Microsoft, VMware and the coming VMwars

With the imminent release of Hyper-V, Microsoft's first true hardware-level virtualization offering, the goliath of Redmond may think it's clobberin time for VMware. Too bad it's about three years late to the party.

Had Microsoft struck earlier with a credible enterprise-grade virtualization offering it probably would have crushed VMware. But with VMware's mature VirtualCenter products and entrenched position in most enterprise virtual server deployments (not to mention the deep pockets of EMC behind it), this contest is looking more like King Kong versus Godzilla. Guess who's gonna get stomped? Hint: In the short term, it's not VMware or Microsoft.

Sure, Hyper-V is fast, it's tightly integrated with Windows Server 2008 (in an excellent product review, Tom Yager at InfoWorld calls it "a wafer-thin, host-optimized hypervisor") and Microsoft is practically giving it away with the operating system. The problem is, it doesn't work with VMware's ecosystem of tools, which only support the ESX hypervisor. Unless you're a small business, new to virtualization or have had your head in the sand for the last five years you're probably pretty well entrenched in the VMware ecosystem at this point.

But does the hypervisor really need to be proprietary at all? Yager says users who opt for Microsoft's proprietary hypervisor will get a "serious performance and scalabilty kick" from Windows virtualization at virtually no cost. But there is a cost: abandoning VirtualCenter on machines using Hyper-V. That that's a nonstarter.

But why should you be forced to choose between two proprietary hypervisor designs at all? By soley supporting its own proprietary hypervisor design, VMware may temporarily blunt Microsoft's movement into the enterprise server virtualization space. But both Microsoft and VMware are doing the enterprise user a disservice by continuing to pursue proprietary hypervisors in an effort to lock in the customer.

At least one CIO says he won't stand for it. To find out who, read my column this week.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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