Server virtualisation is over-hyped and less used than reported, according to Microsoft executives speaking at the launch of Windows Server 2008.
Microsoft corporate vice president Bob Kelly claimed that, despite the technology being the "buzz of the industry", less than 10 percent of servers sold into the market are being deployed as hosts for virtualised servers.
"Virtualisation is important technology but not an end unto itself," Kelly said. "The hype around virtualisation is so strong, literally the next thing that happens after you deploy it is VM [virtual machine] sprawl. You talk to any customer that's deployed it and they'll tell you they have VMs popping up everywhere. All they've done is taken a utilisation problem and made it a management problem."
Server virtualisation has been a sore spot for Microsoft. For a start, its introduction removed the need for some customers to buy Microsoft licences and, now that the technology has become popular among users, Microsoft is faced with the difficult task of playing catch-up with market leader VMware.
Microsoft's latest attempt to tackle this market is Hyper-V. Limited to a beta release within the RTM (release to manufacturing) of Windows Server 2008, the final version of Hyper-V is expected to ship in 180 days.
Kelly said that Microsoft's key differentiator is that it has taken "a management view" of the technology. The management module of Windows Server 2008, System Center, can "manage both physical and virtual servers on one pane of glass".
Microsoft claims that Hyper-V will perform most of the tasks users need from a hypervisor, without them needing to fork out for notoriously expensive VMware licences.
Tom Townsend, Windows systems team leader at the University of Canberra, said that he was so impressed with the ease of use and management capability of Microsoft's virtualisation software, he has "decommissioned" a VMware system the university had been testing.
The VMware test system, Townsend said, had been considered at first because it was a "more mature product" than Microsoft's Virtual Server 2005, which, by comparison, was "primitive".
Virtual Server 2005, Townsend continued, was unable to process more than one job at a time, and couldn't queue tasks either.
"It took about the same time to deploy a virtual machine as it did a physical server," he said.
Impressed as he is with Hyper-V, however, Townsend admitted that the main reason he didn't go with VMware was the cost of its licences.
"We haven't been able to afford a [VMware] implementation," he said. "We had to ask ourselves if the extra cost was worth it."
Townsend said he didn't know what he'd be missing if he could afford VMware software, as "once it got priced out of the market", he didn't bother keeping up-to-date with its feature sets.