Microsoft Wants a Bigger Slice of VMwares Pie

However, an analyst says VMware is more agnostic than Microsoft, which will benefit it in mixed environments.

BARCELONA, Spain—VMware is taking a lot of money out of the current hardware environment with its virtualization product offerings, and Microsoft wants to participate in that value chain, according to Bob Kelly, Microsofts corporate vice president of infrastructure server marketing.

Microsoft differentiates itself from VMware on two main fronts: the breadth of the way it thinks about virtualization and management at all layers—the physical, virtual and application, Kelly said in an interview with eWEEK at its TechEd IT Forum conference here.

"With Windows Server 2008 and our hypervisor, Hyper-V, which is built into the product, we have the fabric to be able to solve customer issues around disaster recovery and business continuity, which is something VMware doesnt have," he said.

But to analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group, what Microsoft is doing is tightly integrating its Windows operating system and the virtual machine, whereas VMware is more agnostic.

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Three versions of Windows Server 2008 will include Hyper-V. Read more here.

"On a Windows-only machine, that will give Microsoft advantages but likely prevent them from owning the virtualization layer on machines running mixed environments," Enderle told eWEEK. "Kelly is also forgetting that VMware is part of EMC, which is better at disaster recovery and business continuity, particularly in mixed environments, than Microsoft currently is."

The relationship between VMware and parent EMC also highlights what will be an interesting dynamic going forward: how much of the competitive pressure will come from VMware the child versus EMC the parent, he said.

Asked if Microsoft would ever allow true cross-platform management, Kelly said Microsoft recognizes that as customers move further into the highest ends of the data center, cross-platform management becomes more important to them.

Microsoft recognized and responded to that, he said, pointing to its hypervisor support for other platforms and letting its Virtual Machine Manager manage, configure and optimize virtualized systems running VMware VI3 and the open-source hypervisor Xen.

However, the real value the software giant can offer customers is depth of management. "Go and look at [Hewlett-Packards] OpenView and [IBM] Tivoli—theres no such thing as depth of management," he said.

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Is VMware a dead duck? Find out here.

But Kelly was evasive when asked if Microsoft plans to build all the solutions to manage or deliver cross-platform applications, saying that is a business-by-business decision. However, Microsoft has moved to offer multi-operating-system support as guests, as well as having its tools such as Virtual Machine Manager manage all those platforms, he said.

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"So, the signals are all there that we take this seriously, but we are very cautious about a number of these things for lots of reasons," Kelly said. "One is that our expertise is in Windows and it would be somewhat of a deviation from our core value proposition, which is fine and we can do that, but we just havent made that step yet."

Enderle doubts that Microsoft will ever take that step, saying that it is just not a cross-platform company. While it has shown "impressive strength in interoperability, cross-platform management will likely be done better by companies like VMware and HP, which are operating system-agnostic," he said. "Microsoft will, of course, do Windows very well, but I dont expect them to be good at managing other platforms."

However, Microsoft is going to try to ensure that Windows is the platform onto which everyone consolidates, and to develop the tools to manage that environment, according to Kelly. "But, beyond that, were not ready to say," he said.

Asked whether Microsoft is at a disadvantage given that its Hyper-V technology is set to ship late next year while Red Hat Linux and Novells SUSE Linux have already shipped with the Xen hypervisor, Kelly said that although he would have preferred that Microsofts hypervisor be done already, the market is still very young.

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Microsoft pledges to make the Hyper-V hypercall API widely available. Read more here.

"I do not feel that we are lagging others, especially given how young this market is. Server virtualization is on less than 5 percent of shipping new servers, so, yes, its a very hyper scenario right now with a lot of dollars being thrown around. Would I like to participate in that scenario more than I can now? Sure," he said.

However, the market will shift quickly to the needs of virtualization around more than just the server, especially as the ability to separate logical from physical permeates the entire stack. That shift will occur over the next five-plus years, he said, so it is still the early days on that front as well.

Enderle disagreed, though he noted that, while Microsoft is clearly late to this party, its market share is such that it offsets that tardiness significantly.

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Read about VMwares updated free offering here.

Also, the multicore systems that will really scream when running multiple virtual machines are just now coming to market at attractive price points, giving Microsoft time to catch up. "Microsoft should be able to overcome that disadvantage if they execute sharply," he said.

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