VMware Execs Say Microsoft Hyper-V Still Playing Catch-Up to vSphere

Rolling out a new vSphere version 5.1 at VMworld 2012, VMware executives said competitor Microsoft's Hyper-V is still just a "good enough" alternative to its technology.

SAN FRANCISCO-At the VMworld 2012 Conference here VMware introduced vSphere 5.1, its cloud infrastructure and management suite on Aug. 27 and while doing so couldn't resist making a dig at rival Microsoft's virtualization and cloud offerings.

The vSphere upgrade, along with various upgrades to products within the suite, comes at the same time when Microsoft is preparing to release Windows Server 2012, which also manages virtual and cloud environments and includes its Hyper-V hypervisor.

In a challenge to VMware, Microsoft touted a "Switch to Hyper-V" program for partners and resellers at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto last month to encourage them to convert VMware customers to Microsoft.

At VMworld, however, CEO Paul Maritz voiced skepticism that Microsoft has finally developed a true contender to VMware's offerings.

"In the virtualization space their strategy for the last seven years has been to say 'Our product is good enough,'" Maritz said of Microsoft, at a news conference after he and his successor as CEO, Pat Gelsinger, delivered keynote addresses at the conference that is drawing 20,000 attendees to the Moscone Center, plus thousands more online.

"This is the third or fourth product release that they say is good enough. The reality is that people's expectations of what is needed are rapidly changing," Maritz said. Today, he said, enterprise customers' demands are not just for server virtualization, but for virtualization of the entire data center, including storage, and networking.

While VMware keeps an eye on competitors, it pays more attention to "executing on our strategy of the software-defined network," said Bogomil Balkansky, senior vice president of cloud infrastructure products at VMware.

"Nobody today on the market can offer customers nearly the comprehensiveness and reliability of a complete cloud infrastructure management suite" that VMware offers, said Balkansky.

VMware made a key play in the software-defined networking space by acquiring Nicira for $1.26 billion. The acquisition of Nicira was completed Aug. 23, said Gelsinger. Software-defined networking adds a control layer to the network to deliver intelligence that manages the switches and routers in the network to improve speed and efficiency.

Microsoft is touting Windows Server 2012 as having matched, if not exceeded, several VMware performance specifications. In a demonstration at the partner conference, Microsoft showed that Windows Server 2012 can deliver more than 1 million input-output instructions per second (IOPS) from a single virtual server, versus only 300,000 IOPS on a VMware virtualized server.

Microsoft has also exceeded performance specifications compared to Windows Server 2008 R2, the OS being replaced with Windows Server 2012. They include the following: increases in the number of logical processors on server hardware, to 160 from 64; in the amount of physical memory, to 2TB from 1TB; and in the number of virtual processors per host server, to 1,024 from 512.

One industry analyst said Microsoft appears to really have a serious challenger to VMware in Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V version 3.

"Something I joke about with Microsoft is that they have a proven track record of getting it right the third time," said Chris Wolf, a research vice president at Gartner. "Hyper-V 3 has all of the core features that enterprise clients are looking [for] to virtualize their Windows workloads, at a bare minimum. So we expect Hyper V to be very competitive with VMware moving forward."