get convert for FREE, and have the same support staff help me troubleshoot issues all covered in one license.  That means a lot when dealing with budget approvals, a busy IT staff, and considering the 12 other vendors we have to deal with on a daily basis.

    Hyper-V has some beinifits from what I see, like the ability to leverage the windows platform for Driver compatability issues that cause a lot of issues today in Xen and ESXi.  But to get companies to see a quick ROI, they need an ability to test new software (VHD program (done:, and a quick way to convert current mission critical machines to the platform.  I don’t think Platespin or  LeoStream is a worthy comparison of products, nor do I see the business value of using, and paying for a thrid party license to migrate servers to a consolidated Microsoft Plaftorm.

    Think of the business Value, how do  you get a company to consolidate servers on the worlds most successful Server platform?

    1) you provide a competitive virtualization platform for consolidaion , Hyper-V

    2) you provide tools from the same provider to quickly convert current infasturcutre for quick ROI.

    3) you provide tools to speed deployment of new Microsoft OS deployment and licnesing, generating further Revenue for Micorsoft, and increased ROI via server consolidation to customers.

    That doesn’t even hit on cometitive tools for Virtual Lab enviornments, desktops etc.


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