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VMware Users Hear Siren Song Of Lower Cost

In new Veeam survey, 38% of hypervisor users say they plan to switch vendors during the next 12 months. Cost cited as leading factor.
VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
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VMware's pricing change in July may have triggered thinking among its customers about alternative suppliers. In a survey of 578 virtualization users, a Veeam market researcher found 38% were planning to change their primary hypervisor for server virtualization and 33.8% for desktop virtualization.

Microsoft and Citrix Systems would be the likely gainers as a result of such a sweeping shift, and VMware, as the current market leader, is the chief candidate to be hurt. The top three reasons selected for making a server hypervisor change were: cost, 58.9%; features offered by alternatives, 47.4%; and licensing model, 46.8%.

VMware July 12 announced a version update of a core product, VMware vSphere 5, and said that sales would be accompanied by a price change that included a virtual memory limit per VM within the Enterprise and Enterprise Plus licensing. The limit was initially set at 48 GBs, but was revised three weeks later to 96 GBs.

Going above the limit would require an additional license. VMware has given a fuller explanation of vSphere licensing and pricing in a whitepaper.

[Want more insight into the raw response to VMware's July pricing change? See VMware Pricing Controversy: Users Say Microsoft Door Is Open.]

Doug Hazelman, Veeam's VP of product strategy, said in an interview that the survey was conducted by Vanson Bourne, a United Kingdom market research firm, on behalf of Veeam, a third-party supplier of backup and other products to the virtualization market. The survey, for the July-September quarter of companies in the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom with over 1,000 employees, is the second one commissioned by Veeam. The question in it about shifting primary hypervisors was asked for the first time.

The previous quarterly survey indicated that the enterprise was becoming a multi-hypervisor world: 84% of respondents were using VMware's ESX Server; 61% were using Microsoft's Hyper-V; and 55% were using Citrix XenServer. When asked which one was their primary hypervisor, 58.2% said VMware; 20.2% said Citrix; and 18.6% said Microsoft. In a multi-hypervisor setting, customers have experience with more than one product and may shift allegiance quickly if they become upset with one vendor's pricing or licensing policies.

If 38% of those surveyed plan to change their hypervisor, it's possible some percentage of respondents plan to change to VMware, but they must be a distinct minority. The need to hold down virtualization costs and desire to look for different licensing terms both argue strongly against VMware, not Microsoft and Citrix. VMware is the clear price leader in the virtualization field.

In a contrary showing, however, the recent survey showed VMware gaining more market share as the primary server hypervisor of choice in the July-September period: VMware, 67.6% (versus 58.2%); Microsoft, 16.4%; and Citrix 14.4%. If the survey findings about a planned switch of primary hypervisor supplier are carried out, they are likely to reverse this VMware growth.

The survey didn't ask what a user was switching from or switching to, only whether they planned to switch sometime in the coming 12 months.

A slightly smaller percentage, 33.8%, said they planned to switch to a different hypervisor supplier for desktop virtualization as well.

"We're trying to establish some trend lines," said Hazelman, but he declined to say the survey projected a future VMware loss of market share. The virtualization market continues to grow, and VMware may maintain its dominance in the core of the data center as departmental and desktop virtualization efforts begin to occupy more IT attention. At the same time, Hazelman refused to rule out a possible loss of VMware market share to Microsoft and Citrix. Red Hat's KVM hypervisor is also often used in projects relying on open source code. The survey results are displayed at what Veeam calls its virtualization community website, V-index.com.

It may take several additional quarterly surveys to indicate whether those "planning" a primary hypervisor change are serious and in the process of migrating, or expressing pique at VMware's pricing change but not ready to migrate VMware workloads somewhere else.