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Microsoft and Citrix Embrace Heterogenity, VMware Hunkers Down

By Paul Rubens (Send Email)
Posted Jun 1, 2011


Most large enterprises have mixed operating system environments, running at least two of Windows, Linux and Unix. And in the future the same may be equally true when it comes to hypervisors: many enterprises could soon be using a combination of virtualization technologies, running at least one of Hyper-V, Xen or KVM in addition to VMware.

While Microsoft and others involved in server virtualization are making alliances and supporting each others' products to prepare for a multi-hypervisor world and an increase in interest in cloud computing, VMware remains unconcerned with the competition. Is it in denial?

Why? One reason is that many organizations are interested in cloud computing, and in particular setting up private clouds. Solutions built on OpenStack or Project Olympus -- Citrix's implementation of OpenStack -- may well be more cost-effective than comparable VMware solutions.

Another is that many companies that dipped their toes into the server virtualization water by virtualizing their non-mission critical Windows servers using VMware (NYSE:VMW) are now looking to "virtualize everything," according to Navin Thadani, Red Hat's senior director of virtualization."Now the CIO's office realizes the value in virtualization, they are looking at the Linux side of the business, and they see some super alternatives to VMware…"

Thadani was talking about Red Hat's KVM virtualization technology, which may get a boost from a number of major industry players coalescing as the Open Virtualization Alliance to back it, but Hyper-V and Xen are also realistic alternatives for VMware shops looking to shop around for other virtualization technologies and solutions.

Microsoft clearly believes mixed virtualiztion environments will become more common. The company's System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2012 already supports VMware vSphere (as well as Hyper-V, obviously.) And in the beta release of XenServer 6.0, which has been given the moniker Project Boston, two new features stand out:

  1. You can manage XenServer hosts and VMs using Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2012
  2. You can monitor XenServer hosts with System Center Operations Manager 2012 and a supplemental pack from Citrix when System Center 2012 is released

In addition, Project Olympus features a cloud-optimized version of XenServer integrated with OpenStack, while also supporting vSphere and Hyper-V.

Contrast this with VMware's approach. The company's vCenter management product supports only its own hypervisors directly, and customers aren't expected to operate mixed environments. Admittedly, the company has made a token move to support Hyper-V in vCenter with the introduction of vCenter XVP Manager and Converter, but let's not forget that the software comes from VMware Labs as a technology preview. As such, VMware is under no obligation to support the tool or maintain it.

The tool installs as a vCenter management plugin and "provides basic virtualization management capabilities for non-vSphere hypervisor platforms towards enabling centralized visibility and control across heterogeneous virtual infrastructures"; in other words, it allows vCenter to manage Hyper-V hosts and virtual machines. It also simplifies and enables easy migrations of virtual machines from Hyper-V to VMware vSphere -- but, hey, you'd expect that.

While many of the vendors involved in server virtualization are making alliances and supporting each others' products to prepare for a multi-hypervisor world and an increase in interest in cloud computing, it looks like VMware itself is supremely unconcerned with the competition. As a further illustration of the point, look at the "VDI Kick Start and Rescue for VMware VDI" joint promotion, currently on offer from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Citrix (NASDAQ:CTXS). It gives qualified customers "the opportunity to get the best VDI solution, without breaking the bank." Take that VMware!

What's VMware's response to this? Nothing.

No, the company is too busy planning for its future expansion to worry about the likes of Citrix or Microsoft: In one of the biggest real-estate deals in years, VMware has just taken over a million square feet of space in Silicon Valley. The company plans to move from four buildings in Silicon Valley to 22, to accommodate some of the 7,500 new staff it has taken on in the past four years as its headcount has quadrupled.

Heterogeneous virtualized environments may be the future, but VMware clearly doesn't think so.

Paul Rubens is a journalist based in Marlow on Thames, England. He has been programming, tinkering and generally sitting in front of computer screens since his first encounter with a DEC PDP-11 in 1979.

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