Microsoft, Citrix Threaten VMware Virtualization Dominance: Study

A study by TheInfoPro shows that while VMware is still the dominant virtualization technology in the data center, IT professionals are increasingly willing to consider alternatives from Microsoft, Citrix and Red Hat for some workloads. The trend is away from a homogeneous data center to a more heterogeneous one, according to the survey.

VMware is still king of server virtualization, but as the use of the technology in data centers grows, so will the use of use virtualization products from Microsoft, Citrix Systems and Red Hat.

That is what market research firm TheInfoPro found in a study released Dec. 7.

VMware continues to lead all other vendors in the virtualization technology that IT professionals not only use now, but plan to use in the future, Bob Gill, manager director of server research for TheInfoPro, said in an interview. However, a growing number of people say they also have tested an alternative to VMware, with some of those saying they plan on deploying those alternatives.

"Some people are basically saying, -I've invested in VMware, but I'm not so far down the path where if someone came to me with something more interesting, we would go with it,'" Gill said.

The results of the survey are an indication that even as vendors preach greater homogeneity in the data center-such as VMware's virtualization platform and Cisco Systems' all-in-one Unified Computing System-users are still looking to use whatever technology makes sense at the time, he said.

VMware offers top-flight virtualization technology, Gill said, but "the whole beauty of VMware's offering is that it's a homogeneous sort of thing." To get the full benefit requires using the full platform.

What the users are saying is that while they might use VMware for their most important applications in production environments, they are willing to consider going with Microsoft's Hyper-V or Citrix's virtualization products for other workloads and in test and development settings.

Making Hyper-V even more attractive is that it comes as a free feature in Windows Server 2008 R2, which is the focus of the server refresh currently under way. Red Hat's virtualization also is inherent in its Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4, he said.

Price does appear to be a consideration.

"People are asking themselves, -Do I really need a Porsche when a Toyota would be good enough?'" Gill said.

The x86 virtualization field is a wide open one, Gill said. Most businesses that use virtualization are running it on 10 to 15 percent of their servers, he said. That will grow as businesses continue to look to save money in part through consolidating workloads on fewer servers.

"An awful lot of folks are still at a very primitive level" of virtualization use, Gill said. Microsoft, Citrix and Red Hat can take advantage of those numbers to gain greater traction in the space.

To be sure, IT professionals who are using VMware are happy with the products, he said. There are few complaints and little desire to reduce or eliminate their use of VMware technology. It's just that users also are willing to entertain alternatives.

The numbers bear that out.

Just over 75 percent of those surveyed said they currently are using VMware, but almost two-thirds said they have tested a hypervisor other than VMware-Microsoft and Citrix being the vendors most cited. Of those two-thirds, 27 percent said they plan to use the alternative product, while another 20 percent said they may use it.

Only 2 percent of VMware customers said they had firm plans to switch to an alternative, while 9 percent were considering it.

VMware users on a whole aren't switching away from those products, but many seem interested in creating a heterogeneous environment.