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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

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

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.