Microsoft vs. VMware: Companies lose the battle – Part 2

Signs of an immature market

But is it really necessary for hypervisors to be a proprietary technology? Efforts by Microsoft and VMware to differentiate their hypervisors remind us of the networking situation thirty years ago, when all power suppliers believed in different technologies (Token Ring, Ethernet, ARCNET, etc.). Gradually, however, manufacturers have accepted the idea that taking a common standard (TCP/IP over Ethernet) and concentrating their efforts on innovation in the upper levels of the software stack, stimulates the growth of the market as a whole and, consequently, the value of the manufacturer’s own share of the pie. It seems that in the case of virtualization, suppliers are not yet ready to see the situation from this perspective. Today, speeches still revolve around concepts such as speed and feeds, but probably the market itself will finish by imposing its own rules.

If all server-based computers are in the early stages of a massive migration towards virtual machines, as many analysts argue, the lack of a standard hypervisor for Windows will only delay this transition. The fact that manufacturers focus on being different and unique shows that virtualization is still an immature business. The problem is that, despite this immaturity, many companies are already dependent on virtualization. Also, the idea of the emergence of a Microsoft hypervisor that is incompatible with VMware is already encouraging business to take extra precautions. As a result, they tend to delay their investments in such technologies to see where the market finally opts out of fear of being tied to the wrong technology. After all, as has been said, many IT departments have already invested heavily in VMware products, but know only too well the power of Microsoft, which, moreover, is the very manufacturer of server platforms (OS) for virtualization.

When we ask ourselves why VMware would want to make its hypervisor incompatible with Hyper-V, the answer is clear: by offering its own hypervisor design, VMware, the current market leader, would temporarily hinder the rapid entry of Microsoft into the server virtualization space. If they were to support Hyper-V, they would risk losing control over their own destiny.

But the truth is that both Microsoft and VMware are acting to the user’s detriment by continuing to follow their policy of proprietary solutions as a means of keeping their customers prisoners of their products. One of these customers is MGM Mirage, a company that has standardized its virtualization on VMware virtualization, but, which can be considered a Microsoft environment. “VMware does not work on all of our Microsoft products today,” explains CIO, Tom Peck, who believes that VMware has a more mature management system for the company. Of course, Peck does not like the fact that this manufacturer’s suite will not work with Hyper-V.

In the end, the client loses

The battle for virtualization between Microsoft and VMware makes Peck—and many other CIOs—feel trapped. On one hand, Hyper-V is a fine software whose performance has been optimized for Windows. However, by opting for such an alternative, you abandon the VMware Virtual Center and all the management tools associated with this product, such as VMotion and the Distributed Resource Scheduler. And, at least for now, Microsoft’s virtualization management options are not nearly as advanced.

To oppose the advantage of proprietary surrounding the close integration of Hyper-V with Windows Server 2008, VMware has developed ESXi-a lighter version of the ESX hypervisor—which uses only 32 MB—that some server providers are already embedding in their hardware on internal USB flash disks. VMware does not want to reveal what it costs server manufacturers for ESXi, but the incremental cost to buyers will probably be negligible. For its part, Microsoft is selling Hyper-V for $28 and might possibly give it away for free in most cases.

Why $28 dollars and not zero? “When Microsoft gives away things for free, suspicions always arise,” says Ward Ralston, product manager for Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008. “We cannot give it completely free of charge precisely because of who we are,” says Ralston referring to the various manufacturer’s meetings with the bodies responsible for monitoring competition in different geographic areas for the implementation of monopolistic practices. However, the fact is that the two competitors-VMware and Microsoft-are providing their respective supervisors virtually free of charge, as has been said, abducting the customer.

Will there ever be a standard hypervisor?

So, regardless the arguments of the two opposing sides, this competitive battle is not meeting the needs of corporate IT managers, who want a common hypervisor that allows them to choose the stacks of management tools they use.

In this type of situation, you should ask yourself the following questions: 1) Will there ever be a more open and standardized hypervisor for the Windows server market?

2) Will this battle end in the same way as the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, with only one proprietary winner? Peck believes that enterprises will demand openness. “The winner will be the most open and interoperable,” he says. “At the moment, neither one is.”

Manufacturers still need to go through the necessary process of reflection and maturity to reach such a conclusion, which may take a couple of years. For now, Microsoft and VMware seem determined to use everything they can to gain market domination.

Thanks to CIO for inspiring this article.

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