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VMware's Maritz shoots back at Microsoft

There is an elephant in the ballroom at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Here at VMworld 2008, CEO Paul Maritz could no longer ignore Microsoft.

LAS VEGAS -- VMware Inc.'s new CEO Paul Maritz is familiar with Microsoft's marketing.

He was a top executive at Microsoft for many years, after all, and witnessed its rivalry through the 1990s with Novell Inc. He recalled that he had his team scheming of ways to put a Microsoft logo on the pillow slipcovers of attendees at a Novell event.

That rivalry didn't turn out too well for Novell, and now Microsoft is aiming its guns at VMware.

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Microsoft has a history of creeping up on market leaders, and industry pundits point out that the software giant does have better prices than VMware, and that could sway customers now stepping into virtualization. Microsoft also has a large customer base within which it can cross-sell.

Microsoft bombarded the market with its own virtualization strategy kick-off earlier this month, but its presence here at VMworld 2008 has been low key. The lackeys are passing out betting chips emblazoned with claims that VMware products are too pricey.

"The fact that mighty Microsoft is forced to come down here and hand out tchotchtkes…it tells you something," said Maritz, speaking to press after the keynote.

As for the blizzard of product announcements Microsoft has made in the recent weeks and months leading up to VMworld -- its standalone free hypervisor, a virtual desktop infrastructure suite with Citrix, AppV 4.5, and its dynamic IT cloud computing strategy -- Maritz said Microsoft is following VMware's lead. And, after all, copying is a form of flattery he said.

"Microsoft basically said VMware has great features so we're going to knock them off one by one and sell them cheaper…in two years," Maritz said. He was referring to Microsoft's late hypervisor entrance as well as not coming out with a live migration feature for virtual machines, which won't ship until Windows Server 2008 R2 is released in 2010.

Maritz does not downplay the threat, adding that like any software company, VMware is a target. The company cannot afford to wait around and see what Microsoft, or anyone else for that matter, does next.

Maritz laid out his three-part plan of attack that centers on a new virtual data center operating system, a virtual cloud computing strategy called vCloud and a desktop virtualization initiative called vClient. The three initiatives are connected in that the end goal is to isolate application workloads and deliver them to end users on a device of choice.

One example he demonstrated was the ability for the sales department, for instance, to call IT with a request for a particular application or service to be delivered to a set of users in a given time frame. Based on policies set within the virtual data center OS (vCloud and vClient), such a process can be automated and delivered as a service by the internal IT staff.

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