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Microsoft: How we'll take on VMware

The software maker believes it has the tools and the right price point to beat VMware in the battle for the virtualisation market.
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Written by Colin Barker, Senior Reporter on
Microsoft has a three-pronged strategy to beat VMware in the virtualization market, according to the company's senior director for virtualization product management, Zane Adam.

A key part of that strategy is Hyper-V Server 2008, the hypervisor, which Microsoft made available for download last week. In any virtualization strategy, the hypervisor is the core, and Microsoft sees it as so important that it is giving it away free to attract more customers.

But, as Adam explained, in order to beat VMware in virtualization, Microsoft needs more than just a good hypervisor. Speaking at the VM08 conference in London last week, Adam told ZDNet.co.uk how Microsoft was approaching the battle. "We have a large portfolio of products and a combined physical-and-virtual infrastructure in one, that [is] offered at a price point which is an industry lead," he said.

But the main target for Microsoft, Adam made clear, was VMware. "Choice is always good for customers, [so] instead of playing 'my hypervisor versus VMware', we decided we're going to leapfrog VMware, and the way we are going to leapfrog them is through our management solutions."

This means that "instead of [using] the old model, you can manage the physical and virtual infrastructure", Adam said. The "old model", as he sees it, is to create an environment that has lock-in — once you start using the company's systems, you are commited to using those systems and perhaps paying higher prices as a result. In an open environment, the user is free to try systems and, if they want to, drop them and shift to other systems with no penalty. By offering the hypervisor and perhaps other software for free, users can try things out.

"Our management products and our hypervisor are open, so that others can manage it and we can manage others", Adam said. "That way, you get heterogeneous interoperability, versus VMware's model, where they only manage themselves and keep it closed."

Tony Lock, program director with analysts Freeform Dynamics, said that in the area of management, Microsoft has the right idea. "The key to virtualization is management, management, management," he said. "They have got that right."

Microsoft knows virtualization is at the very early stages, Lock said. He pointed out that server virtualization often covers tens of virtualized systems in a company but, with desktop virtualization, that amount could run into hundreds or thousands of machines being virtualized, which raises much bigger issues.

"Microsoft is very interested in getting its [virtualization] tools out there… in heterogeneous, interoperable systems," Lock said. "It is not just about the hypervisor."

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