Microsoft vs. VMware: Companies lose the battle – Part 1

Microsoft has just released Hyper-V, its new hypervisor software that will be the foundation of virtualization on Windows Server 2008. This release will force VMware to finally confront a dangerous opponent in the market of virtualization of Windows servers. Unfortunately, Microsoft has decided to follow in the footsteps of VMware by choosing their own unique way of doing things, and VMware also refuses to cooperate. The result: IT departments are faced with the need to choose between two mutually incompatible virtualization options.

Virtualization is based on a fine code, called hypervisor, which is located on the hardware and abstracted from the Windows virtual servers running on the upper level. The primary purpose of hypervisors is to redirect requests between multiple virtual machines and the original hardware, so that each VM believes that the hardware is its own.

Many foresaw that the hypervisor would evolve into a standard commodity and that the innovations by which suppliers would differentiate themselves would occur at the software level. However, that is not what has happened. On the contrary, the struggle for this market resembles a battle between Titans, in which two major manufacturers—practically monopolies in their respective markets—are battling it out with their designs.

In any case, it looks like the market is leaning towards VMware. “We have never thought that the hypervisor could become a technological commodity. If it were a commodity, it would imply a complete absence of differentiation,” says Ben Matheson, Director of Marketing for VMware.

Microsoft, which owns the operating system, has already launched Hyper-V and has announced that the final version of the software. For its part, VMware—the clear leader in the market of Windows server virtualization with its ESX offer—continues to refine its tools within the VirtualCenter suite. As a result, over the next year, users will be forced to choose between two piles of virtualization management that cannot be used together because each is fundamentally different.

A tiny piece of code

However, the truth is that what VMware and Microsoft are fighting over is a tiny piece of code (in fact, Hyper-V is only 800 KB) sandwiched inside the standard platform of the Wintel industry; just between the standard x86 plate and the standard operating system, Windows.

However, this tiny piece of code can be an important weapon for Microsoft in a market in which it might otherwise have come too late. In fact, with the imminent launch of Hyper-V, Microsoft’s first real virtualization offering on the hardware level, the Redmond Titan is expected to win back lost time from VMware, which is currently the clear market leader after three years with practically no competition.

If Microsoft had come to the market with a realistic virtualization offer earlier, it probably would have crushed VMware in the field of Windows servers. But now, after more than three years in the business, VMware has achieved a good standing for its VirtualCenter system—a set of already developed and proven products—and enjoys a strong position in most of the corporate server deployments and, of course, the solid financial support of the EMC group. In other words, VMware is much better off now. Who will be defeated in the battle? Of course, in the short term, it will be neither VMware nor Microsoft.

Hyper-V is fast and deeply integrated with Windows Server 2008, and Microsoft intends to offer it with its operating system almost for free. Its only problem really lies precisely in its inability to work with VMware tools, which support only ESX. And, unless they are small companies that until now have not introduced virtualization or some of the few big ones that have not heard these proposals, potential Hyper-V customers have probably already been heavily committed with the VMware tools.

Therefore, companies that opt for the Microsoft hypervisor will have a highly integrated, high-performance, scalable and virtually free solution to Windows virtualization. But in reality, many of them will pay a price: they will have to sacrifice VirtualCenter on machines where they want to use Hyper-V.

Thank you CIO for inspiring this article.

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