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Microsoft and VMware go toe-to-toe over server virtualization

There has been a LOT of talk lately about the “war between VMware and Microsoft” for virtualization supremacy.

Obviously, this has been a topic of conversation ever since details of Hyper-V began to emerge a couple of years ago. Still, the question of how big a dent Microsoft could make in the virtualization market always seemed – at least on some level – hypothetical.

Now, however, (especially with the addition of Live Migration to Hyper-V) the question has become, if this really is a “war” – can Microsoft actually win?

Well, I suppose it depends on how you view the battle. As we heard last week from analyst Tony Iams, Microsoft and VMware are really heading in two different directions at this point. Here is what Microsoft has working in its favor though:

    1. Most people aren’t ready to adopt VMware’s datacenter vision, meaning they are more comfortable running a Windows OS and adding apps to it.

    2. VMware can no longer use the “Live Migration trump card”, as R2 has officially filled that hole.

    3. Cost favors Microsoft – especially with small and medium-sized businesses, which would rather use a free Hyper-V over the pricier, fully-functional version of VMware ESXi.

    4. Windows 7 is getting rave reviews. The idea here is that those who either A) need to get off of XP or B) hate Vista will likely move to Windows Server 2008 R2 (or at least the standalone Hyper-V R2) as well. Also, you can argue that Windows users are comfortable with Windows, and thus will find Hyper-V easier to pick up.

Of course there are plenty of other factors that could make for some tough terrain for Microsoft. Here’s what the company still has to contend with:

    1. They were still late to the game. Despite its rapid maturity, Hyper-V is still quite young compared to VMware’s products, and large enterprises that are already acclimated to VMware or Citrix won’t see much reason to make any changes. This leads to…

    2. If VMware owns the large enterprises, Microsoft will have a hard time catching up with SMBs alone. It has to make a dent with big companies – not impossible, just more challenging.

    3. While the advent of Live Migration is a major step, most experts still argue that VMware’s management capabilities easily beat what Microsoft has to offer – System Center or no System Center.

    4. Security with Hyper-V has come under attack recently, but it really depends on who you ask. The argument here is that since Hyper-V is built on Windows, and Windows is prone to attacks, then Hyper-V is in turn more vulnerable as well. And this is true. Then again, others will argue that VMware systems can also get hit, and as long as you properly patch and protect your OS, Hyper-V will be covered.

    Both valid arguments, but even if Hyper-V is perceived as unsecure (whether it’s fair or not), it’s yet another obstacle for Microsoft to get past in order to catch its competitors.

    5. No matter what you may have heard, Hyper-V will not speed up deployment of Windows Server 2008 R2. The truth is, most organizations are just now getting started with Windows Server 2008, and very few are expected to move to R2 once it’s released in October.

So that’s a basic outline of the battleground. The question now involves how each company will move its pieces across the board. (Wait a second, I’m starting to mix up my analogies. Maybe we should wrap this up…)

So what do you think? Is Microsoft primed to make a serious run at VMware with its improvements to Hyper-V version 2? Or does it still have a long way to go before having a real shot?

For more info on Hyper-V and Windows Server 2008 R2, visit

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