Microsoft Hyper-V: On Hyper Drive
Here is what is going on with Microsoft and Hyper-V:
- From a technology perspective Microsoft Hyper-V is finally a viable alternative to VMware ESX. It has analogous functionality as well has some competitive advantages. It is being used for mission-critical applications in a large number of customers and this will continue to grow.
- VMware finally has a serious challenger and they don't get much bigger and more powerful than Microsoft. This is good for the users - competition raises the the bar on every level including pricing, service and technology. Microsoft is a real market threat to VMware and have the resources, brand and muscle in the Enterprise to change hearts and minds at the C-level. Further, they have leverage that no other company has in terms of everything they offer.
- Interestingly, Microsoft is getting something right that VMware has failed to do and that is delivering a compelling virtualized storage stack. SMB 3.0 provides unique capability and VMware has nothing that even comes close.
- MS still has some significant challenges - most notably Systems Center. vCenter is very easy to use and there are hundreds of thousands of IT folks trained on it. Systems Center is a bit of a bear and rather complex.
Incumbency is hard to overcome in part because the customers have invested time and money becoming experts as well as optimizing and tuning their environments. Ignorance is another challenge - there is a large IT population out there Microsoft has to educate and if they aren't willing to listen...
VMware is a sales and marketing machine and they are focused on one thing - virtualization. Microsoft has a huge portfolio of applications and solutions and therefore far less focused.
VMware has stumbled a bit over the last few years falling short of coming out with the NEXT BIG THING in the virtual data center. However, software defined networking and the NSX is very compelling and will give something else for Microsoft to address going forward. NSX isn't a slam dunk…yet… and VMware has a long road ahead driving it into the market - but it is compelling and has the potential to change the landscape.
- I am associated with the Virtualization Technology Users Group (VTUG.com), which consists of over 5,000 virtualization professionals and we are seeing some real traction with Hyper-V. We are talking to customers considering a multi-hypervisor strategy and some are actually sweeping the floor replacing VMware with Hyper-V. The motivation for this has largely been pricing with huge savings. Of course pricing isn't everything but if all other things are equal (or close enough to equal) naturally cost will be a major factor. Another very important factor is the channel. System integrators, VARs and resellers all are selling VMware - making it difficult to compete. Bringing Hyper-V to their customers creates another conversation and opportunity for the channel. I am seeing some channel partners really embrace Hyper-V as a way to differentiate themselves.
So what happens in the virtualization wars going forward? A large segment of VMware's customer base will be very loyal to them. However, Microsoft will continue to gain in market share getting both greenfield opportunities, as part of a multi-hypervisor strategy and completely replacing VMware in some cases. Microsoft is shooting for full-blown domination of the market re: NT crushing Novell. I am skeptical that this will happen - certainly not any time soon. However, I do believe Microsoft could eventually have the most installations as VMware continues to generate the most revenue. VMware therefore needs to focus more on how to get more revenue from their loyal base. EMC has done a great job doing this with their storage customers and I am certain VMware will take a page from their book.
Additionally, there will be large pockets of KVM (e.g. Sears with 10,000 and eBay with over 40,000 KVM installations) within the data center and Amazon EC2 outside the data center.
Microsoft is on fire. I have rarely seen them so aggressive, focused and productive. In terms of virtualization - they are acting more like a startup (in some ways) than a massive software company. They are developing real intellectual property in record time. It is actually a bit inspiring to see such a large company driving so hard on all cylinders to be a market leader. And talk about a war worth fighting - the virtual data center and the cloud are the future of IT.
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