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Setting Microsoft straight on the VMware-Novell OEM agreement

As you may already know, VMware recently announced an OEM agreement with Novell to redistribute SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) to eligible VMware vSphere customers. Just a few hours later (wow – that was quick), Microsoft published its take on the Microsoft Virtualization Team blog. Unfortunately, fast is not always a synonym of well-thought out. The arguments presented in the Microsoft blog not only miss the point about the announcement, but are so far off base that it makes one wonder whether Microsoft has learned anything about virtualization or is just trying to generate some headlines for headline’s sake.

In either case, given the level of marketing spin in the Microsoft blog post, I feel obliged to address the most blatant misinformation and set the record straight:

Myth #1: “Looks like VMWare finally determined that virtualization is a server OS feature. I’m sure we’ve said that once or twice over the years ;-)”

Our announcement is about providing SLES as a guest operating system (OS) and not as a hypervisor. Offering a more cost effective way to deploy SLES in VMware environments has nothing to do with the architecture of the hypervisor. Come on Microsoft – this is Virtualization 101 level stuff. VMware is committed to a hypervisor architecture that does not rely on a general purpose OS, unlike Hyper-V’s reliance on Windows, as it is a fundamentally better design that leads to higher reliability, robustness and security. This is why in our latest generation hypervisor architecture – VMware ESXi – we removed the console OS. Independent industry analysts agree that a slimmer hypervisor is the right approach – see “A Downside to Hyper-V”. We certainly don’t plan to reverse our direction, quite the opposite actually. As we publicly stated multiple times in the future ESXi will be the exclusive focus of VMware development efforts. Thanks to the ESXi hypervisor architecture, our customers won’t run the same risks they would have to face with Hyper-V.

Myth #2: “The vFolks in Palo Alto are further isolating themselves within the industry. Microsoft’s interop efforts have provided more choice and flexibility for customers, including our work with Novell.”

  1. VMware vSphere supports 65 guest operating systems versus Hyper-V R2 supporting only 17
  2. VMware vSphere supports more Microsoft operating systems than Microsoft Hyper-V R2 itself
  3. VMware vSphere supports 6 times more Linux operating systems than Hyper-V R2

Who is isolating itself? Who provides more choice?  Let’s not forget that just a few months ago Bob Muglia, President of Microsoft’s Servers and Tools business unit, stated that the number #3 top competitor for his division in 2010 is Linux! And just this past week at TechEd 2010, Steve Ballmer listed “Open Source” as a top competitor for Microsoft. How is it possible that on one hand Microsoft touts “new interoperability” with Linux and on the other one wants to kill it? Something has got to give and I think I know which one it will be….

Myth #3: “As one of many examples of our work with open source communities, we’re [Microsoft] adding functionality to the Linux Integration Services for Hyper-V. In fact, we have an RC version of the Linux Integration Services, which support Linux virtual machines with up to 4 virtual CPUs. In fact, we’ll talk more of this on June 25 at Red Hat Summit.”

VMware has a track record of providing equal support to Windows and Linux operating systems. We have supported 4 virtual CPUs for Windows and Linux guest OSs since 2006 and added 8-way vSMP in 2009. The OEM agreement with Novell doesn’t change our commitment to guest operating system neutrality. Positioning the Hyper-V’s upcoming support of 4 virtual CPUs for a small subset of Linux operating systems as a big win only confirms that 1) Microsoft is failing to keep up with VMware, and that 2) Microsoft has treated Linux guests as second class citizens. Is it credible that this second-class status for Linux will somehow change given that Linux and Open Source are being classified as top competitors?

Myth #4: “This is a bad deal for customers as they’re getting locked into an inflexible offer. Check out the terms and conditions. [..] So be sure not to drop support or you’ll invalidate your license”

So, before customers had to purchase SnS for VMware vSphere and a SLES subscription for patches and updates. With this new VMware-Novell agreement, they only have to purchase VMware SnS. Help me understand how this is a bad deal for customers? Talking about “invalidating” licenses in the context of a Linux operating system doesn’t make much sense given how the Linux licensing model works. The SLES deal offered by VMware is about subscription to patches and updates and not about licenses. Applying the same logic to Microsoft Software Assurance, we should warn customers that Microsoft SA is a bad deal because it locks them in an inflexible offer that forces them to pay in order to get the next Windows upgrade.

Myth #5: “Last, the vFolks have no public cloud offering, like Windows Azure, like Amazon EC2. While we’re demoing and building capabilities so customers have a common and flexible application and management model across on-premises and cloud computing, they’re stitching together virtual appliances to fill the void.”

Microsoft clearly “forgets” about VMware’s 1,000+ vCloud partners and public infrastructure as-a-service solutions based on VMware technology like vCloud Express . Our objective is to enable a broad partner ecosystem of service providers that leverage VMware’s technology to offer cloud services. This will give customers freedom of choice. We also want to make sure that companies retain control of their applications and are not locked in to any one particular service. Virtual appliances are a key component of this strategy, because that’s ultimately where the application lives. Microsoft isn’t interested in virtual appliances, because it isn’t interested in enabling application portability among cloud provider. Ultimately Microsoft’s strategy with Azure it to have customers run applications on Microsoft operating systems using Microsoft databases in Microsoft datacenters…. looks like the mother of all lock-ins.

Is Microsoft suffering from Hyper-Desperation R2?

Such an incredibly off-base reaction is clear evidence that the VMware-Novell OEM agreement struck a nerve at Microsoft. Could it be a sign of Hyper-Desperation R2? After all, the events of the past 2 months must have been pretty hard on the nerves of the Microsoft Virtualization Team:

  • On April 27th and May 19th , VMware announces new technology partnerships with two major cloud computing vendors, Salesforce.com (Salesforce.com and VMware Form Strategic Alliance to Launch VMforce™, the World’s First Enterprise Java Cloud) and Google (VMware to Collaborate with Google on Cloud Computing). This strategy offers far more choice to customers than Microsoft’s Azure-only approach
  • Then, on May 26th , Gartner publishes the 2010 x86 Server Virtualization Magic Quadrant, placing VMware in the “Leaders” quadrant, thereby demonstrating our clear leadership
  • Finally, just last week at Microsoft TechEd 2010 (one of Microsoft’s biggest shows of the year), VMware vSphere wins the “Best of TechEd 2010” award in the virtualization category and the “Best of TechEd Attendee’s Pick” awards. It must have been unsettling for the Microsoft virtualization team to see attendees at their own conference vote for VMware vSphere

But all of this aside, at the end of the day, what really matters is that VMware continues to show strong execution in our mission of simplifying IT and providing customers a pragmatic path to the cloud. Our agreement with Novell is another great example of how we’re delivering on our mission.

6 thoughts on “Setting Microsoft straight on the VMware-Novell OEM agreement

  1. canalha

    This is a welcome clarification.
    The worse part: I believe Microsoft didn’t actually has an evil marketing plan to destroy VMware. They just didn’t understand what VMware announced. Ignored something that anyone actually using virtualization gets.

  2. julien

    Nice post but i cant help but thinking:
    Does VMware really support Debian, SCO, Turbolinux ? I mean when you have a problem, don’t you tell us to put back the VM into physical servers or redirect us to those Linux communauties (forums….).
    Besides, can you support Windows NT, Millennium ? I mean can u ask MS to release new patches & fixes ?
    Microkernel Hyper-V architecture has drawbacks but advantages as well => drivers in the parent partition = no incompatibilities worries.
    Still, Microsoft is lagging behind in some technical aspects (4vCPU against 8vCPUs for instance) but apart from very large companies, those differentiators don’t really matters.
    If you show this list http://www.vmware.com/products/esx/facts.html to most customers, they’ll reply “no big deal for me”
    By the way, you can now change “4-way vSMP on Windows
    2008 VMs only”
    “Lacks an integrated cluster file system” => what is CSV then ?
    “No ability to reclaim unused physical memory, or de-duplicate pages”
    => True, MS optimize memory differently : http://virtualization.info/en/files/2010/06/MicrosoftDynamicMemory2.png

  3. dpassent

    “drivers in the parent partition = no incompatibilities worries.” and I LOLed. My personal expirience with HP blades, setting up NIC teaming with Hyper-V and fingerpointing between MS and HP proves otherwise.
    “what is CSV then ?” – it’s addon that relies on network and coordinator nodes and adds another layer of complexity that you have to handle and plan for disaster recovery.

  4. sam

    Not the most level headed and rational arguments I’ve seen from Microsoft, though it doesn’t seem like they were trying to be either…

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