As VMworld 2008 approaches, the virtualization industry faces a time of change as Microsoft, Citrix and Virtual
Iron continue to step up VMware's competition. VMware made some significant announcements at VMworld Europe 2008 -- namely, the VMsafe application programming interfaces (APIs) and improvements in VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) via support for offline usage and thin clones. This year's VMworld will be held at the Venetian in Las Vegas from Sept. 15 through 18 – just a few short weeks away. What will VMware unveil? Rumors are rampant. Rather than offer more speculation, let's review VMware's strengths and weaknesses to highlight where new announcements would be the most useful.
VMware has the most mature, most feature-complete technology available on the market today. With a feature set that includes VMotion, Storage VMotion, distributed resource load balancing via VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and fault tolerance via VMware HA, VMware has a sizable lead on the competition. And they've already demonstrated more technologies that will increase the lead, such as continuous availability. This technology -- mirroring VMs in real time on separate physical servers -- was publicly demonstrated at VMworld 2007, and it appears to enable some exciting new possibilities for disaster recovery and business continuity. With other companies looking to unveil similar functionality for competing platforms in the near term, VMware will want to capitalize on this window of opportunity and get that ability released as soon as possible.
VMware also has great strengths in cross-platform scripting, with tool kits for scripting available for Perl, Java and Microsoft PowerShell. VMware's cross-platform also extends to guest operating system support, in which VMware offers the broadest support for guest OSes.
Unfortunately, VMware has not capitalized on that cross-platform support from the client side. The VMware Infrastructure Client is still a Windows-only product, leaving Linux and Mac users out in the cold. While VMware Workstation is available for both Windows and Linux, there is no Mac version. VMware Fusion is the Mac product, but its feature set is only a subset of the features offered by VMware Workstation. None of VMware's products are available for a Unix OS such as Sun Solaris.
VMware has not made VMware Player, its free solution for running virtual machines (VMs), available for the major platforms. It seems that making VMware Player available for every major x86-based platform would only serve to increase VMware's footprint and visibility.
Acquisitions by VMware, such as Determina, Dunes and B-hive, have put the company in charge of some very compelling intellectual property (IP). It's still unclear, though, exactly how this IP is going to make its way into actual products. It's possible that the Determina IP, which revolved around security, will make its way into the VMsafe APIs. But what about the Dunes technology? VMware currently has no clear product for broad VM automation, and this is a weakness that competitors have already targeted. Making announcements about products based on the Dunes VS-O technology would certainly go a long way to helping customers understand what VMware is doing to address this weakness.
Virtual machine performance management is another area where VMware could provide more information about its direction. VMware acquired B-hive Networks earlier in the year but has yet to disclose how it intends to leverage these technologies to help organizations better manage complex solutions and Tier 1 business applications. In the meantime, third-party partners continue to develop their own solutions and competitors such as Microsoft tout enhanced integration with their existing solutions. In Microsoft's case, this is System Center Operations Manager.
Despite being the market leader, VMware still has areas for improvement in its product lineup, especially with the aquisitions it has made over the last year. To stay ahead of its competition, it would be a smart move for VMware to do a good job of explaining where the company is headed and what technologies will bring it there in at VMworld 2008.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Scott Lowe began working professionally in the technology field in 1994, and has since held the roles of an instructor, technical trainer, server/network administrator, systems engineer, IT manager, and CTO. For the last few years, Scott has worked as a senior systems engineer with a reseller, providing technology solutions to enterprise customers. Scott also runs a virtualization-centric weblog at http://blog.scottlowe.org.