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Sound and Fury

Well, in recent days a cat has been put amongst the pigeons with the publication of a NY Times and VMware Whitepaper attacking Microsoft’s using its control over the server/desktop OS to unfairly push its own products.

Well, in recent days a cat has been put amongst the pigeons with the publication of a NY Times and VMware Whitepaper attacking Microsoft’s using its control over the server/desktop OS to unfairly push its own products.

Well, Microsoft has responded with comments attributed to Mike Neil of Microsoft, Head of Virtualization there. Interestingly many blogs are quoting this guy but I’ve been unable to locate the “official response” on MS website.

Mary Jo Foley probably has the best summary of the spat on her blog here:

http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=283

I won’t bother repeating the allegations and counter-allegations.

But it strikes me that we have been here many times before (Novell Vs Microsoft, Sun Vs Microsoft and so on). Like me, you're probably a bit world weary and pretty skeptical about these sorts of arguments.  They go to show how important issues of support, licensing and pricing are.

I remember discussing virtualization with some of my MS chums about 3-4 years ago when I was just getting into virtualization. Back then, to be honest, I had a feeling that they just didn’t get it. Virtualization was just a “blip” I was told - and will only be used to run legacy OS (explicitly NT4) on new hardware. Since then, a “road to Damascus” style conversion has taken place. Still that wouldn’t be the first time a big vendor has misread the market, only to later reconsider its position (I’m sure I don’t need to list the obvious examples here).

Amongst the sound and fury I think a couple of points are being missed here. Firstly, application/ISV support is equally as important as OS vendor support. There are many ISVs who I believe are behind the curve in supporting their products inside any VM, never mind VMware vs Microsoft. Secondly, in my experience customers have found these kinds of corporate grudge matches unappealing. It’s like watching a couple fighting at a family dinner or a restaurant. The argument does little to make either party look appealing. Thirdly, do such arguments or spats ever lead to changes that are favorable to customers.? Fourthly, what really matters? What matters is that customers get a decent product that is competitively priced, while being reliable and dependable. If companies want to win market share, then they should not seek to do that by calling each other out in the press or seeking redress in the courts. The only people who win in these situations are lawyers with their expensive legal fees.

Lastly, let's not forget that VMware themselves have a very healthy market share in the virtualization space. VMware dominate the virtualization market, just as Microsoft dominate the server/desktop market. It’s kind of weird to watch two monopolies accuse each other of being anti-competitive. I feel that as customers we should encourage the likes of Xen, Microsoft and others to “up their game” and try to compete with VMware. After all, a market place with no competition does nothing to encourage product innovation and competitive pricing. I imagine the authors of the VMware Whitepaper would say “that’s precisely our point".

This was last published in March 2007

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