Microsoft Makes Cloud Management Move On VMware

New System Center suite, due in first half of 2012, centrally manages Windows Server in the data center plus future workloads in private clouds and Windows Azure public cloud. Can features, licensing tweaks lure VMware users?
VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
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Anderson largely ignored the Big Four in the interview, but he didn't hesitate to lay down the gauntlet to VMware. "We don't charge more as the density of virtual machines gets higher each year. We believe it's the customer's right to reap the benefit of more powerful processors. That's very different from VMware."

Anderson's was capitalizing on VMware's decision in July to put a limit on how much virtual memory could be used with one vSphere 5 enterprise license covering a single socket. As the number of cores has grown on Intel and AMD processors, the number of virtual machines they can host has escalated as well. In August, VMware doubled the original 48-GB limit after being hit with irate customer protests.

Microsoft announced its own new licensing scheme as it unveiled System Center 2012, but it is still based on the CPU count that customers are accustomed to and not on use of a virtual asset. Anderson characterized VMware's virtual memory licensing move last July as a "vtax."

[ Licensing changes were among VMware's worst decisions in 2011, but the company did a lot right, too. Check out VMware's Best And Worst Moves Of 2011. ]

As it levels its marketing guns at VMware, Microsoft knows it's in a strong position with its growing Windows Server and Hyper-V base. "VMware has got about twice the market share that we do. But 2012 will be the last year that they're the king of the hill," Anderson predicted, citing IDC research.

Partners would say Anderson underestimates the strength of VMware's position. Close Microsoft partner Michael Dell said at his firm's Dell World in Austin last October that VMware is strongly entrenched in heavily virtualized environments and actually dominates more of the market than analyst figures indicate. He said 80% of Dell's virtualized server customers were VMware users, with the rest divided among Citrix Systems, Microsoft, Oracle, and Red Hat.

There's a big price differential between the VMware product list and Microsoft giving away Hyper-V in Windows Server. And Microsoft is also radically repositioning low-end System Center, Standard edition, as a $1,300 product with all System Center features (for a limited number of servers). Having gotten started at that price, many Windows Server admins will find they've blown through the limited number of hosts allowed and graduate to Datacenter edition, which puts no limit on the number of virtual machines spun up.

When it was noted to Anderson that many of Microsoft's moves appeared to implicitly counter VMware's, he nodded but corrected one thing. They "explicitly counter VMware. We know who the competition is," he said.

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