Posted by Réza Malekzadeh
Sr. Director, Product Marketing & Alliances
A lot of people have been talking about Microsoft’s recent announcements regarding their Hyper-V hypervisor product, which was somewhat surprisingly announced ahead of schedule (although in truth, Microsoft had previously put this announcement back, so maybe the two timeline changes cancel each other out). Since VMware is the leader in virtualisation many people in the industry have been keen to hear what we think about Hyper-V.
This announcement (which, it should be reiterated, is just the availability of the beta version) is not altogether surprising. Microsoft was always going to attempt to get into this industry in earnest, but it is an industry which we have created. Don’t forget, a few years ago x86 virtualisation as pioneered by VMware was still faced with its doubters and sceptics who thought this was a doomed attempt to breathe life into an old mainframe computing concept. Over the last few years many of these nay-sayers have dropped by the wayside as they have seen virtualisation truly become a mainstream technology. We have now been doing virtualisation – and only virtualisation – for 10 years.
Of course, then there are the inevitable questions about how VMware’s technology compares with Hyper-V in terms of features and pricing. As with any comparison, this is about comparing apples with apples. On the features side, we truly believe that customers are now looking well beyond server consolidation as the main driver for going virtual. It is the advanced management features built around the hypervisor which will be key factors in what customers decide to purchase. If a customer is just interested in partitioning server hardware we offer a great product – VMware Server – for free!
With the VMware Infrastructure 3 platform, VMware has a wealth of advanced features which turn virtualized servers into pools of highly available and flexible computing resources. An example of one of the key features (and one which our customers love) is VMotion which allows you to move a live running VM between physical hosts without service interruption or downtime. For our customers VMotion has become an almost indispensable tool and has transformed the way many of them approach business continuity and disaster recovery since we started shipping four years ago. Hyper-V doesn’t include a comparable feature – in fact, the scrapping of a live migration feature was well documented – so on this front Hyper-V cannot compare with VMware Infrastructure 3. In fact, the closest feature to VMotion that Microsoft can deliver in Hyper-V – Quick Migration – is just a rebranding of Host Clustering technology which has been around for a while. The same is true for a whole host of other features which we have been offering customers for some time.
This is not to dismiss Microsoft from the virtualisation landscape altogether – far from it. They will eventually come out with a product. Microsoft has announced pricing, which will allow customers to get Hyper-V bundled with Server 2008, but whether this works remains to be seen. As far as VMware is concerned, customers don’t see virtualisation as a nice little add-on to server operating systems; it’s a technology they are using to architect entire data centers, and for these kind of implementations they want software which is robust, stable, proven in production environments and provides the management tools and levels of automation which takes the pain out of IT management.
As far as the cost debate goes, this really centers on whether you look at just the straight up acquisition costs or whether you look at the long term cap-ex and op-ex cost benefits a virtualisation platform delivers. For the great majority of adopters, virtualisation is a strategic move rather than a tactical point solution, so the longer term view would seem to make more sense when evaluating the true costs associated with one platform versus another. Acquisition costs are a small piece of the overall solution cost. VMware customers typically experience a return on investment within six to nine months of deployment and huge cost savings thereafter. Our support for increased amounts of physical hardware per host means VMware Infrastructure 3 can support far greater numbers of workloads on each physical machine – reducing costs for OS licenses, hardware acquisition, power and cooling and maintenance.
It is very exciting to see the virtualisation industry maturing so rapidly. Microsoft’s announcements have added to the excitement around virtualisation which has been a theme throughout the year and which was highlighted by VMworld 2007. Increased competition or not, VMware will continue on its path, delivering amazing innovation to stay ahead of the curve and keep on bringing to market the solutions that customers require.
However, at the end of the day virtualisation is not really about cool technology; it is about allowing customers to run applications in the best possible way and delivering value to their organisations. Our recent announcement with SAP, announcing full support for SAP in VMware environments, demonstrates just this fact. Customers are buying our virtualization technology to have the best platform to run their applications.