The Virtualization Room

Jun 3 2008   10:28AM GMT

Hyper-V could benefit from VMware’s Xen-based competition

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

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If Hyper-V doesn’t convert the VMware faithful as soon as Microsoft makes its hypervisor generally available later this year, it may get a little help from its friends: Xen-based virtualization platforms.

Some like IT consultant Ardalan Dlawar believe that Microsoft will leverage support for Xen-based platforms to increase competition with VMware. “And Xen will have more third-party support and fewer compatibility issues,” according to Dlawar.

Despite user arguments that ;Hyper-V will have to deliver more than a lower price tag to win users, Hyper-V will certainly get consideration from many VMware customers. While organizations want to maximize their VMware investment, especially enterprise customers which deploy tens or hundreds of VMware virtual machines, Hyper-V evals will most likely be deployed, according to Andi Mann, the research director at Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).

Based on a survey of more than 600 enterprises, EMA found about 30% of enterprises have already planned a Hyper-V deployment even with Hyper-V’s general availability several months away. In addition, Microsoft is actually within 10% of VMware in current and planned enterprise deployments according to EMA’s data. Also consider this EMA finding: Xen-based platforms already account for more than 40% of current or planned deployments, the data suggests that the market demand for VMware alternatives won’t disappear.

“VMware is still way out in front in server virtualization,” said Mann, “but both Microsoft and Citrix Systems are definitely catching up.”

Of course, VMware and Microsoft aren’t the only options available. As managers continue utilizing toolsets available from Xen-based products such as Citrix’s XenServer and Virtual Iron Software, VMware and Microsoft are both working on tool sets that enable users manage their virtualization counterparts respectively.

“Both VMware and Microsoft understand that they are not going to be the only players on the market, they recognize that customers are leveraging their competitors’ technology in different parts of their businesses,” according to Adnan Hindi, the VP of operations at ScienceLogic in Reston, Va. Hindi said that companies like his, which produces cross-platform appliances, will benefit from multiple-platform virtual landscapes. As shops continue to see benefit in the utilities that Xen-based products offer, Hindi sees a universal virtualization tool set ultimately working itself out; these tools would essentially equalize platforms in the market and dilute decision making in choosing a virtualization platform largely down to cost.

Over the past year, there’s been a lot of talk about VMware’s cost of VMware. But the price of VMware Server is right for small businesses, said Brett Riale, an IT consultant in Pittsburgh, who feels “truly blessed that programs as functional as VMware Server have been released for free.” Riale is hesitant to trust another Microsoft virtualization product after “the debacle” that was Virtual Server 2005. “Unless it absolutely outperforms VMware,” Riale said that he won’t consider Hyper-V in the near future. And Dave Baughman, a systems administrator for Muncie, Ind.-based Ontario Systems, thinks that his ESX system is “a consistent platform” and that the price of support is worth their investment. “Most of the cost is for support and (VMware’s) support is very good,” says Baugham.

But what will happen when all the Microsoft customers with enterprise agreements get a taste of Hyper-V support? Or if Microsoft offers more third-party support for Xen?

Howard Holton, a system engineer, said that market share will shift in Hyper-V’s favor.

“Hyper-V is an excellent solution for many of those that cannot afford the steep cost that ESX server requires,” says Holton, who has already has a positive experience working with the release candidate and points out that for most data center operations, VMotion’s High Availability (HA) is overkill. “Hyper-V fits into the market below VMware for hosts that do not need true HA.”

Holton said that in the long run Hyper-V might win out over VMware because Citrix’s XenServer has finally given Xen a roadmap. XenServer is the spoiler, with a lower TCO than VMware. Although price hasn’t deterred Holton from delivering VMware to his customers in the past, he predicted that Hyper-V will only increase in value.

“As a value-added reseller in the small to midsized space, VMware is the leading virtualization product that I offer. That is changing.”

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