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VMware Puffs its Chest

  • Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2008
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  • Author: pradhana
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  • Filed under: Miscellaneous

By Tim Stammers, Senior Analyst at Ovum

VMware’s technical lead is assured – for server virtualization

VMware’s most important near-term task is to grow its customer base in the fast-growing market for server virtualization and management tools as quickly as it can before Microsoft and others muscle in on its act. That is why the most important developments that VMware talked about last week were new and enhanced server management tools.

In the virtual server management arena VMware is already significantly ahead of Microsoft and others. The new tools that will ship next year will maintain that lead in areas such as configuration, failover, chargeback, application monitoring and workflow.

Unlike those from Microsoft, VMware’s tools do not work with rival v-word systems, and the company says there is not yet enough demand from its customers to make it worthwhile to change this situation. By some estimates VMware accounts for 80% of server virtualization.
Around 14,000 people were at the conference in Las Vegas. That is an impressive number given the current squeeze on spending in the US. As a comparison, Microsoft’s Tech-Ed North America conference pulled in around 15,000 people this year.

VMware has no choice but to come from behind on the desktop

VMware CEO Paul Maritz said at the conference that rivals have followed VMware into server virtualization “because that’s where the money was”. Note the past tense. Now Maritz, like others, expects demand for desktop virtualization to blossom over the next couple of years, and equal the demand for server v-word products.

So VMware stressed its commitment to desktop virtualization. Maritz’s keynote envisioned people using a variety of thin or thick clients – PCs or handheld machines – to access virtual desktops stored in the cloud. Stressing VMware’s roots as a desktop player, Maritz said VMware is in a strong position to offer a “great synthesis” of desktop and server v-word systems. That statement appears to be a recognition that customers will want to buy desktop and server v-word systems from the same supplier.

This is where Microsoft and Citrix Systems, the third player in the virtualization market, have an advantage over VMware. Citrix claims that its XenApp software powers a gigantic 100 million clients and is used by 99% of the Fortune 500. Microsoft for its part offers similar Terminal Services software – and of course owns the Windows client.

Although VMware points that it began life as a desktop virtualization company, it was not the right kind of desktop virtualization. So far VMware’s desktop software has not been about accessing virtual desktops across a wide-area network, but about using a single desktop box to run multiple OSs when developing cross-platform applications, or running Windows applications on Apple machines.

VMware’s data center vision is cloudy

The third front on which VMware said it will compete is in the cloud. Here VMware again shares Microsoft’s view of the future, by predicting that demand for cloud or online services will grow strongly.

VMware’s vision of lights-out, fully automated data centers is far from new, and it is certainly not the company to claim that it is developing a “data center operating system.” VMware predictions have been delivered by others under labels such as grid, autonomic or utility computing.

One of VMware’s boldest promises is that businesses will be able to stretch applications across their own and service providers’ data centers when they need extra resources. VMware labeled this as a “federated cloud”, and said it will be enabled by virtualization wrappers that can encompass entire multi-layer applications, and define their security, availability and performance requirements – provided of course that they run on x86 or x64 processors.

All of this is some way distant from real-world use. However, it does highlight the huge benefits that virtualization gives by making servers fluid, over and beyond mere consolidation. And for VMware, it was part of a pitch designed to project the company as a major force – and not just the latest technology leader set to be steamrollered by Microsoft. /PR

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