It’s a VMworld After All — But For How Long?

Will pressure from Microsoft, Citrix and Red Hat prove to be too much opposition for VMware's now precarious lead position?

In a recent survey of 500 IT professionals, the numbers of VMware instances might not be shrinking but others are growing at a rapid pace. While ubiquitous virtualization players, VMware ESX and ESXi, enjoy a greater than 90% data center penetration, Microsoft’s Hyper-V is making progress. Just under a third of the respondents stated that they use VMware exclusively, 43% use VMware plus other technologies and a solid quarter use no VMware at all.

What do these numbers mean for VMware? VMware-only users aren’t likely to change technologies at this point, since they’ve made significant investment in hardware and licensing to support the technology. And those who don’t use VMware at all aren’t likely to due to pricing, hardware restrictions or technology limitations, but what about those whose data centers share space with VMware and other hypervisors? That 43% is where VMware is most likely to lose weight in future corporate IT diet plans.

Microsoft’s Hyper-V

Microsoft delivered a significant smack in the face to naysayers and anti-Microsoft opinionates when they made their incredible new hypervisor available free of charge. Additionally, their quantum leap improvement in Hyper-V’s second release (R2) hasn’t hurt their position in the race for data center dominance. 26% of the respondents in the survey said that they are using Hyper-V as part of their virtualization strategy.

Most data centers are home to a diverse operating system population but it’s obvious that Microsoft dominates with an impressive 91% residence rate. That said, there are those who feel that an all Microsoft solution creates too much vendor lock-in. However, Microsoft is doing its part by loosening its historically awkward licensing schemes to the point where an Enterprise version of Windows Server 2008 also includes an operating system license for four Windows Server 2008 virtual machines. A stressed budget makes Hyper-V a very economical choice.

Citrix XenServer

Free is better than cheap and it’s light years better than expensive. Performance, Citrix support and an ever-growing array of associated tools are the reasons why Xen is the definitive cloud-computing vendor’s choice. Those seeking a cost-free and non-Microsoft hypervisor should check out XenServer 5.5. Once you try it, you’ll be tempted to redefine virtualization as xirtualization.

For those of you who decide to mix your hypervisor technology, Citrix offers its Essentials package for XenServer and Hyper-V management.

Red Hat’s KVM

Do you want to know why Red Hat made the Qumranet purchase last year? Look no further because the answer is built-in enterprise-level open source virtualization. Red Hat’s model is to provide virtualization to every Red Hat customer and make that technology a ubiquitous one in the process. With the introduction of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4, virtualization is now a core part of the operating system optimized for performance and ease of use.

Their KVM brand of virtualization offers the best possible choice for your virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or for hosting companies providing dedicated virtual machines at a manageable price point for their customers.

VMware isn’t resting on its innovation haunches, though; their virtual machine management, support and tools are the best in the industry. At any price, you’ll never find yourself unemployed for choosing VMware but the heat of competition might make the justification a bit more difficult than it was a couple of years ago.

With VMworld 2009 freshly in our collective rear-view mirror, it’s time for VMware to turn its focus back to improving virtual machine performance and to taking a difficult look at revising its current pricing structure. Once technologies entrench themselves into a corporate culture, it’s difficult to unseat them—especially if those entrenched ones have a zero dollar price tag.

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