Today, we announced that Virtual Server 2005 R2 is now available as a free download. You may think that virtualization technology primarily benefits administrators as part of server consolidation scenarios.  However, it is also incredibly useful in setting up a test and development environment.  Virtualization makes it easy to manage and deploy different versions of server software.  It is essential if you are going to be working with beta software.

In addition to being able to be run on Windows Server 2003, Virtual Server 2005 R2 can also be used with Windows XP SP2.  This is useful if you want to set up a standalone and/or mobile development environment.  It does require that IIS be installed, since it uses web pages as the mechanism for configuring and managing the servers.  IIS is only used locally, so you can use the Windows Firewall (part of Windows XP SP2) to block access to IIS from other computers.  (In fact, this is the default setting.)

So, if you've been avoiding using virtualization technology in your test and development environment, now is a good time to take a look at it.

-David