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VMware shops take HP-Microsoft deal in stride

The new HP-Microsoft collaboration is unlikely to affect shops running VMware ESX on HP servers, say IT managers.

IT professionals running VMware on Hewlett-Packard servers said a new HP and Microsoft partnership will not undermine their VMware deployments.

The three-year, $250 million partnership calls for Microsoft and HP to integrate and optimize their respective hardware and software stacks.

Specific to virtualization, the deal now signals a stronger relationship between the two providers. "Microsoft is a now a preferred provider of virtualization solutions for HP," said Zane Adam, Microsoft's general manager for virtualization and System Center software. But now the question is how VMware-HP shops will respond to this burgeoning partnership.

Should VMware shops look beyond HP?
Whenever vendors cozy up to one another, customers must ask themselves how the relationship will affect technology environments that don't align with the new partnership.

In fact, existing agreements between Hewlett-Packard Co. and VMware will continue, said Jeff Carlat, HP's director of partner and platform software at Hewlett-Packard's enterprise business group.

Further, it's unlikely that HP salespeople will pressure existing VMware accounts to switch to Hyper-V, said Tom Becchetti, a Unix and storage engineer at a large Midwestern manufacturing firm that runs 30 VMware hosts on HP servers.

"I give HP credit that they're smarter than that," Becchetti said. Recent IDC server market share data puts HP as the No. 1 x86 server vendor in both shipments and revenue, and a large portion of these units run VMware ESX, Becchetti noted. "I don't think they're going to do anything drastic. They're not going to turn their backs on all that business."

Similarly, Mark Vaughn, a VMware vExpert and enterprise architect at a national information services firm that runs VMware on HP servers, said the Microsoft partnership does not concern him.

"The way I see it, this is just a copy of the agreement that they've had with VMware all along," Vaughn said.

Vaughn's firm currently uses HP servers for their price and performance. But to a certain extent, the presence of VMware gives the firm the freedom to add another hardware vendor if it chooses to.

"We have virtualized over half of our servers, and the presence of ESX makes the underlying hardware unimportant," Vaughn said. "Right now we're more locked into the [Intel] processor family than we are to a particular server vendor."

SMBs to benefit
That's not to say that the collaboration will be devoid of impact. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) new to virtualization stand to gain from an enhanced HP-Microsoft partnership, and that goodness could trickle up to enterprise shops.

"A lot of SMBs still haven't adopted virtualization," Becchetti said. "[HP and Microsoft] are going to try to simplify things, which is probably a good thing for everyone."

Indeed, the collaboration calls for Microsoft and HP to deliver so-called Smart Bundles for SMBs that will package Microsoft Hyper-V and HP Insight software on HP server, networking and storage hardware. The two companies have also OEM'ed one another's management stacks, namely Microsoft System Center and HP Systems Insight Manager (SIM), and promised easier provisioning, better monitoring and the like.

But it's unlikely that HP and Microsoft will be able to engineer notable performance advantages for Hyper-V running on HP kits.

"You're talking about industry-standard systems," said Tony Iams, the senior analyst at Ideas International. Ltd. in Rye Brook, N.Y. "If you start to optimize Hyper-V for HP systems, it's by definition not industry standard anymore."

Gordon Haff, principal analyst at Illuminata Inc., an analyst firm in Nashua , N.H., concurred. "If you're talking about x86, you're kind of limited" to the Intel processor, he said. Rather, "integration is more likely to be at the solution level and not so much because it takes advantage of some features of the HP hardware."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, News Director at, or follow @aebarrett on twitter.

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