I recently noticed VMware's (second) free hypervisor, a commentary by Gordon Haff of CNET (one of ZDnet's sister companies). He offered an interesting analysis of VMware's recent move to make it's embedded ESX Server available at no charge starting on July 28. I'd like to add a few thoughts of my own to the discussion.
It's been pretty clear that virtual machine software was on a trajectory to become just another operating environment function for industry standard systems. The inclusion of Xen in Linux was the beginning of this trend. When VMware offered its VMware player at no charge, it was clear that eventually the game of charging a premium price just for the capability of hosting virtual clients or virtual servers was coming to an end. Since that time KVM has become part of the Linux Kernel, Microsoft has released Hyper-V bundled with Windows.
The key question now is how are these players going to continue to pay for the research and development necessary to keep their products competitive. Xen and KVM have strong communities that do a lot to keep the technology fresh. Citrix can rely on the Xen community and also has successful virtual access and virtual application technology. Microsoft can fund Hyper-V development using revenues obtained from the sales of its operating systems. VMware faces a bit of a challenge as moves from it is used to being able to charge a premium price for many of its products to finding revenue elsewhere.
I suspect that suppliers such as VMware, Virtual Iron and Parallels will increasingly look to management software, orchestration software, and extended versions of their virtual machine offering that will support more processors, larger memory or the like for their revenue.
Where do you think the major players' revenue growth is likely to be found?