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Microsoft, Red Hat Partner Up as VMworld Europe Looms

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Feb 18, 2009


Here's a theory: Red Hat and Microsoft partner to enable Windows Server 2008 and 2003 to run as a supported, guest virtualized operating system on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and vice versa, such that each supports the other's operating systems when running on the other's hypervisor.

This indirect attack on VMware results in a devaluation of the the EMC subsidiary, making it a, if not attractive, more attainable acquisition target for Cisco Systems, which has long coveted, not just VMware, but all of EMC.

Virtually Speaking: As VMware prepares for its big European show, news of partnered-up competition offering increased hypervisor interoperability as well as the possibility of being acquired threatens to steal the limelight.

Most of this, of course, is not theory. On Monday, while most of the United States was enjoying a three-day weekend in celebration of all things presidential, Red Hat and Microsoft announced they had crafted a "virtualization interoperability deal," according to Internetnews.

Red Hat is hardly the first OS to be compatible with Windows in a virtualized environment. This latest deal though provides a competitive offering to Novell, VMware and XenSource, all of which offer varying degrees of supported interoperability between Windows and Linux servers running as virtualized guests.

Even beyond that perspective, the deal itself isn't all that ground breaking. As Mike Evans, a vice president of corporate development at Red Hat, noted "There are a number of customers running Windows on Red Hat Enterprise Linux today. The primary advantage of the new agreements is that they allow us to formalize the testing support of these configurations."

For VMware, the agreement obviously presents yet another mole to be whacked. VMware's model of providing the end-to-end virtual infrastructure and tools to manage it presents a closed model not all that dissimilar to the one that has been fading out of data centers for the past decade. With Microsoft taking great pains to at the very least appear more open and interoperability and a la carte now the norm in virtualization and elsewhere, VMware's data center vision may be due for some serious tweaking before it is even fully out the gate.

As far as hypervisors go, KVM and Hyper-V aren't nearly as popular as ESX. However, both are integral parts of two very popular operating systems, and this newfound interoperability can only help in steering enterprises in that direction.

Of course, there is still the matter of management tools, but as the Hyper-V universe expands the tools will no doubt come as third-party vendors include support for Hyper-V in their offerings.

As VMware readies itself for the European version of its trade show, the announcements and alliances are coming in thick and fast. This is one market that appears immune to the stagnation and slowdown that plagues the rest of the economy, but with more open and less-expensive competition coming on the scene, VMware will need to tread carefully to hold and grow its lead.

Otherwise, Cisco and others might just find acquiring VMware to be an attainable proposition. Cisco, as my colleague Paul Shread at Enterprise Storage Forum notes, "has long been rumored to be interested in acquiring EMC (NYSE: EMC). Now the networking giant may have narrowed its interest."

And given last week's announcement that Cisco will unveil a blade system designed for virtualized environments next month, it's pretty clear the company is about far more than its switches and routers legacy, and may indeed be a formidable virtual force worth watching.

For now, such a scenario has been deemed unlikely, as VMware is described as being EMC's best asset. One analyst said he believes for this to occur, Cisco would need to pay a significant premium for VMware or buy EMC along with it, which seems equally unlikely.

But should things change, the possibility always remains that EMC could put VMware on the market. EMC does, after all, have a holding-company-like history.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is coauthoring a book about virtualization that is scheduled for publication in September 2009.

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