ISVs say VMware is more competitive, 'difficult' to work with

This summer's VMware-Veeam flare-up wasn't a onetime thing; other VMware ISV partners say the company has acted competitively toward them.

SAN FRANCISCO -- VMware's independent software vendor (ISV) partners say the company has taken an increasingly competitive stance against them as it expands into more segments of the server virtualization management market.

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That shift has soured some ISVs on VMware and has driven others to work with Microsoft and Citrix Systems. And it's leading to some public flare-ups -- most famously the controversy in June, when VMware told Veeam Software to stop supporting the free ESXi hypervisor in its Backup & Replication 3.1 product.

"Anything [any other vendor] does looks competitive to them," said Veeam CEO Ratmir Timashev in a pre-VMworld 2009 interview last week.

VMware ISVs: APIs are hard to get
VMware has told other ISVs that they can't include certain features in their products, either. For example, Embotics has pushed to add preventative access-control technology to its V-Commander server virtualization management product, but VMware won't allow it, said David Lynch, Embotics' vice president of marketing.

"There are things they won't let us do, which doesn't make a lot of sense," Lynch said in an interview at the VMworld 2009 show.

The use of application programming interfaces (APIs), which allow ISVs to integrate their products with VMware's, is another area of contention. Getting access to those APIs -- even the highly touted VMsafe API for securing virtual machines -- is always a challenge, Lynch said.

"I don't know if it's because they don't like giving them to anybody or if they just don't like us," he said.

Access to VMware APIs is also a problem for virtualization management vendor VMLogix Inc. The company keeps asking VMware if it can work on its vCloud API, but VMware gives access to only those ISVs that don't compete directly with its vCenter Lab Manager, VMLogix CEO Sameer Dholakia told SearchServerVirtualization.com at VMworld.

VMLogix is now more willing to lead with Microsoft and other vendors that are easier to partner with, Dholakia said.

Veeam CEO speaks out
The use of APIs was one of the central issues in June's VMware-Veeam controversy. At the time, VMware execs said they told Veeam to remove its ESXi support because Veeam used undocumented APIs.

"For us, it's a question of what's built and how it's built," said Parag Patel, VMware's vice president of alliances. "To be perfectly honest, we didn't want to be associated with it because it wasn't satisfactory."

Last week, Timashev confirmed Veeam's use of undocumented APIs, but he said that's how technology innovation has always come about. For him, the main problem was VMware's approach to the situation.

Several months in advance, Veeam had told VMware's ESXi product management team about its plans to support ESXi in Backup & Replication 3.1, Timashev said.

"They said, 'Cool, go for it,'" he recalled.

But later, when the VMware alliances team got wind of the plans, it wasn't as receptive. And when Veeam questioned this opposition, Patel responded "arrogantly," Timashev said.

"He took it absolutely personal ... that we didn't say, 'Yes, sir!'" and acquiesce immediately, Timashev said, pantomiming a military salute.

He also said VMware downgraded Veeam on its internal partner scale after the controversy became public. Still, he acknowledged that his company bore some of the responsibility for the set-to.

"It was kind of mismanagement on both sides," he said. "Of course, I blame mostly them."

ESXi strategy: 'I don't get it'
VMware's approach to its free ESXi hypervisor also has ISVs scratching their heads.

To some, the crackdown on third-party support products makes it look like VMware doesn't want to promote ESXi as a production-ready platform. But on the other hand, VMware has given ESXi a strong marketing push.

"I don't get it," Dholakia said "I really don't. … The issue really comes down to, they don't want people interfering with the free version of ESXi. That rubs people the wrong way."

Colin Steele is SearchServerVirtualization.com's Site Editor.

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