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VMware, the bell tolls for thee, and Microsoft is ringing it

Survey results from VMworld indicate that Microsoft is becoming a threat to VMware's user base.

VMworld is about a month behind us now and I’ve had a little more time to noodle on the joint survey I did with virtualization management vendor Xangati. There was a tremendous amount of energy at VMworld and the show floor was one of the biggest and busiest I’ve seen in a long time. This might give one the impression that the VMware franchise is impenetrable, but the survey shows differently.

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Before I go through some of the data, remember the survey was answered by current VMware customers, so the data is likely to be skewed pro-VMware, which makes the data even more surprising. VMware has had a virtual (pun intended) monopoly on the market, but there does seem to be some chinks in the armor that could be exploited by another solution provider.

The first question regarding VMware competition was "What are your plans for implementing Microsoft Hyper-V in your virtual infrastructure?" While 58.5% of the respondent base said they had "no plans," 19.6% said they were currently implementing Hyper-V in production and test and dev environments. Another 20.9% are currently evaluating functionality within Windows Server 2012 for potential future deployment. Considering the survey consisted of existing VMware customers, this is a surprising large number.

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The decision to bring Microsoft into the environment is being brought in by more of the "hands-on" individuals versus IT management. Of the respondents that are considering or using Hyper-V, 53.2% reported it was the technical team. Another 30.6% of the time it was the manager/director level was pushing for the hybrid environment. And only 16.2% said the VP or CIO level makes the decisions to create a hybrid Microsoft/VMware environment.

In the survey, we tried to uncover why customers are looking to add Microsoft to their virtualization environment by asking, "what are the executive-level drivers that are pushing a hybrid VMware/Microsoft hypervisor model?" The most common answer (34.7%) was VMware's licensing and pricing. Another 26.2% chose "Perception that Microsoft functionality is now ‘good enough.’" In some way, these are tied together. If one can get good enough functionality for a better price, why not look at it? Now, it’s no secret that VMware’s vRam pricing scheme wasn’t exactly a hit. The company moving away from vRam may change the minds of some potential defectors. It’s good to see that VMware listened to its customers and heard them with regard to pricing, and were willing to make the change.

The second part of the above paragraph – whether or not Hyper-V is "good enough" - seems to be widely believed. Responding to the question - "based upon what you know of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 do you believe it can manage the performance of your infrastructure on par with vSphere?" - 52% of the companies said they did believe the technology was equivalent. Another 16.4% said they wanted different hypervisors for different applications. We didn’t ask much detail around this but I’m assuming that there’s a perception that Microsoft applications might perform better on Hyper-V. Only 10.2% responded they were bringing Microsoft in for price leverage, meaning the desire to use Hyper-V seems real.

VMware has been an early mover, which is an advantage when combined with a weak competitive landscape for the better part of a decade. As technically sound as Xen is, it doesn’t have near the channel that Microsoft has. So from the survey results, it appears the VMware "free ride" is rapidly coming to an end. The timing of the pricing range was spot on. But watch your back VMware, because Microsoft is coming.

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