Microsoft Hyper-V Takes On VMware on Virtualization: Will the Mighty Fall?

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Can Microsoft's Hyper-V really challenge the lock that VMware's virtualization software currently enjoys in the enterprise? Many enterprises plan to deploy Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, which comes with Microsoft Hyper-V. And while it won't replace VMware overnight, many IT professionals say: "You can't beat free."

On the surface, VMware’s unshakable stronghold in the enterprise so far seems unchallenged by the likes of virtualization alternatives from vendors such as Citrix and Microsoft.

But although VMware ranked top among best vendors in TheInfoPro’s most recent survey of IT leaders at about 300 enterprises, there is just the barest hint that Microsoft may be gaining a foothold—something that could disrupt the promise of dynamic servers and workloads.

That’s because Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, which many enterprises say they have deployed or plan to deploy, already ships with Microsoft’s Hyper-V inside, giving Microsoft that foothold in the enterprise for its virtualization software.

And IT professionals interviewed for TheInfoPro’s research said that they already have Hyper-V deployed or they plan to deploy Hyper-V, albeit for servers and tasks that are not considered mission-critical, according to Bob Gill, managing director of server research at TheInfoPro.

"People are saying, 'You can’t beat free,’" Gill tells Channel Insider. "That’s exactly the same strategy Red Hat has. You can’t buy the server without the virtualization."

And while Microsoft’s Hyper-V may not be a big threat to VMware in the next 12 to 18 months, its mere deployment in small parts of the enterprise could ultimately hurt VMware’s reputation and stronghold.

That’s because VMware’s original promise of virtual servers and workloads that could be dynamically moved from one physical location to another only works in homogeneous environments, says Gill.

"You can’t even have mixed chip sets if you want to take advantage of that dynamic functionality," he says. And once you add another hypervisor, such as Microsoft’s Hyper-V, into the environment, you stand to lose the promise of the dynamic workloads and servers, according to Gill.

While IT professionals say that it is their long-term goal to take advantage of the dynamic servers and workloads, they also realize they will not be able to do so with a mixed environment. And yet, paradoxically, they are adding those elements into their enterprises anyway.

The Holy Grail is for someone to come along with a management tool that can handle such mixed environments. There are people working on such tools, including PlateSpin before Novell acquired it. Other likely candidates may be IBM through Tivoli or Hewlett-Packard through OpenView, according to Gill, who adds that such a tool would seriously damage VMware’s business because it would open the door to mixed environments.

But as of today, VMware was ranked as the top vendor of both hardware and software, and the company’s software was ranked as the top software by enterprise professionals interviewed for TheInfoPro’s research.

"Very few VMware users have established any plans to move from VMware to an alternative," says Gill. But two-thirds have studied an alternative, and half of those say it’s likely or possible that they may use an alternative.

And as vendors such as IBM and Microsoft have shown, even the mighty can someday become vulnerable.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com