Microsoft Becomes the Alternative in Hostile VMware Territory

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-09-02

Microsoft Becomes the Alternative in Hostile VMware Territory

SAN FRANCISCO-Microsoft as alternative. This is certainly not a typical notion, but in the context of VMworld 2010, it absolutely fit.

The world's largest application and operating system software maker is not nearly in as familiar waters when it comes to data center middleware, although it has a healthy and growing business in that sector.

As one might imagine, Microsoft-because of its competing Hyper-V virtualization layer, among other products-was not particularly welcome under the Moscone Center roof here while VMware was renting the place for VMworld.

That would explain why Microsoft representatives on Aug. 31 were literally pushed into the farthest corner away from everything and assigned to a tiny cubicle on the VMworld floor for a briefing with eWEEK.

VMware was definitely making a statement.

A small delegation from Seattle, including David Greschler, director of virtualization strategy, and Mike Neil, general manager of Windows Server and Server Virtualization, met with eWEEK.

On that day, Day 2 of the conference, Microsoft ran a full-page ad in USA Today to warn potential customers about possible VMware "lock-in" before signing up for the latter's virtualization services. My eWEEK colleague, Nick Kolakowski, discussed this in his Microsoft Watch blog.

This indeed is an interesting turn of events, with Microsoft-one of the world's most proprietary IT shops-warning others about vendor lock-in. Guffaws from members of the open-source software development community can be heard on just about every continent.

In case you missed that day's print copy of USA Today, here is the message Microsoft spent some $90,000 (according to current USA Today national run rates) to publish in the newspaper:

Dear VMware customers,

VMware is asking many of you to sign 3-year license agreements for your virtualization projects. But with the arrival of cloud computing, signing up for a 3-year virtualization commitment may lock you into a vendor that cannot provide you with the breadth of technology, flexibility or scale that you'll need to build a complete cloud computing environment.

Microsoft believes cloud computing, which lets you store information and programs in data centers and access them from almost anywhere with the same ease as accessing a website, represents the biggest opportunity in decades for organizations to be more agile and cost-effective. Information Technology is evolving into a service accessible from almost anywhere, anytime, and any device. Virtualization clearly played a role in enabling this move toward IT services by simplifying the deployment and management of desktops and data centers, which is why we made virtualization part of Windows Server. However, virtualization represents only a stepping stone toward cloud computing.

Imagine never having to set up a server, update an operating system or build a database system. That is the promise of cloud computing: the ability to access core services quickly and roll out legacy software and new applications at Internet scale without having to deal with today's deployment logistics, which exist even with a virtualized data center. In other words, if you liked the efficiencies and cost savings of virtualization, you'll love the cloud.

At Microsoft, we already offer many of the brands you know, use and trust today as cloud computing services, including Microsoft Office, Exchange, SharePoint and SQL. In addition, our cloud computing platform, called Windows Azure, lets organizations migrate legacy applications and roll out new programs written in .NET, Java, Ruby-on-Rails, PHP and Eclipse across multiple data centers so they are accessible at scale from almost anywhere.

If you're evaluating a new licensing agreement with VMware, talk to us first. You have nothing to lose and plenty to gain. Not only is Microsoft's server virtualization solution approximately one-third the cost of a comparable solution from VMware, but also a recent Microsoft study of 150 large companies showed those running Microsoft virtualization spent 24% less on IT labor on an ongoing basis (Learn more at Most importantly, as you build out the next generation of your IT environment, we can provide you with scalable worldwide public cloud computing services that VMware does not offer.

Learn how Microsoft can help your business with desktop, data center and cloud computing. Call us or learn more at

We appreciate your business.


Brad Anderson
Corporate Vice President, Server & Tools Business
Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft Clarifies Its Version of Cloud


"We wanted to clarify what we see as 'the cloud,'" Greschler told eWEEK. "They [VMware] talk about a stack, but it's very much a disconnected stack-between this new infrastructure they've got [vCloud Director], and this new [vSphere] platform.

"There is really no connection between the two. When they were showing some of the connections that were out there, it was all just clouds built on virtualization."

Microsoft takes a completely different approach, Greschler said.

"We've got virtualization with Hyper-V and System Center, Windows Server and so on. We've also got Azure and a whole suite of, in effect, software services-Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server and so on," Greschler said. "What we've done is made sure that there is a very strong connection between virtualization and the cloud."

Windows Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as an offsite development, service hosting and service management environment. Using this Microsoft-owned-and-operated system, users can run enterprise workloads in the cloud; build, modify and distribute scalable applications with minimal on-premises resources; perform large-volume storage, batch processing, intense or large-volume computations; and create, test, debug and distribute Web services.

For example, from a management perspective, Greschler said, "Microsoft System Center can, from a single pane of glass operations manager, manage an on-premises virtualized cloud, a third-party hosted virtualized cloud and Azure. You can just watch it all.

"For a development perspective, you can take .NET apps-virtualized or not-and you can obviously run them as you always have, but you can also move them into Azure.  A lot of people think Azure is just about new apps, which is really how VMware is positioning their platform. Ours is very different."

Microsoft understands that data centers are going to have a mix of on-premises, third-party hosters and public cloud applications. "We want to make it completely seamless between them," Greschler said.

Microsoft is extending improved identity and security software and services out to the cloud as well, Greschler said.

"What we wanted to make clear to customers [in the open letter] that: a) we've got a very strong connection between virtualization and cloud; and b) we've got a cloud that's out there [in Azure]. What they're [VMware] really just talking about is virtualization."

Microsoft questions scalability, elasticity in VMware cloud

Just taking your application and moving it into a VM running somebody else's service isn't giving you any of the benefits of the cloud, Neil told eWEEK.

"It won't give you that scalability or elastic behavior for applications that have capabilities to take advantage of that," Neil said.

"Here's the real stark contrast," Greschler said. "Why is virtualization so popular? Server consolidation; much easier to do business continuity; rapid provisioning. Look at those benefits in the context of a public cloud: To get server consolidation-forget it. We're talking about server elimination. Don't worry about servers anymore. Business continuity? With virtualization business continuity, you still have to set up your network, etc. ... and that's where VMware is still talking.

"What we're talking about with Azure is: Put it on our network-we have data centers all over the world-and it just runs. There's always the battle of live migration, vMotion, blah, blah, blah ... those issues go away with a real public cloud," Greschler said. "And costs, also, tied to all that."

Microsoft has more than 10,000 customers currently running their applications on Azure, Greschler said.

Many people would call that vendor lock-in.

"We wanted to remind everybody that the vision they're [VMware] sort of spinning but don't really have, we've already got today, and it's available now," Greschler said.

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