Hyper-V talk around the virtual water cooler

Now that Microsoft is ready to ship its Hyper-V virtualization platform to market, there has been a lot of talk around the water cooler as to what this really means for the industry and its current players. As an example, the big question being asked is, "What effect will it have on the current virtualization giant, VMware?" VMware seems to be using its poker face while Microsoft has its day in the sun. It appea

Now that Microsoft is ready to ship its Hyper-V virtualization platform to market, there has been a lot of talk around the water cooler as to what this really means for the industry and its current players. As an example, the big question being asked is, "What effect will it have on the current virtualization giant, VMware?"

VMware seems to be using its poker face while Microsoft has its day in the sun. It appears to be acting as though nothing has changed since Microsoft's announcement. Acting as though it isn't fazed one bit by the early release of Hyper-V, VMware is sticking to its guns and labeling the Microsoft hypervisor as a first-generation product that lacks the features and capabilities needed to compare to VMware's current offerings.

From a pure hypervisor standpoint, VMware's ESX product is far more mature. However, in comparing hypervisor features, I believe Microsoft has made great strides in catching up to VMware. One of the big missing components in Hyper-V is the ability to offer live migration, or what VMware calls VMotion. And to be fair, VMware has spent a lot of time and money to extend its hypervisor by expanding its application stack around the product -- an area where I believe the ultimate hypervisor fight is going to end up.

But that's not to say that the Hyper-V announcement hasn't had an effect on VMware's bottom line.

VMware (VMW) stock sank $11.13, almost 18 percent, between its closing price on Wednesday, June 25 ($62.18) and its closing price on Friday, June 27 ($51.05). The stock also saw a huge jump in volume on Friday, reaching 3,614,900. With the only big news of the day coming from rival Microsoft and its announced launch of Hyper-V, it seems as though Microsoft's new virtualization hypervisor has at least put a damper on VMware in the short-term stock market.

So what happens beyond this weekend?

Mark Bowker, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said that in a recent ESG survey of current and planned server virtualization adopters, they found that 70 percent of the planned adopters will deploy a server virtualization solution in the next 12 months and the current adopters expect to see their current virtual machines grow by more than 150 percent in the next 24 months. Of the planned adopters and amid the current adopter rapid growth, Bowker finds there is certainly an opportunity for Microsoft to be successful. In the same survey, ESG also asked which solution the organizations are currently evaluating or considering. A higher percentage (69 percent) of planned adopters actually say their organization is evaluating or considering a Microsoft solution at this point, compared to 59 percent that say they are evaluating or considering a solution from VMware.

Bowker said, "Microsoft is late to the game, and the company has some work ahead of them to fill in the gap between what they currently offer with Hyper-V and what VMware currently has available. Server consolidation and resource utilization remain two of the top drivers for server virtualization, and Hyper-V can address both. Hyper-V currently supports Quick Migration which requires minimal application downtime, but it is still exponentially better than running the workload in a physical environment. Microsoft's current risks with Hyper-V are security, stability, and performance."

So Hyper-V is missing VMotion, and ESG finds that Microsoft's current risks are found in security, stability, and performance. Will this slow down adoption?

Not so, according to Surgient. The company plans on releasing its Surgient platform support of Hyper-V to the market as early as September.

"We believe that Hyper-V is ready for market adoption and will be successful in the enterprise," said Dave Malcolm, Surgient's CTO. "Live VM migration will certainly be missed by some depending on the customer's use cases, but we know that Microsoft is working on that capability and it will be available at some point in the future. Our experience with Hyper-V has definitely been positive thus far."

Malcolm continued, "We believe that Microsoft's Hyper-V announcement is a major milestone in the adoption of server virtualization in the marketplace." He also believes that the announcement has major ramifications for virtualization adoption in the industry, calling it "good news for everyone."

"It is even better news for Surgient because the Surgient Virtual Automation Platform provides heterogeneous self-service automation of virtualized computing environments, and as virtualization adoption increases, Surgient's ability to add value in the market also increases. This is also good news for our customers as it gives them another alternative to consider as they roll out their virtualization initiatives."

With only somewhere between 5-8 percent of today's x86 servers being virtualized, there is still a lot of growth left in this industry and plenty of positioning to fight over. One virtualization platform vendor that seems to welcome Microsoft's news about Hyper-V is Parallels.

"Congratulations to Microsoft on getting Hyper-V out. This is great news for the virtualization space as a whole since Microsoft's entry into a market always draws considerable attention, and the availability of Hyper-V will lower the barriers to adoption of server virtualization," said CEO of Parallels, Serguei Beloussov.

"That said, while we're excited, the news is likely to be seen far less positively by vendors who rely on highly priced hypervisors for their revenue. Whilst users will need to pay for System Center VMM to use Hyper-V, it is still going to undercut the other established hypervisor tools, potentially representing a very serious threat for those companies."

Beloussov continued, "Since Parallels continues to invest heavily in the automation of virtual infrastructure, we believe it's critical to make virtualization accessible to the broadest range of users and workloads as possible. By offering a bundled solution, Microsoft is reaching a wider audience of potential virtualization users, but the breadth of deployments will still be fairly narrow: Windows environments that are currently reaching their upgrade cycle. In addition, the feature set of Hyper-V is limited; for example, there's a big deficit in platform support, with no support provided for Red Hat, Fedora, CentOS, or FreeBSD."

"From a virtualization perspective, Hyper-V isn't really a threat to us as we deliver an OS-level server virtualization solution -- Parallels Virtuozzo Containers -- which solves a different set of problems than Hyper-V. This means we can offer a set of strengths suited for a more diverse range of workloads, from high-performance workloads such as databases, which are unsuited to hypervisors due to the throughput degradation, to Virtualized Desktop Infrastructure, where the density and storage efficiency are key," Beloussov said.

Also making their thoughts known around the water cooler was Sun Microsystems.

"We're glad to see Microsoft finally entering the hypervisor market. Customers are hungry for virtualization solutions that support a wide range of operating systems and virtualization platforms. Simply put, Sun is committed to building a heterogeneous (Windows, Linux, and Solaris) and interoperable (ESX and Hyper-V) virtualization platform. To that end, Sun has joined Microsoft's Server Virtualization Validation Program, supporting Windows as a guest operating system on Sun's xVM Server hypervisor," said Vijay Sarathy, senior director of xVM at Sun.

"With Sun xVM VirtualBox, xVM VDI, xVM Server, and xVM Ops Center, Sun provides a holistic approach to Windows-focused customers looking for virtualization and management solutions. We've already seen great traction with Sun xVM VirtualBox -- the industry's first free and open-source hypervisor to offer support for all major operating systems, including Windows, which has already been downloaded more than 5 million times," Sarathy said.

Only a few days into the Hyper-V announcement, and the water cooler is definitely buzzing. VMware may be unusually silent at the moment, but I don't expect that trend to continue much longer.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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