VMware dominance to remain despite contest

Virtualization giant to remain in driver's seat going into 2012, in spite of rival alliances such as Open Virtual Alliance and OpenStack, say analyst and company exec.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

VMware's dominance in virtualization technology, particularly hypervisors, is forcing other IT vendors to band together and make stronger arguments for their competing products. However, a company executive and an analyst argue that VMware's leadership will continue in the near future in spite of the competition.

Errol Rasit, principal research analyst at Gartner, labeled groups such as the Open Virtual Alliance (OVA), which include Red Hat, IBM, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Intel, and OpenStack, with notable members including Cisco Systems, Rackspace Hosting and Citrix, as "credible". Competition from these coalitions, he noted in a phone interview, was "good for customers" in terms of lowering costs and offering choice.

The OVA was announced on May 17, according to a report by ZDNet Asia's sister site, ZDNet UK. It aims to make the open-source Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor the fundamental layer on which the cloud is virtualized, it stated.

OpenStack, on the other hand, is a project dedicated to developing an open source cloud environment, according to Rackspace, which initiated the project. The company's Asia-Pacific managing director, Jim Fagan, said one of the biggest impediments to cloud adoption was customer concerns that current virtualization technologies were proprietary and create vendor lock-in, which would "negate the majority of cloud's benefits".

"We believe that with an open cloud alternative and ecosystem to surround it, cloud technologies will develop in a free environment and spur further experimentation and growth," he said in an e-mail to ZDNet Asia.

Despite the competition, Rasit pointed out that the lead held by VMware over its rivals is sizeable and the alternative offerings "pose no significant threat" to the company in the near- to medium-term future.

With regard to market share, the analyst said Gartner had previously stated that VMware's market share in virtualization stood at 84 percent in 2009 and will drop to 65 percent in 2012. This, however, does not translate to a loss of dominance as the market is expanding, he added. For example, even though Microsoft's Hyper-V product will take the No. 2 spot to command 27 percent of the global virtualization market next year, adoption of VMware's vSphere hypervisor is expected to grow as well, he explained.

"OVA, which centers around Red Hat and KVM, will have to play catch-up to VMware because of the strength of the latter's starting position despite KVM being a good technology," said Rasit.

Ed Lenta, Asean general manager at VMware, said "it is still too early at this stage to gauge" the competition.

Elaborating, he said OVA is a new initiative and has yet to deliver "any consolidated product or code for use". Additionally, the alliance is pushing a hypervisor "that is not in use by anyone" and may require some time to gain traction, he added.

OpenStack, on the other hand, has "gained little traction" since its launch last year but Lenta stressed it was still "too early" to tell if its XenServer offering will pose a threat to the VMware Server product.

The executive also stressed that VMware has a "huge lead in enabling its partners to deliver a true hybrid cloud". "VMware not only arms enterprises to build private clouds, but also the one that supplies cloud infrastructure to the broadest set of public cloud providers through the vCloud initiative," he said.

For example, Singapore-based telco SingTel is a cloud service provider enabled by its vCloud architecture, Lenta noted.

According to Lenta, a "multi-hypervisor strategy" does not enable transparent integration of cloud solutions as the underlying platform needs to be common across both internal and external providers. Microsoft's Azure platform-as-a-service (PaaS), for instance, poses a "fundamental problem in that there is one way in and no way out", he added.

"When the customer is unhappy with the external provider or wants to move their internal systems externally, it will require intervention which may result in the migration being unviable," explained Lenta. VMware, in contrast, provides "complete portability", he said.

Gartner's Rasit, however, downplayed Lenta's assertions, noting that once Azure grows in market share and maturity, there is "no reason to assume" why customers on Microsoft's platform can't enjoy the same portability as that experienced by VMware's customers.

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