Virtualisation wars loom as Microsoft readies offensive

18 Dec 2007

Marketing execution will determine who the winners are in the virtualisation wars that lie ahead, a leading analyst warns, as Microsoft unveils a public beta of Hyper-V, its forthcoming hypervisor-based virtualisation technology.

The final version of Hyper-V is targeted to be released within 180 days of the release to manufacturing of Windows Server 2008, which is expected to debut at the end of February, along with Microsoft SQL Serer and Visual Basic Studio 2008.

Ovum analyst David Mitchell says the past two to three months have seen enormous activity in the virtualisation market with Oracle and Sun Microsystems both announcing Xen-based offerings, Citrix unveiling OEM partnerships for its recently acquired XenServer technology and VMWare continuing to flourish.

“Although Microsoft is not completely new to the virtualisation market [it has Virtual PC 2007, for example] the release of Hyper-V will mark a major market development,” Mitchell explained.

He says there will now be much more intensive competition in the server virtualisation market, with the Microsoft, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems offerings providing additional options for the CIO buyer.

“The number of players to consider and the criteria used to select a preferred supplier will need to evolve, so that an optimum technology choice can be made. Vendors will need to work on their sales, marketing and distribution efforts, just as much as they have focused on their technology R&D so far. Marketing execution will be a key determinant of who the victors will be in the virtualisation wars ahead.”

However, Mitchell warned, the CIO’s agenda needs to avoid developing a myopic focus on virtualisation.

“Virtualisation is one of the technologies that is able to help with IT consolidation and a move towards a much more dynamic and flexible model of IT deployment. It works together with many other aspects of IT infrastructure, including changes to hardware architecture and improvements in IT management technology and techniques.”

Mitchell added that approaching virtualisation as a stand-alone technology purchase rather than considering it as an integral part of a broad technology transformation is overly narrow and shortsighted, and will result in sub-optimal technology choices. “Virtualisation should not be seen as a point solution,” he said.

“When trying to fully understand Microsoft’s virtualisation strategy, it is key to examine it in the context of the Dynamic Systems Initiative. Likewise Oracle’s virtualisation efforts need to be read in the context of the Grid vision and the vendor’s top-down application management initiatives.

“The debate and analysis needs to be at the level of these and other architectural approaches, and needs to avoid being dragged into the hubris that will mark the release of any new virtualisation product,” Mitchell concluded.

By John Kennedy