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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.