The Battle For The Virtual Cloud

There’s a fierce battle between vendors to control the virtualisation market and (by extension) the future of how cloud systems are deployed. By Gartner’s reckoning, that battle comes down to two key players: Microsoft and VMware.

Battle picture from Shutterstock

VMware remains the dominant provider, with an estimated 75 per cent of the general virtual machine space, compared to around 20 per cent for Microsoft. However, Microsoft has made major inroads with Hyper-V, Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman noted in a presentation today at the Gartner Infrastructure, Operations & Data Centre conference in Sydney. (I’m attending the conference as part of our ongoing World Of Servers series.)

Expanding purely by adding extra virtual machines won’t be the main game. “The virtualisation market is about 61 per cent penetrated right now,” Bittman said. “We’ve started to see a slowdown in the market and fewer opportunities. The workloads aren’t as easy, time frames are longer and competition is forcing prices down. We think that between VMware and Microsoft, the competition is only going to increase over the next few years.”

Both sides face challenges in expanding. For VMware, converting its existing virtualisation users to its higher-level tools is a necessity if it wants to maintain growth rates. “Virtualisation is doing very well but its not growing like it used to grow, so for VMware to continue to grow they’ll have to do something else.”

“Microsoft is going to leverage its installed base to expand. I don’t think they’re going to be as big as VMware but they are going to be big.”

A challenge for both sides is that managing the apps running within a virtual machine is now more important than simply managing the VM deployments. “If you want to deliver on service levels, it’s not good enough to have virtual machine management — you need to manage what’s going on inside.” Given that the majority of virtualised workloads run on Windows, that gives Microsoft one potential advantage, but VMware retains an edge in terms of having larger workloads deployed, Bittman said.

“The average density of a VMware enviroment is 12 VMs per dual-cycle server. The average for Hyper-V is about six. It’s not because it’s less capable of density; it’s more a statement of market maturity.”

From a customer perspective, Bittman said, the battle will keep prices down from both vendors. “This is good. Choice is good. Pressure is good. Competition is good.”

Lifehacker’s World Of Servers sees me travelling to conferences around Australia and around the globe in search of fresh insights into how server and infrastructure deployment is changing in the cloud era. This week, I’m in Sydney for the Gartner Infrastructure, Operations & Data Center Summit, looking for practical guidance on developing and managing your IT infrastructure and using virtualisation effectively.

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