Although on the Windows virtualization team here, it's heads down working on the next generation of virtual machine support to be built into Windows Longhorn server with a "hypervisor" architecture, we're absolutely not sitting still on the Virtual Server 2005 R2 product which became free a couple of weeks back.
There will be a couple of beta releases of Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 - today we are announcing the availabilty of beta 1. You can download it by applying through Microsoft Connect. You'll need a passport account to log on to that site. Scroll down to the bottom and click Apply. It could take up to 24 hours to get an email back with the link for download.
So what's in Beta 1? Functionally, the main change is the support for Intels VT processors which provides hardware assistance for virtualization support. What does that mean? If you're running on a VT enhanced processor, NON-Windows guests will run much faster as we're no longer performing ring compression as part of the emulated environment (note you can choose to turn VT support off). However, Windows guests will run at parity in terms of performance as we already performing optimal tuning through the use of VM Additions. Windows guests will get a significant boost during the install process though, the time before you have an opportunity to install the VM Additions. The host clustering white paper and the associated VB Script I blogged about back in November last year, this is now included in the box.
Moving forward to what's going to be included in Beta 2, we'll add support for hardware assistance in the AMD chipset (aka Pacifica), integration with Active Directory to allow you to identify VM Host machines in a consistent manner, plus one killer feature (IMHO) - VSS support. This will allow you to take a snapshot of a running VM for backup - something I've had so much feedback from people to put into the product. More details to follow on that closer to the time.
Timewise, current schedule dates for Beta2 and released product are last quarter 2006 and first quarter of 2007 respectively.
Once again - the registration link is here.
Any questions, let me know.