Up for grabs just a few years ago, the virtualization market has settled on VMware and Microsoft bare-metal virtualization platforms, relegating other contenders to afterthought status.
The data derives from TechTarget's Virtualization Decisions 2009 Purchasing Intentions Survey of 666 IT professionals that have deployed or are evaluating virtualization. Data was collected between June and September 2009.
To no one's surprise, survey respondents reported using VMware Inc. over other virtualization software by a wide margin: 72.4% identified some VMware edition as their primary virtualization platform (ESX 2.x to 4.x or VMware Server), compared with 14.8% that cited a Microsoft offering (Hyper-V or Virtual Server).
Blowing away the competition
But despite a fair amount of buzz, Citrix XenServer, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Virtual Iron Software Inc. and open source Xen variants barely registered. Each came in at about 1% market share. OS-level and partitioning-based virtualization platforms (HP VSE, IBM mainframe partitions, Solaris Containers, and Parallels Virtuozzo) fared even worse, failing to garner a mention by even 1% of respondents.
The reason for this is twofold, said Tom Dugan, the director of technical services at Recovery Networks, a provider of business continuity services in Philadelphia, Pa.: a crowd mentality and job-security concerns.
"VMware is the 800-pound gorilla, and everyone wants to vote for the winner," Dugan said. But also, "for a lot of people, virtualization is relatively new. If you're just dipping your toe in the water, do you start with the leader or with the vendor that has one-tenth of 1% market share?"
The window of opportunity for emergent virtualization platforms may have shut, said Andi Mann, vice president of research at Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates. Take Red Hat's recent move to include Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) in Red Hat 5.4. "KVM will arguably be the fifth choice in the virtualization market, behind VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and Parallels. Why would an enterprise go after KVM when they have four other options ahead of it?" Mann said.
The future in flux
VMware and Microsoft continue to play heavily in IT managers' future plans as well. Among the 56.3% of respondents planning to evaluate an alternative virtualization platform (56.3%), a quarter (25.1%) are looking to the latest version of VMware, and 17.4% and considering Microsoft Hyper-V.
And whereas IT managers have been relatively homogenous in their choice of virtualization platforms so far, they aren't averse to weighing other platforms going forward.
"It's good to re-evaluate every so often," wrote one survey taker.
Whereas Red Hat virtualization is almost nonexistent today, for example, 4.6% of those surveyed said they will evaluate its Xen or KVM offerings. Likewise, open source Xen and even Oracle VM deserve a mention here, coming in at 3.6% and 2.6%, respectively.
Respondents offered a variety of reasons for the decision to explore alternate virtualization platforms, such as containing costs, extending the feature set, or avoiding vendor lock-in.
Not surprisingly, potential refugees from VMware cited cost as the primary reason they'll evaluate another (55.7%), followed by the desire to extend the feature set (31%) and avoid vendor lock-in (27.6%). But survey takers exploring alternatives to Hyper-V also listed cost and lock-in as concerns (49%, and 26.5%) and also valued the idea of extending the feature set (32.7%).
The allure of VM standardization
At the same time, the trend is decidedly toward standardizing on a single hypervisor if possible, a choice advocated by 55.8% of respondents, compared with just 1.9% that will insist on multiple platforms for sourcing reasons.
But IT managers were pragmatic about bringing in a second hypervisor platform if it met a different need, such as desktop virtualization (29.3%) or solved a problem, such as support for a specific legacy operating system (13%).
For some IT professionals, the decision to go with just one virtualization platform is a matter of logistics. Jim Hutchins, the CIO at parking management vendor T2 Systems Inc. in Indianapolis, oversees an all-Microsoft shop, and had been about "pull the trigger on VMware" but opted to go with Hyper-V instead for cost reasons. But even if, hypothetically, VMware and Microsoft prices were the same price, "I'd be hard-pressed to go with VMware because it would add one more vendor to the mix," he said, including license and support contracts and maintenance procedures.
Hutchins conceded that larger companies may derive more value from playing vendors off one another. "If I were using 100 servers, it'd be a different story." But with only six servers in his shop, "they don't negotiate with me. If you're an SMB [small or medium-sized business], you get list pricing."
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Alex Barrett, News Director.