Although there are a lot of vice presidents, CTOs, and director-level (like BEA's Eric Stahl) tech execs from big IT companies blogging these days, there still aren't too many chief executives or presidents willing to mix it up the way Sun president Jonathan Schwartz first started doing. Of course there's always JBoss CEO Marc Fleury who never minces words and Cape Clear CEO Annrai O'Toole. I'm sure there are others (tip me off at firstname.lastname@example.org). But those are the ones that come to mind right now (my engines are still warming up as I come back from back surgery). Now, comes a new blog from a CxO and this time, it has nothing to do with a Java-related company. VMware president Diane Green has decided to dive into the blogosphere with both feet and, not surprisingly, in her first entry, she took Microsoft to task.
When it comes to virtualizing systems, Microsoft has a few very key moves as of late -- moves that clearly put the heat on VMware. The first of these was when the Redmond-based company announced that certain editions of Vista will include free "express" versions of Microsoft's Virtual PC. Although the licensing details are a bit too stingy for my liking, the express version allows end users to run one virtual machine (in addition to the host OS). The next of these moves was the announcement that Microsoft's Virtual Server would support Linux as a guest OS (see my question: In a world of virtualization, should Windows host Linux or should Linux host Windows?). And then came news that the formerly $99 download of Microsoft's Virtual Server is now free.
VMware apparently saw this coming. To its credit, it pre-empted Microsoft with some freebies of its own. But, despite VMware's ties to EMC (as a wholly-owned subsidiary) and its most excellent partnerships with several system OEMs, Microsoft has one big honkin' channel that can do to VMware what the company has done to several other cottage industries (memory management, disk compression, and now, security): devastate it. Microsoft's non-involvement in Linux gave VMware a distinct advantage. Microsoft did Windows only. XEN (the open source virtualization guys) did Linux only. Meanwhile, VMware goes every which way but loose with a nice range of both host and guest operating system choices (not just Windows and Linux). But now that Microsoft is giving its technology away an supporting Linux as a guest OS on its server product, it's a whole new ball game (even though Windows play host to a Linux guest doesn't sound nearly as attractive as the reverse).
So, now, Diane Green has to really make her case and if you read her blog, you can see that she's playing the standards card the hardest. Wrote Green:
The disk format of a virtual machine and the libraries that use that format will define how people provision, patch, recover, and otherwise manipulate their virtual machines. Microsoft is today pushing a standard called VHD that has a Microsoft license as a requirement for full access. VMware has offered a specification, VMDK, that is freely available and has no license requirement.
I've been following virtualization technologies pretty closely. But this little intellectual property snafu had so far escaped my radar. The best discussion I've seen so far (one that covers Microsoft, VMware, and XEN) is here. From the looks of things (please correct me if I'm wrong here), even though VMware has made its technology freely available (no license requirement), that itself apparently hasn't established VMDK as the de facto standard since XEN doesn't natively use VMDK. All this said, I'm a huge fan of VMware and use it every day on one of my notebooks. But its clear that the company isn't going to so easily dominate the virtualization market the way it has for so many years. If that sort of stiffening of the competition is what it takes for presidents to start blogging, then maybe we'll see some more tech execs jumped into the fray (sooner rather than later).