VMware's version of data center flexibility leaves out Microsoft, Citrix tools

Despite vSphere rollout, virtualization market leader still refuses to support rival hypervisors

VMware Inc. is promising new levels of flexibility in the data center with vSphere, the "cloud operating system" that it announced today. But it is still refusing to support competing virtualization products with its management tools.

Microsoft Corp.'s System Center Virtual Machine Manager is capable of managing virtual servers created both with its own Hyper-V technology and VMware's ESX hypervisor. Citrix Systems Inc.'s virtualization tools also can manage rival products.

But despite the presence of Hyper-V and Citrix's XenServer, and the fact that many data centers use multiple virtualization products, VMware has consistently claimed that there is no market pressure being put on it to support competing hypervisors.

"We're taking the stance that if and when there is a critical mass for something to be supported, we will support it," said Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's vice president of product marketing.

In announcing vSphere, the new version of its hypervisor and related management tools, VMware said the new technology would give users the ability to aggregate large amounts of virtual resources into a centrally managed computing pool. (See the related story "Does VMware vSphere solve IT's worries about cloud?")

Nonetheless, VMware's customers would rather see the company spend time improving its own software than managing other hypervisors, Balkansky claimed.

But VMware's parent company, EMC Corp., has taken the opposite stance with Symmetrix V-Max, a new storage array designed for use in virtualized data centers. EMC has optimized V-Max for both VMware's hypervisor and Hyper-V, although not for XenServer. "We see right now that the majority of customer demand is for VMware and Microsoft," explained Bob Wambach, EMC's senior director of Symmetrix marketing.

EMC can't afford to turn aside Microsoft, noted Laura DiDio, an analyst at Information Technology Intelligence Corp. But whether VMware should support Microsoft and other virtualization vendors isn't so clear, according to DiDio.

When asked if VMware supporting only its own hypervisor promotes vendor lock-in, DiDio said, "Of course." But, she added, "that's a tricky tap dance all the vendors are playing. They don't, in any way, shape or form, want to support other people's platforms. However, given that it's a buyer's market, they can't appear to be too recalcitrant, because the customers will push back and say, 'Hey, you don't care about us.' They have to give lip service to it."

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