With the release of software that manages both virtual and physical machines and multiple hypervisors, Microsoft may now have a tool that differentiates itself from VMware Inc.
System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008 becomes generally available November 1 and will cost $1,304 for the license and two years of Software Assurance (SA). Also available is a server suite management license, which includes four System Center products in addition to VMM 2008 at a cost of $1,497 with two years of SA.
Perhaps a major strength of VMM, certainly from the perspective of managers in Windows shops, is its similarity to the other Microsoft System Center platforms. "When you see it, it's natural and that's a big deal to administrators," said David Payne, CTO at Xcedex Inc., a Minneapolis, Minn., integrator.
The VMware management tools are less integrated, more cobbled together, he said.
Prior to the release of VMM 2008, VMware often touted the superiority of its virtualization management features. Its virtual machine migration capability, VMotion, for example, precedes a similar Microsoft feature by at least several years. Microsoft won't offer anything similar until it releases Windows Server 2008 R2 in 2010.
But because it can manage ESX as well as Microsoft's own Hyper-V, Microsoft's management scope is broader than that of VMware, Payne said.
He added that VMware was most successful when it solved a problem that Microsoft itself could not solve. VMware can rein in server sprawl with ESX, for example. Now that Microsoft offers its own Hyper-V for server consolidation, VMware has begun to position itself as a platform that can replace the Microsoft operating system.
Physical and virtual management
With VMM, Microsoft makes much of its ability to manage physical and virtual servers from a single console. The actual tools for each are the same, and it's this commonality that lets IT shops take full advantage of virtualization, said Zane Adams, senior director of virtualization at Microsoft.
Today, most Windows shops are still working out how they will manage both worlds. Adams said he has seen larger companies with more experience with the technology handle this task by employing a virtualization manager who is in charge of change management.