Microsoft versus VMware: IT loses

Microsoft versus VMware: IT loses

IT faces a choice between two virtualization options that are incompatible.

Microsoft, VMware and the coming VMwars

From Robert Mitchell's blog

With the imminent release of Hyper-V, Microsoft's first true hardware-level virtualization offering, the goliath of Redmond may think it's clobberin time for VMware. Too bad it's about three years late to the party.

Vendor efforts to continue to differentiate at the hypervisor layer are reminiscent of where networking was more than 30 years ago, when everyone thought they could do networking better. Gradually, the market came to accept the idea that by moving to a standard substrate (TCP/IP over Ethernet) and innovating higher up the software stack they could get a piece of a much bigger pie. With virtualization, vendors aren't yet ready to see the bigger picture. Today, it's still about speeds and feeds. (Says Matheson: "We can support more virtual machines than Microsoft's [hypervisor] can.")

If all server-based computing is in the early stages of a mass migration onto virtual machines, the lack of a standard hypervisor for Windows will only serve to retard that transition. That vendors feel compelled to compete at this level shows just how nascent virtualization technology is, despite the fact that many enterprises now depend on it. The appearance of an incompatible Microsoft hypervisor is also leading to a sense of caution. After all, many IT operations have already heavily invested in VMware products.

MGM Mirage has standardized on VMware but is otherwise a Microsoft shop. "VMware doesn't work on all of these [Microsoft] products today," says CIO Tom Peck. It can get away with that because it was first to market and has a more mature management framework for the enterprise, he says, but he's not happy about the idea that his VMware management suite won't work with Hyper-V. When I spoke with Peck, he was preparing to travel to VMware for a meeting. "These are some of the exact topics we'll talk talking about," he says.

The virtualization battle between Microsoft and VMware leaves Peck and other CIOs feeling a bit stuck. On the one hand, they want to leverage Hyper-V, a lean software layer that has been performance-optimized for Windows. But doing so means abandoning VMware's Virtual Center and associated management tools such as VMotion and Distributed Resource Scheduler. Microsoft's virtualization management offerings are nowhere near as advanced, and VMware has no intention of making its tools compatible with Hyper-V. "There's not much value in doing it," says Matheson.

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