VMware To Microsoft: 'Not That Much Has Changed'

Despite the hoopla about Microsoft's upcoming release, executive John Gilmartin says Hyper-V is six to seven years behind VMware's technology curve.
Microsoft is ready to ship its Hyper-V as part of Windows 2008, the world shudders in anticipation, but VMware's senior manager of product marketing, John Gilmartin, says, "Nothing has really changed."

Gilmartin is senior manager of product marketing for VMware, the virtualization market leader, and it's his job to go out and tamp down some of the excitement over Microsoft's move that adds a hypervisor to the Windows Server 2008 operating system.

"Hyper-V is a first generation product with the type of functionality we were offering 6-7 years ago. Customers want more than basic parts," he said.

Most observers move Hyper-V up a notch or two from that assessment, especially when combined with Microsoft System Center's Virtual Machine Manager, to be released in the fourth quarter. VMware then may find itself in a battle for hearts and minds, considering the $5,000 price tag that accompanies its EXS Server hypervisor versus free as part of Windows Server 2008. But VMware has proven adept in the past at lowering prices at key points where competitive pressures were building. As open source Xen moved into its Version 3.0, VMware made its GSX Server, a pre-hypervisor virtual machine generator, available for free as a renamed VMware Server.

"We think Hyper-V adoption will be rapid over the next two years because the price is free with Windows Server 2008, its prove to be very stable and reliable from the get go, and does almost everything ESX does out of the box," wrote Jeff Gaggin of Avian Securities, an equity research firm. In a research note issued upon the release of Hyper-V, he estimates Hyper-V does 80% of what ESX Server does.

Gilmartin counters that customers don't just want a hypervisor that can generate and manage a handful of virtual machines. They want virtual machine lifecycle management tools that can provision, monitor and decommission virtual machines as they run their useful lives. Customers want "a full solution, and that's what VMware provides," he said.

One of the key things that VMware does with VMotion that Microsoft does not yet do is live migration of a running virtual machine from one physical server to another. Microsoft will have its own migration tool, Quick Migration, included in Virtual Machine Manager, when it becomes available later this year. VMware can execute a live migration in about a second, or quick enough for the end user to barely notice. Microsoft's approach is slower and takes five or more seconds, but Microsoft spokesmen say virtualization implementers will not be upset by the few seconds difference.

Dave Malcolm, CTO of Surgient Virtual Labs, the virtual lab management software maker, said Hyper-V is going to appeal to Windows users who haven't already gotten started with virtualizing servers. The addition of Hyper-V to the virtualization field "is very exciting. It's a great way for Windows customers to easily get virtual machines up and running," he said.

Surgient will add support for Hyper-V in September, alongside existing support for VMware's ESX Server and Citrix Systems XenServer. Most enterprise customers who adopt virtualization end up implementing more than one vendor's brand, he said.

Sun address that issue when it urged prospective Windows virtualization implementers to consider its xVM hypervisor based on open source Xen instead of Hyper-V.

"Sun Microsystems has joined Microsoft's Server Virtualization Validation Program, supporting Windows as a guest operating system on Sun's xVM Server hypervisor," said Vijay Sarathy, senior director of xVM. "Sun provides a holistic approach to Windows-focused customers" with its support for Windows running as a virtual machine operating system under its own xVM hypervisor.

Serguei Beloussov, CEO of Parallels, a Windows and Macintosh desktop virtualization vendor, predicted Hyper-V's uptake will only match a narrow band of the market: "Windows environments that are currently reaching their upgrade cycle." Parallels is a competitor with Microsoft on the desktop. On servers, Parallels offers a different form of virtualization, Virtuozzo containers, which run under the servers existing operating system.

VMware's Gilmartin predicted that virtualization embed in the Windows Server 2008 will offer a wider face of exposure to intruders. VMware has designed the hypervisor to be "a compact and operating system independent" piece of software with minimal exposure to security threats, he said.