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Will Microsoft catch up with VMware?

An expert considers Microsoft's virtualization and cloud computing strategy and weighs its chances against VMware's.

Will Microsoft and VMware be in accord on cloud computing? Can Microsoft catch up with VMware in the server virtualization market? Tony Iams, a senior analyst at Ideas International Inc., an IT research firm, offers his views on IT shops' response to the release of Windows Server 2008 R2 and the vendors' competing views of how cloud computing should evolve.

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Microsoft has speculated that IT managers are interested in Windows Server 2008 R2 partly because it is the first version to include Live Migration. Because of this feature, it argues, there will be quick adoption of the new OS. Have you heard anything similar?
Tony Iams: No, those are really two different things. [Windows] Live Migration overcomes an objection to upgrading to Windows Server 2008 R2, and it certainly fills a competitive hole with VMware. But I don't think that will cause people to upgrade quickly. Users will feel more confident about using Hyper-V, but they will still wait for the second or third release before they trust it -- just like any OS upgrade.

VMware has made it their mantra that Hyper-V doesn't offer live migration, so Microsoft will be overcoming that with this release, but it is only a first step. The next layer, the management functionality, is where VMware has a significant advantage.

Microsoft has to invest a lot to make it as capable as VMware's software.
Tony Iams,
senior analystIdeas International Inc.
How long will Hyper-V users have to wait to see the kinds of management features that VMware users have?
Iams: That's really hard to predict. Systems Center is good for what it does, but Microsoft has to invest a lot to make it as capable as VMware's software, which has much more functionality.

You have to wonder how far Microsoft will go to catch up with VMware; they are moving in different directions [with their computing strategies, which] are slightly orthogonal.

How so?
Iams: Microsoft argues that the OS is just fine and wants you to continue to add applications and features into the OS, while VMware wants to turn the data center into the OS [using vSphere] as a way to host virtual appliances With this strategy, applications are coupled with JeOS [Just enough Operating System], and that will be the unit of workload. It is a significant shift in perspective.

And both companies' philosophies are self-serving.
Iams: Yes, they are, and Microsoft is serving an already huge company with their strategy – but VMware is growing fast. Not everyone is ready for VMware's vision of the data center and cloud computing though.

But IT shops now use cloud computing, even though they aren't calling it that. They are using virtualization to host applications for a short period of time, adding and removing resources quickly.
Iams: It depends on the definition of cloud, and there are many. The primary value of cloud is to easily deploy new resources from your own infrastructure or to a third-party infrastructure. Microsoft doesn't argue that, but they do argue the mechanics of it: how to set up workloads to be hosted internally or by a third party.

VMware says workloads should be hosted in a VM [virtual machine] or virtual appliance while Microsoft wants to do it in a more traditional way, writing apps for the OS, specifically for Windows Azure. It is a different perspective on how cloud will evolve, and unless Microsoft goes along with VMware's strategy, it will be very difficult to compare the two.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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