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Hyper-V R2, vSphere 4 dominate virtualization headlines in 2009

In this second half of our top 10 news stories of the year, we recap how the Hyper-V R2 and vSphere 4 releases escalated the Hyper-V vs. VMware feud.

Hyper-V R2 and vSphere 4 took the battle for server virtualization market dominance to a new level in 2009.

VMware vSphere 4, launched in April, set the bar with its advanced features and computing power. But Microsoft Hyper-V R2, released in July, finally gave customers a viable VMware alternative with comparable features. Both releases significantly changed the market, ensuring that the Hyper-V vs. VMware feud will continue for the foreseeable future.

In the first part of our top 10 virtualization news stories of 2009, we covered the nasty blog battle that was much a part of the Hyper-V vs. VMware feud over the past 12 months. Now find out whether Microsoft Hyper-V R2 or VMware vSphere 4 was the biggest story of the year.

5. VMware to virtualize Google Chrome OS

VMware lent significant credibility Hyper-V R2, vSphere 4 dominate virtualization in 2009to Google in July with its plans to virtualize Chrome OS, Google's upcoming desktop operating system.

Google Chrome OS is a Web-centric operating system, and virtualizing it will help organizations run more custom Web-based applications, VMware said. But experts cautioned that Chrome OS is still a ways off, and it has to catch on as a physical operating system before virtualizing it will have any appeal.

4. Oracle acquisitions target virtualization

Oracle acquired Virtual Iron in May, and at the end of 2009 the company was still trying to get approval for its Sun Microsystems acquisition.

The Virtual Iron acquisition had been in the works since March. Once it closed, Oracle discontinued the Virtual Iron line and terminated its Virtual Iron reseller agreements -- leading to questions about the future of Sun virtualization, once that deal goes through.

Despite its huge presence in the software market, Oracle remained a small player in virtualization throughout 2009 and kept mum on its long-term virtualization plans. Still, these acquisitions have the potential to make Oracle a threat in 2010.

3. Cisco Unified Computing System debuts

Cisco Systems made a hardware-centric push into the virtualization market in March, announcing its Unified Computing System (UCS) -- a combination of server and networking hardware, along with management software. The product started shipping in July.

Cisco marketed the UCS to large organizations and service providers, but most early customers were actually midmarket businesses and organizations new to virtualization. Judges at The Best of VMworld 2009 Awards in August gave the Cisco UCS the gold award in the hardware category, citing its ability to dramatically consolidate hardware running in a data center.

Cisco made another major virtualization play in June when it hired expert Christofer Hoff as its virtualization and cloud computing director.

2. VMware vSphere 4 released

VMware made a preemptive strike against Hyper-V R2 in April by launching vSphere 4, its next-generation virtualization platform.

With vSphere, VMware rewrote the ESX hypervisor code to run natively on 64-bit processors, doubled the number of virtual CPUs that could be assigned to a virtual machine (VM) and quadrupled the amount of RAM. The company also made improvements in network throughput and IOPS, thanks in part to new integration with the Intel Xeon 5500 "Nehalem" chips.

Despite those significant changes, most users reported that it was easy to perform a vSphere upgrade. In November, VMware released vSphere 4 Update 1, which added support for Windows 7 as a guest operating system (OS) and as a host for the vSphere Client. The update also included support for VMware View 4 and Windows Server 2008 R2 as a guest.

1. Microsoft Hyper-V R2 challenges VMware

The Hyper-V R2 release was the biggest virtualization news story of the year, because it significantly changed the dynamics of the market.

Microsoft released Hyper-V R2 to manufacturing in July. It marked a significant improvement over the first version of Hyper-V by offering Live Migration, Cluster Shared Volumes and other advanced features. More importantly, these features put Microsoft in the same ballpark as VMware, which historically dominated the server virtualization market.

Microsoft was late to the market, but that didn't stop the company from taking over other technology areas in the past. And that history led to some comparisons between VMware and Novell, the former software king that Microsoft dethroned in the 1990s.

By the end of the year, there were signs that VMware's dominance was in fact slipping. The results of TechTarget's "Virtualization Decisions 2009 Purchasing Intentions Survey" in September showed that VMware and Microsoft were turning the market into a two-horse race. And a December study by TheInfoPro in December found that the majority of VMware shops had considered alternative platforms -- with 27% planning to deploy those alternatives in 2010.

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