Pressure to Take Sides in Virtualization Wars Starts to Mount

By Michael Vizard  |  Print this article Print

As competition intensifies, the channel becomes the trench where the virtualization wars are being fought

There is no shortage of virtual machine platforms these days, but from a market perspective the dominant three are VMware, Citrix and Microsoft. What’s still a little unclear at this point is to what degree are solution providers going to need to support all three platforms.

In general, the Citrix Xen platform tends to be used primarily by cloud service providers that have lot of technical expertise and very little inclination to actually incur licensing fees. In contrast, VMware dominates the traditional enterprise market, while Microsoft is starting to make some headway, especially in the small-to-medium business (SMB) market as adoption of Windows Server 2008 continues to gain momentum.

The question that all begs is to what degree will customers need tools that cross multiple virtual machine platforms. Obviously, with the ability to support both Hyper-V and VMware virtual machines being included on Microsoft System Center 2012, the folks in Redmond think that there will be lots of instances where IT organizations will need to support both.

Doug Hazelman, vice president of product strategy for Veeam Software, a provider of Hyper-V and VMware backup and replication, and virtualization management tools, agrees. At the Microsoft Management Summit 2012 conference this week the company released Veeam Management Pack 1 10-Pack, a free System Center  2012 monitoring solution for VMware for up to 10 sockets.

While Microsoft System Center 2012 can manage VMware, Hazelman says the tools that Microsoft provides for monitoring VMware virtual machines are fairly limited. Veeam is betting that as Microsoft gains virtual machine market share, customers are going to want a set of robust tools for managing both environments. Otherwise, they will have to go to the trouble of acquiring and mastering multiple management frameworks, says Hazelman.

But Matthew Lodge, senior director for cloud service for VMware, doesn’t expect to see as much heterogeneity in the virtual machine space. He argues that most customers are going to standardize on the virtual machine platform that can handle the most diverse kinds of workloads, ranging from the simple file servers to the most mission-critical of applications. There’s really no reason, says Lodge, for customers to introduce additional levels of complexity just to bring in another virtual machine platform that doesn’t do anything that VMware doesn’t already provide.

Of course, not everybody sees things that way. Aaron Hollobaugh, vice president of marketing for Hostway Corp., a provider of cloud computing and hosting services, says that both Windows Server 2008 and the forthcoming Windows Server 2012 platforms are going to lead to a lot of usage of Hyper-V virtual machines because it will be able to handle 90 percent of most customers’ needs. Hostway is betting that as Hyper-V adoption increases, demand for cloud computing services based on Hyper-V will increase accordingly.

As part of effort to bolster the appeal of Hyper-V, Hostway this week released an OpenStack-compatible FlexCloud application programming interface (API) for Hyper-V environments. As OpenStack gains momentum, Hollobaugh says customers will want to integrate the OpenStack management frameworks they adopt on premise to manage their private cloud with cloud services based on Hyper-V.

Hollobaugh says that in the wake of the feuding between Microsoft and the OpenStack consortium, he expects that Microsoft will eventually roll out its own API, but that could take a while.

In the meantime, solution providers will probably wind up having to support all the major virtual machines platforms to one degree or another. That may not be technically ideal, but it does at least create cross-platform system management opportunities for years to come.