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Top 10 server virtualization market news stories of 2009 (so far)

The server virtualization market has seen highly anticipated releases and major acquisitions in 2009. Catch up on the biggest virtualization news so far.

The server virtualization market has had no shortage of news over the past six months.

We've seen major releases, including VMware's vSphere 4 and Citrix Systems' XenServer 5.5. Oracle made waves with its acquisitions of Virtual Iron Software and Sun Microsystems. And the Microsoft-versus-VMware battle turned nasty in the blogosphere.

Catch up on all the major virtualization news with the 10 biggest stories of 2009 so far. This list counts down the news from 10 to 1, based on stories' newsworthiness and popularity with our readers in the server virtualization market.

10. Sun Microsystems supports OVF in VirtualBox 2.2
Sun released xVM VirtualBox 2.2 in April, offering support for the Distributed Management Task Force's Open Virtualization Format (OVF). VMware administrators said the new release would help Sun in the server virtualization market by offering a cheap, viable alternative to VMware Workstation. And some even said the new VirtualBox would entice them to move from VMware ESX to xVM.

9. Cisco Systems hires Christofer Hoff
In March, Cisco made a move into data centers and server virtualization markets by announcing its Unified Computing System -- a combination of server and networking hardware, along with management software. And in June, the company showed how serious it is about its virtualization play when it hired expert Christofer Hoff as its virtualization and cloud computing director. Hoff runs the popular Rational Survivability blog, where he writes about security and virtualization news, and he has held high-ranking security positions at several technology providers and other companies.

8. Microsoft virtualization creates buzz at TechEd 2009
Microsoft made virtualization news at May's TechEd 2009 conference in Los Angeles, spelling out the details of Hyper-V R2 and the Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) feature in Windows 7. Existing and prospective users alike said Live Migration, hot-add and remove for storage, and other new Hyper-V R2 features would give Microsoft a boost in the server virtualization market. But some Microsoft executives and longtime virtualization users also warned about the management and maintenance problems that can come with a virtualization project.

7. Oracle acquires Virtual Iron Software
We broke the news in March that Oracle was close to acquiring Virtual Iron, and the deal became official in May. Some observers questioned Oracle's acquisition of Virtual Iron, noting that the latter controlled just 2% of the server virtualization market. Less than two months later, Oracle discontinued the Virtual Iron product line and said it would incorporate the company's technology into its own virtualization products.

6. VMware shines in VMworld Europe 2009 hypervisor comparison
VMware has faced a barrage of competition this year, but recent research reaffirmed the company's server virtualization market dominance, thanks to a February Burton Group report. The analyst firm evaluated hypervisors from VMware, Microsoft, Citrix Systems and Virtual Iron Software, and VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3.5 (VI 3.5) Update 3 satisfied 100% of its criteria. Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V met more than 80% of the criteria, which included high availability, live migration and networking, storage and security features. Burton Group senior analyst Chris Wolf presented the results at VMworld Europe 2009 in Cannes, France.

5. Citrix Systems releases XenServer 5.5
Citrix didn't start the year off on the best foot. Some channel partners were up in arms, questioning the vendor's server virtualization market strategy and relationship with Microsoft. But things started to turn around in late February, when Citrix announced plans to give away XenServer for free, followed by the release of XenServer 5.5 in June. (A beta version came out in May.)

For the first time, XenServer 5.5 offers role-based access control with Active Directory integration. The new release also allows for migration from the Virtual Machine Disk Format to the Virtual Hard Disk format, and it supports SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11, Debian 5.0 and other guest operating systems as well.

4. VMware, Microsoft battle in the blogosphere
In the past, the VMware-versus-Microsoft marketing battle featured straight-laced cost comparisons and lighthearted stunts such as Microsoft's "VMware Costs Way Too Much" poker chip campaign at VMworld 2008. But this year, things got ugly.

In April, Microsoft posted the condescension-filled and smugness-tinged video "Microsoft Mythbusters: Top 10 VMware Myths." The video tried to respond to some of VMware's biggest criticisms of Hyper-V, but its tone turned off many observers -- some of whom said the video was "embarrassing" to Microsoft. VMware and its supporters fired back, and one blogger even posted a picture of Microsoft's "Mythbusters" Edwin Yuen and David Greschler with a caption that read, "Would you buy a hypervisor from these guys?"

Then, in June, it was VMware's turn to be embarrassed when employee Scott Drummonds anonymously posted a video on YouTube that showed Hyper-V crashing while running VMware's VMmark platform. The problem was, the video didn't mention that Hyper-V crashed because it was running unsupported VMmark configurations. The video drew scathing responses from Microsoft, and Drummonds was eventually forced to apologize.

3. VMware clamps down on free ESXi support
VMware sparked another controversy in June when the company told Veeam Software to drop support for the free ESXi hypervisor in its new Backup and Replication 3.1 offering. The move put VMware's goals for ESXi into question: Is the hypervisor really designed for production environments, or is it just a trial product to entice paid customers? And others said the lack of third-party ESXi support would help Microsoft Hyper-V gain server virtualization market share.

2. Oracle acquires Sun Microsystems
Oracle boosted its standing in the data center, database and (potentially) server virtualization markets with April's acquisition of Sun Microsystems. To some observers, Sun's xVM hypervisor represented a major improvement over Oracle VM. And Sun's hardware line gave Oracle a more complete product portfolio -- which the company will need to compete with VMware's vSphere and Cisco's Unified Computing System. Still, questions remained about the future of Sun's virtualization products, especially after Oracle killed off Virtual Iron.

1. VMware releases vSphere 4
The biggest virtualization news story of the year so far was April's release of VMware vSphere 4. The new virtualization platform is still based on the ESX hypervisor, but it now runs natively on 64-bit processors. VMware's vSphere also supports twice as many virtual CPUs per virtual machine and offers four times as much RAM. Additional features include Fault Tolerance and thin storage provisioning.

VMware also adjusted vSphere's pricing and licensing. The company eliminated the entry-level Foundation Edition, replacing it with Essentials and Essentials Plus, and added a new top-level edition called Enterprise Plus.

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