Wednesday, 11 July 2012 16:17

Microsoft Takes Aim At VMware Again, But Do They Even Have The Right Weapons?

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In Microsoft news of another, albeit similar, nature to what we have been seeing with Windows 8 and Surface it looks like Steve Ballmer wants to reignite the war between Microsoft and VMware. Ever since the launch of Windows 2008 Microsoft has tried to realize its vision of maintaining a data center eco system. They were more than slightly put out when VMware entered the scene and started pushing their new virtualization technology (including the hyper visor) around the market back in 1999. VMware’s continued success in 2001-2003 was something of a thorn in Microsoft’s side. It was this that led Microsoft to buy Virtual PC and Virtual Server from Connectix in early 2003.

Unfortunately for Microsoft simply owning the technology was not enough to get them into the lead. Despite releases of Virtual PC in 2004 and 2007 the product has not been the real focus of Microsoft’s efforts. Instead they have taken the core components and tried to make them work in a server environment their first effort was Microsoft Virtual Server (as you might have thought) and did not fare well in the market nor did the follow on Virtual Server 2005. Both products were functional, but not mature enough to supplant the rapidly growing VMware with their hypervisor and ability to load balance using VMotion. Much of the difference between Microsoft’s offering and VMware’s is the tight integration with EMC (yes the storage company) because VMware is owned by EMC they have an advantage in storage optimization that neither Citrix nor Microsoft can compete with (yet).

In fact it was this one little feature that hut Microsoft’s original release of Hyper-V project so much. It might sound like a small thing, but the fact that VMware based systems were able to move guest operating systems, in a live state, between different hosts AND storage was something that enterprise companies simply could not pass up. I can tell you that most companies were sold by that feature when you talked about virtualization; all we had to do was show a live server moving from host to host or from one storage device to another and they were sold. Microsoft did include a form of live state migration with Windows 2008 R2 (and the associated Hyper-V 2008 R2), but it was not as fast or flexible as what was available in VMware. Microsoft still does not support live storage migration in any released virtualization products (VMware supports both independently and a combined mode as well).

Microsoft also lacked a working way to manage all of the VMs in a given environment. They had a management tool, but it was cumbersome and annoying to use in most cases. Meanwhile VMware had their VCenter software that runs on Windows 2008 R2 server which is a very mature interface, accessible though the web and has a host of control and configuration features (including profiles for rapid host deployment).

We have been trying out Microsoft’s new version of Hyper-V in Server 2012 and while we can see very large strides in improving the platform it is not a VMware killer just yet. Still Microsoft is pushing this and offering a multitude of tools, training and support to help people migrate from VMware to their new virtualization platform. We have to wonder if they will be able to actually pull this off with some of the new technologies that both VMware and even Citrix’s Xen are pushing out to established and new customers. We have seen an increased adoption of VMware’s ESXi (free) virtualization platform along with Citrix’s Xen Server (the free version) in small businesses so Microsoft will have a hard time pushing this on an entrenched market. On the other hand, if Microsoft can find a way to reduce the initial cost to deploy Windows server 2012 and also bring additional features like a centralized firewall, application virtualization (which Microsoft only supports on a limited basis with additional licensing) and significantly improves their management tools (while again reducing the costs) they can start to make headway. Until that time, we do not expect to see them impact VMware sales or even the sales of Citrix; simply put Microsoft’s track record on virtualization is not with them here which is a shame. Perhaps Microsoft should have tried to move into this arena sooner and devoted more effort to it so they would not be so far behind in an area that they should be excelling.

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Read 3592 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 July 2012 12:54

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