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Microsoft Virtualization – Clearing up the waiting bottle-neck

Microsoft is finalizing its virtualization strategy and portfolio up in Bellevue as I type. While James is up there in person, giving a talk on how virtualization related to green IT, it seems like a good idea to briefly comment here.

Microsoft’s Virtualization Announcements – The Portfolio So Far

Here’s what they have:

  • Hyper-V, a hypervisor for running Linux and Windows. The price for this was set at the low cost of $28 (with theories and insinuations that this was the lowest it could go without tripping off anti-trust alarms), but now it’s a free download.
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, a management console and platform for working with Microsoft and VMWare virtualization.
  • Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5, Microsoft’s answer to VDI, coming from the Softricity legacy.

Also of interest is that Microsoft demonstrated “live migration” in Windows Server 2008. This means moving a virtual machine from one physical host to the other, you know, live.

The Larger Context – King of the Hill

There’s a vendor hustle going on as we near VMWare World next week (Stephen will be on the ground there). Microsoft’s finalization is much welcome as the industry – buyers, sellers, and watchers like myself – have all been waiting to see what Microsoft shows up with on the virtualization front. As I told a couple reporters last week, there really has been an attention bottle-neck in virtualization waiting to see Microsoft’s goods beyond the previews we’ve seen so far.

After this announcement, one thing is incredibly clear: Microsoft wants to commoditize the hypervisor (read: make it difficult to charge for and differentiate on) and move the discussion up to the management level, beyond the nuts-and-bolts. Indeed, without having their own hyper-visors, this is what the likes of Big 4 IT Management vendors like BMC desperately want to do as well. Even VMWare has said it knows this shift in value, if you will, is out there. Microsoft and others would just like it come as quickly as possible.

Others to watch here, coming fast and furious around VMWare, no doubt, are Citrix, Sun (see here), and RedHat: the last of which has already made moves with the acquisition of KVM “owner” Qumranet.

Here, the game is one thing: take as much of VMWare’s dominance and the religious zeal IT dollars have for it. Numerous studies, reports, and number-heads show that there’s a huge amount of virtualization left to be done. There’s plenty of virtualization IT spend in the next several years, and large IT vendors shudder to think that the majority of that will go to EMC/VMWare.

In a game like this, were there’s one big players, strange alliances come up with the rule of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” like Microsoft and Sun, for example. That’s were things get fun for watchers like us.

I was looking over some survey numbers recently and noticed a wide spread of virtualization options, with a huge chunk of usage, of course, in VMWare’s slot. More than the obvious dominance of VMWare, the interesting point is the fragmentation of options out there: when it comes to virtualization from the hypervisor up to management, now and in the upcoming year, there’s an overflowing cornucopia of options. Operationally, this means there’s more to consider, more innovation, and just more interesting things going on.

In addition to the redefinition up to virtualization management. Tying together alliances to build up those fragmented market shares looks to be the thing to do now. We’ll keep our peepers open for who duct-tapes to who: it should be fun.

Disclosure: Microsoft, RedHat, and Sun are clients.

Categories: Enterprise Software, Systems Management.

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