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VMware shops consider Hyper-V, XenServer migrations

Almost half of existing VMware customers have at least considered a server virtualization alternative this year.

In increasing numbers, IT managers have tried alternatives to VMware and are seriously considering using these virtualization alternatives in production.

A survey conducted by market research firm The Info Pro this fall found that 75% of respondents use VMware today, but that almost two-thirds of those had evaluated a competing virtualization platform. Of those, 27% said they intended to deploy an alternative, and another 20% said they are considering doing so.

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"Just when we thought VMware was going to be this homogenous blob across the data center, people are saying, 'Wait. Not so fast,'" said Bob Gill, the managing director for server research at The Info Pro, a market research firm in New York City.

The most popular alternative to VMware was, not surprisingly, Microsoft Hyper-V and was evaluated by two-thirds of respondents, followed by Citrix XenServer at 21%, Gill said. The Info Pro interviewed more than 300 IT professionals, mostly at Fortune 1000 companies.

But The Info Pro doesn't predict an exodus from VMware anytime soon. Only 2% had firm plans to switch, and 7% had considered a switch. Instead, "they're going to use both," Gill said.

Virtualization price vs. performance considerations The push to try VMware alternatives comes down to money, said Chris House, a senior network analyst at Metro Health, a Wyoming, Mich.-based VMware shop that has begun to think about evaluating the competition. "We might just give it a shot, from a cost perspective. VMware has a pretty high cost … and we should be financially responsible and look at the other virtualization products," House said.

On the other hand, "VMware performs really well and is stable," he added. And, his IT department, like most, is always short-staffed. Any decision to deploy an alternative will have to be weighed against those factors.

But other IT managers said VMware had a firm grip on their data centers.

"The idea of using [XenServer] has been brought up a couple of times, but we're an early adopter of VMware, and we have a really good relationship with them," said Mike Keller, a systems engineer at TriZetto, a healthcare solutions provider in Newport Beach, Calif. "It would have to be something pretty big for us to change."

Hetero curious
Among the 47% of VMware shops considering an alternative, it's unclear exactly how a migration would play out: by tier, by location or by application.

Gill posited that some shops might insist on running VMware for Tier 1 applications, but that Hyper-V might be "good enough" for less critical applications.

Alternately, shops that decide to go down the road of heterogenous hypervisors might run VMware in data centers and Hyper-V at remote offices, or use Citrix XenServer to complement XenDesktop virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments.

The Info Pro has identified a likely inflection point for bringing in a VMware alternative: a server refresh to Windows Server 2008 R2. "Hyper-V is in there, latent, and people might just say, 'Go ahead, throw that in there,'" Gill said.

If the Info Pro's predictions come true in the coming year, "Virtualization could be more of a horse race than we thought."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, News Director at

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