If you haven't seen Mike DiPetrillo's latest blog "VMware Patch Tuesday," it's definitely worth a few minutes of your time. Mike's post contrasts patch management on the ESX hypervisor with that of competing platforms. I think the picture DiPetrillo paints is much darker than reality (at least with Windows hosts) being that a given Windows Server 2003 host will not require every available patch (many are service-specific) and since not all updates require a reboot. The patch reboot requirements will further diminish in Windows Server 2008 thanks to hot patching support.
That being said, Mike's latest post is about much more than VMware's patch management strategy. Instead, consider it the start of the VMware Offensive. In 2007, VMware for the most part smiled and waved at their competition. That's not going to be the case in 2008. Citrix, Microsoft, Novell, SWsoft, Sun, Oracle, and Virtual Iron all have plans to chip away at VMware's market share, and rather than ignoring their competitors, I expect VMware to be much more aggressive at highlighting what makes their approach to virtualization different from the competition.
Today there are two approaches to marketing the hypervisor. Every server virtualization vendor not named VMware will tell you that the hypervisor is a commodity, while VMware says that their hypervisor is far from a commodity. The "we're a commodity" camp feels that the hypervisor is an engine, and their software partners provide the ecosystem that can take the engine and use it to build a limitless number of cars.
Since we're talking engines, it's fair to say that all engines are not the same. There's a pretty big difference between a four cylinder and an eight cylinder. So while every car needs an engine, there will always be people willing to pay more for a better engine, and that is VMware's point.
A number of vendors have gone after VMware with marketing checkboxes. "VMware has HA. We have HA too." Many virtualization integrators quickly see the difference between the HA failover models of each virtualization vendor. Some failover models today don't scale beyond two nodes, which would present problems in many enterprises. So to say that high availability is the same, regardless of vendor, is pretty far from the truth. Many of us have already learned that lesson years past in the non-virtualized world.
DiPetrillo's blog on patch disparity across virtualization platforms is the first shot. VMware competitors - be warned. Your dirty laundry is about to get aired. In coming months, VMware is going to be on the offensive, clearly articulating what they see as the competitive advantages of the ESX hypervisor and their Virtual Infrastructure architecture.
Pointing out the flaws of competing architectures worked very well for HP in the blade server wars, and Mike DiPetrillo's latest post may simply be a precursor to similar comparisons coming from VMware in the near future.
Microsoft, Citrix/XenSource, SWsoft, Virtual Iron - what do you think of DiPetrillo's assessment of your patch management? Are you ready to fire back? Or will you duck for cover? Your comments are welcome.
Posted by: Chris Wolf