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Microsoft Corp. has released the first beta for its Virtual Server 2004 to a select group of customers and expects the product to be generally available in the first half of this year.

Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., in February acquired the Virtual Machine assets of Connectix Corp., a privately held company in San Mateo, Calif., that has been involved in Virtual Machine (VM) technology since its inception in 1988.

Since then, the engineers in Redmond have been putting Virtual Server through a security review as well as adding new features and functionality such as SCSI support, dual-node clustering, improved control through an enhanced Com API (application programming interface), as well as integration with the Windows Server management infrastructure, like Microsoft Operations Manager and Active Directory.

Eric Berg, the group product manager for Windows Server in Redmond, Wash., told eWEEK in an interview on Wednesday that the beta program consisted of some 30 joint development partners and 15,000 users who had signed up for its early customer preview last year. “We expect the product to be released to manufacturing by the middle of this year,” he said.

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