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Virtualization wars: Is Microsoft sneaking into more VMware shops?

Kevin Fogarty | Aug. 30, 2010
Microsoft's Hyper-V is finding a home in the SMB market, but will it grab more second-tier enterprise servers, as virtualization and licensing costs expand? Some analysts say yes, despite VMware's superior management and automation tools.

Small companies or those with simple IT requirements aren't the only ones looking at Hyper-V more intently, however, according to James Staten, virtualization and infrastructure analyst at Forrester Research.

"A lot of companies are renegotiating their enterprise license agreements and seeing how big the bill is going to be for deploying a lot more virtualization," Staten says. "When you have to true-up a license that says you'd use 500 servers and you used 600 and the plan is for 900, you might step back and wonder if you can control those costs a little bit."

Though a report published in July by Enterprise Strategy Group showed that, of clients who installed any virtual servers, 56 percent use hypervisors from more than one vendor, Forrester's Staten doesn't expect any wholesale migration to Hyper-V.

VMware's automation, administration and upcoming abilities such as self-service, policy-controlled provisioning in the cloud-management product dubbed Project Redwood will continue to keep it in the lead with the data center crowd, he says.

However, even VMware-centric large companies will find Hyper-V sneaking in to virtualize servers in branch offices, or for support applications such as firewalls and spam servers that tight IT budgets might not stretch to cover.

"A lot of the clients we work with have heterogeneous virtual environments," Staten says. "Not all of them necessarily realize it, but there is a lot of Hyper-V out there and third-party management companies are starting to notice. That's why you're seeing more of them announcing support for it as well as VMware."

It may make sense to use Hyper-V for a few lower-priority servers, or to tier servers so that those with lower availability or disaster-recovery requirements run on Hyper-V, EMA's Chen says.

"The problem with that is once you're in that lower tier, you're stuck there; there's no easy way to move up," he says. "Right now you can manage mixed environments; you can even move a VM from a Hyper-V machine to VMware, but it's not a clean process and definitely not automatic or transparent."

VMware realized its weakness in the mid-market earlier this year and launched lower-cost products in response, Chen says.

When VMware announced vSphere 4.1 in July it also announced it had slashed the cost of its lowest-level Essentials server license from $995 to $495, and added VMotion capability to the three-server Essentials Plus license package that also includes high-availability functions. Microsoft offers both LiveMotion and its HA functions free with Hyper-V.

As time goes on, however, many IT organizations will have to face more pressure from the business side to cut costs even on technology that has already cut costs dramatically, Staten says.


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