The Virtualisation Battle That Dare Not Speak Its Name

It’s hardly a secret that the battle to control the virtualisation market now centres around two main players: VMware and Microsoft. In this market, Microsoft is definitely the upstart, so why does it constantly refer to “the other guys”?

Fighting picture from Shutterstock

The apparent unwillingness to directly name its competitor has been very evident during the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) in Las Vegas this week. During the opening keynote speech, corporate VP Brad Anderson made repeated reference to “the other guys”. A typical remark came when talking about how had changed its virtualisation platform: “They just switched from the other virtualisation guys.” Unsurprisingly, none of us assumed Anderson meant Citrix or Oracle, but there’s a lack of clarity in that kind of comment nonetheless.

What gives? Obviously, on one level there’s a simple unwillingness to reference a major competitor and give them oxygen during a Microsoft event. Yet that’s a posture that ignores a simple reality: right now, VMware has a much larger share of the virtualisation market (around 75 per cent to 20 per cent for Microsoft, if you take Gartner’s figures as indicative. Even in this attendee base of committed Microsoft deployers, there are going to be more VMware users than Hyper-V users, even if those customers are mostly using VMware to roll out Windows VMs.

[related title=”World Of Servers” tag=”wos4″ items=”6″]That market share might not be reflected in the main presentations, but it has popped up in other sessions. I reported yesterday on Microsoft’s comparisons of the price of using its technology for private cloud implementations, a comparison which suggests VMware is far more expensive. The schedule for MMS includes multiple sessions on VMware migration. Microsoft is also quick to talk up companies such as Domino’s which are shifting from VMware to Hyper-V, though even there the keynote stuck with the same phrasing: “Dominos is just in the process of finishing a migration from the other guys.”

The fight for supremacy ultimately won’t be a question simply of not mentioning the alternatives. Indeed, much of the fight between the two rivals for feature parity may also prove irrelevant in the long run. As we’ve pointed out before, even with matching feature sets switching from one virtualisation platform to another is a slow process. “”If you already are heavily virtualised, it’s not easy to switch,” Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman pointed out last month. “And just having virtualisation doesn’t mean users are going to switch out to your management tools either.” In that bigger picture, the odd casual reference to “the other guys” won’t add up to much. The proof will be in the implementation.

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 Las Vegas for the Microsoft Management Summit 2013, looking for practical guidance on deploying and managing Windows servers.

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