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5 things VMware must do to fend off Microsoft

Jon Brodkin | March 2, 2010
The industry's biggest x86 virtualization vendor is facing a strong challenge from Microsoft, which is enticing IT executives with Hyper-V, an alternative that may not be quite as sophisticated as VMware but is less expensive.

"From a performance or tuning perspective, as folks grow their VMware installations they're running into issues," Turner says. It's not that VMware doesn't provide diagnostics tools, it's just that they're only good if you're an expert in using them, he says.

"Either VMware needs to prevent you from growing to the point of that kind of installation, or they need to provide very simple diagnostic tools to help you understand what's going on," Turner says.

"Virtualization management is really crucial," says Laura DiDio, lead analyst with Information Technology Intelligence. "Simplifying things with respect to management and interoperability is going to be important."

If Microsoft and Citrix grow significantly in popularity, VMware may also be forced to manage multiple hypervisors. So far, VMware has insisted Microsoft and Citrix aren't used by enough customers to justify the expense of adapting VMware's management tools to multi-hypervisor environments.

Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager is capable of managing virtual machines created both with Microsoft's Hyper-V platform and VMware's ESX hypervisor, and Citrix provides management capabilities for both Citrix XenServer and Hyper-V.

Analysts say many data center pros are installing multiple hypervisors, rather than VMware only. If this trend continues, the willingness of Microsoft and Citrix to manage multiple types of virtualization platforms may give them a leg up.

VMware has built up a long list of partners to enhance its own technology, but so has Microsoft, Wolf says. Switching workloads from Citrix to Hyper-V is also easier than switching workloads from VMware to a competing platform, he says. That's because VMware is the only vendor using the Virtual Machine Disk Format, rather than Microsoft's Virtual Hard Disk format, according to Wolf.

"In the big picture, Microsoft is going after VMware with a -- dare I say it -- more open platform," he says.

According to Balkansky, the disk format and multi-hypervisor management issues are low on the list of customer concerns.

Balkansky says he recently spent a week meeting with customers and "those questions didn't come up a single time in a week of customer visits. … What does come up is, as customers deepen and extend the virtualization footprint, there is a need to manage that extensive virtual footprint in a more scalable, automated and disciplined fashion."

5. Don't overhype the cloud

Nearly every IT vendor is hopping on the "cloud computing" bandwagon, attaching the word cloud to any product that might remotely be related to cloud computing. VMware has made some not-so-subtle shifts in this direction, calling its main virtualization platform a "cloud operating system." And while VMware used to refer to itself as "the global leader in virtualization solutions from the desktop to the data center," the company now calls itself "the global leader in virtualization solutions from the desktop through the datacenter and to the cloud." The expansive title appears in the first sentence of every press release VMware issues these days.


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