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Could Microsoft Hyper-V usage boost VMware vSphere adoption?

While SMBs might be enticed by the ready availability of Windows Server 2008 to try Hyper-V, evaluation and forward-looking planning could cause many companies to drop the younger, cheaper platform in favor of its main competitor, VMware vSphere.

Synopsis: Smaller organizations reluctant to deploy virtualization are being enticed by the prevalence of Windows Server 2008 to experiment with Hyper-V. While many will remain with the Microsoft hypervisor, others will inevitably switch to vSphere as their virtualization initiatives move toward IT as a service, or building an internal cloud.

Organizations with existing partial virtualization deployments may face increasing pressure to evaluate converting to Hyper-V rather than renew their ESX subscription and support contracts. The evaluation process, though, helps substantiate the significant benefits of a data center virtualized with IT as a service in mind, making it more likely that these companies not only stay the VMware course, but upgrade and expand their vSphere environments.

Microsoft and VMware have very different perspectives when it comes to virtualization. Microsoft has a vested interest in maintaining the data center status quo, and advises customers, "Rather than undertaking a costly revolution, you should evolve your environment in a way that preserves and extends existing investments…" Virtualization doesn't even register on Microsoft's home page, which instead emphasizes consumer products.

VMware, on the other hand, stands to benefit most when IT organizations fully embrace the myriad benefits that a virtualized data center enables, and its website focuses on educating organizations about the technology. It's latest UK website, Get IT off the Board Agenda, encourages organizations to not only use virtualization to transform the data center into a private cloud, but to transform IT itself along with the role of the CIO.

While Hyper-V's ubiquity in Windows Server environments certainly is leading to increased market share, it doesn't appear to be slowing VMware's sales which are expected to climb around 20% to $2.5 billion for 2010. And surprisingly, I'm coming across situations where Hyper-V is leading to increased vSphere business.

Accelerating the virutalization journey
Smaller organizations in particular are experimenting with virtualization utilizing the Hyper-V hypervisor bundled with Windows Server 2008. Many will likely have experiences similar to that of Denton County, Texas, which I wrote about last year.

As a Microsoft shop, the county initially virtualized 24 servers using Hyper-V. But once IT management realized they wanted the "whole virtualization enchilada," they found vSphere a more compelling architecture and switched virtualization platforms.

As of late last year, Gartner said that only 16% of workloads are running in virtual machines, the vast majority on VMware. IT organizations can easily become stuck in a virtualization deployment as a point solution, expanding it slowly as new use cases arise. While certainly better than remaining completely physical, this tactical approach results in lost opportunities not only for a much faster reduction in data center costs, but also in a lack of context for optimally choosing virtualized data center components such as virtualization software, compute, network and storage. It can also increase overall complexity by necessitating management of both physical and virtual infrastructures.

The majority of CIOs are probably at least thinking about virtualization as a possible enterprise solution. Hyper-V is forcing the issue by prompting a reevaluation of their initial investments in ESX to determine whether or not a hypervisor switch is warranted. The resulting outcry from systems teams unhappy about relinquishing their VMware product helps flag the CIO's attention. The CIO then elevates the hypervisor comparison to a strategic evaluation of a virtualized data center complete with defining objectives and careful financial analysis of the big picture costs and on-going savings.

These evaluations inevitably show the merit of adopting not only a virtualized data center, but embracing it as a foundation for the private cloud efficiencies of providing IT as a service. This strategic virtualization approach plays into VMware's camp; it has focused on building vSphere and associated products to incorporate the performance, reliability and capabilities required for a data center platform. VMware's top-of-the-line product, vSphere Enterprise Plus, has advanced to the point that it can enable these attributes on a level that is superior to that of the physical data center model.

On the financial side, a comprehensive return on investment (ROI) analysis quickly reveals vSphere as the more cost-effective solution for a virtualized data center. As a result, organizations are abandoning their partial deployments of ESX and are instead embracing vSphere as an enterprise-wide transformative platform.

Disclaimer: This article expresses the views of the author and is not endorsed by INX nor the vendors mentioned.

Steve Kaplan is the vice president of the Data Center Virtualization Practice at INX. Kaplan can be reached at You can also follow Steve on Twitter.

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