The big news at today's Microsoft Management Summit was the unveiling of the System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008 beta, which includes the ability to manage VMware Virtual Infrastructure environments. Microsoft can call its VMware management capabilities whatever it wants, but I like to call it Gateway Services for NetWare (GSNW) 2.0. Why?
If you've followed Richard Jones' post Virtualization wars, what can VMware learn from the past, you probably see the analogy. GSNW provided interoperability between Windows and NetWare file serving environments, with an ultimate goal of facilitating NetWare to Windows migrations. Microsoft's addition of VMware virtual infrastructure support to VMM 2008 is fully analogous to GSNW. Adding VMware management support will get Hyper-V into organizations quicker, while familiarizing organizations with Microsoft's virtualization management stack. If all goes as planned, Microsoft believes that over time organizations will migrate off of the VMware ESX platform in favor of Hyper-V.
System Center provides management of the entire software stack: application, OS, hypervisor, and hardware. Hyper-V doesn't have to beat ESX feature-for-feature, as long as the technology is "good enough" and compliments Microsoft's management stack. Microsoft's System Center management solution will present a major challenge to VMware. After all, there's more to the data center than the virtual infrastructure. Management of physical resources, applications, and operating systems is equally as critical, and represents a clear distinction between the Microsoft management solution and that of VMware.
Microsoft's eventual dominance over NetWare has shown that great technology alone is not always enough. Ease of management and tightly integrated OS and application management is important to many organizations, and the release of the VMM 2008 beta, or GSNW 2.0, is Microsoft's first shot over VMware's bow.
Today Microsoft fully unveiled its plans and strategy for taking on VMware. Granted, Hyper-V has yet to ship, but its release is just months away. VMware has time on its side. Virtualization is a core infrastructure technology and it's not something you just rip and replace. VMware has a very loyal user base that trusts critical workloads to the VMware virtualization stack. That being said, Microsoft has shown its hand to VMware. VMware knows Microsoft's strategy, and it's now up to VMware to convince its devoted user base that VMware is the company that should both provide the hypervisor and manage the virtual environment. For VMware, this is not a time for over-confidence. VMware needs to make a compelling case as to why organizations should stick with their solution long term; otherwise, as Richard Jones had predicted, history will once again repeat itself.
Posted by: Chris Wolf