VMware CEO Worries About Open Interfaces, Not Microsoft

As Microsoft is making its bid for the virtualization market, established player VMware is more concerned that the interfaces between operating system and related software pieces remain open, according to VMware's CEO.
To that end, VMware is in "dialogue" with members of the Linux community about supporting an industry-standard virtualization interface. VMware has proposed its Virtual Machine Interface (VMI) as a potential standard. One VMware executive said the discussions are active and an agreement is expected within two months.

"The current interface between the Xen hypervisor and Linux kernel, and not on any one distribution, is very intermeshed and you need a standard interface," Greene said at the launch event.

In a brief interview with CRN Monday, Greene said it’s imperative that the Virtualization Management Task Force (VMTF) supports the adoption of a standard virtualization interface to protect customer investments and provide a level playing field for all vendors. More than 1 million virtual machine workloads now run on VMware's ESX servers, she said. VMware supports Windows and Linux in its current product and stands to add support for Solaris in the Virtual Infrastructure 3 platform that ships in three weeks.

Still, some industry observers say VMware may suffer the same fate as many other ISVs, whose companies withered away after Microsoft integrated similar capabilities into Windows.

But Greene disagrees. She said VMware is in a unique competitive position because of its sizable market lead, advanced platform capabilities and customer demand to keep virtualization a separate service from the operating system.

"The world is changing," Greene said. “Microsoft is coming out with a hypervisor, but it's questionable whether their hypervisor will treat all operating systems equally. And it's a case where not being in the operating system is what the customer wants in that."

VMware is wise to emphasize the benefits of keeping virtualization distinct from the operating system, according to Pund-IT Research analyst Charles King.

"VMware has been here [in virtualization software] longer than anyone else has, and when you look at Xen's focus on the hypervisor and Microsoft's focus on the operating system, it tends to reflect the old hammer and nail paradigm," King said. "With Virtual Infrastructure 3, VMware is trying to change the conversation about what virtualization is about, and unattached from the operating system environment. They are distancing themselves from and lifting themselves above the competition and taking a much more wholistic view of virtualization."

VMware aims to leverage its 3,000-strong channel partners to fight off all competition and deploy Virtual Infrastructrure 3 to small and midsize businesses, departments within enterprises and corporate data centers.

VMware has trained its partners and will offer additional incentives to keep its VARs and consultants happy, including the ability to sell renewals and subscriptions for additional margins, said Carl Eschenbach, executive vice president of worldwide field operations at VMware. VMware's sales force currently handles renewals direct, he said.

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