Microsoft talks tough, gains little on VMware

Microsoft's Hyper-V growth rate in units shipped outstripped VMware's vSphere as of the first quarter of 2012, according to IDC data. But do these numbers tell the whole story?

Microsoft has lured some VMware vSphere customers over to Hyper-V, and the company boasts server virtualization...

market share growth, but Microsoft still has a lot to prove before the tide turns in its favor.

Hyper-V accounted for 22.5% of virtualization software units shipped during the first calendar quarter of 2011, according to a Worldwide Quarterly Server Virtualization Software Tracker report by IDC Corp. In the first quarter of 2012, that number rose to 26.6%, the IDC reported.

Hyper-V is taking a little bit of the growth … but it doesn't mean that VMware is declining.

Gary Chen,
analyst, IDC

By comparison, VMware's server virtualization software units shipped accounted for 53.6% in Q1 2011 and 52.4% in Q1 2012.

Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner made hay with these figures in a keynote speech to a Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) audience Wednesday morning, according to bloggers who documented the presentation.

The company points to customers who have recently made a wholesale swap-out of VMware virtualization products in favor of Hyper-V, such as Pella Windows and Doors.

Pella Corp., which has done case studies with Microsoft in the past, chose VMware in 2004 because at that time it had superior virtualization software.

"From 2004 to 2008, we believed VMware was the better product -- more features, more effective, better scalability," said Jim Thomas, Pella's director of IT operations. Still, Microsoft remained one of the company's "key IT partners," and Thomas pledged to keep an open mind about Hyper-V.

When the features in Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and the Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V roadmap matched up with VMware vSphere, Hyper-V was able to meet the 30:1 consolidation ratio that Pella needed.

Ultimately, it wasn't Hyper-V itself, but the new integration of the System Center suite that convinced Thomas to adopt Hyper-V. His administrators were already familiar with parts of the suite, including Configuration Manager and Operations Manager, and if Pella was going to move to a private and eventually hybrid cloud with Microsoft, it seemed wise to standardize on Hyper-V as well.

"VMware clearly sold us a good product," he added. "But we don't have the same relationship with VMware that we do with Microsoft."

No sea change for virtualization market share -- yet

Meanwhile, most enterprises stand up mixed-hypervisor environments rather than completely dropping one product for another.

One Fortune 300 company on the West Coast is conducting a proof of concept with Microsoft's Azure public cloud as well as with System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) for non-production workloads.

"We have a very large investment in VMware, but we have a much larger partnership with Microsoft," said Christian Metz, systems administrator at a West Coast-based company. Thus, when it came to experimenting with things like the public private clouds for test and development, "Microsoft came in and offered a lot of cool stuff, a lot of consultant help, a lot of freebies, and VMware just didn't quite match that," Metz said.

Still, the company remains firmly based on VMware for production workloads, and Metz expects to keep VMware in production and Hyper-V in test and development, through at least 2015.

"It can be a huge effort to migrate 3,500 VMs," he said.

Furthermore, IDC analysts cautioned that the data doesn't indicate any kind of major swap-out of vSphere for Hyper-V in the market.

"Hyper-V is taking a little bit of the growth, a little bit of the share away from other platforms, but it doesn't mean that VMware is declining in terms of revenue or number of licenses shipped," said Gary Chen, research manager for enterprise virtualization software at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

If the virtualization market is a big pie, the size of the slices each vendor takes relative to one another continues to change, Chen explained.

But "the pie keeps getting bigger. [VMware] is not losing units, they're not experiencing negative growth … in an absolute view, both of those platforms are still growing," he said.

One fact remains without doubt: Microsoft has gotten more aggressive in its messaging around Hyper-V as it gears up for the launch of Windows Server 2012 in September. Also announced this week at WPC was a new "Switch to Hyper-V" program that trains channel partners to take out VMware installations in customer data centers.

"With Windows Server 2012, I think you'll see Hyper-V's numbers grow much faster," Chen said.

VMware did not comment as of press time.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for and Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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