Who has the better virtualization platform – VMware or Microsoft?

VMware is the kingpin of virtualization, but the game is changing fast and Microsoft is baking the technology into the very core of many products. Which company has the best approach?

The Experts
Bogomil Balkansky
Bogomil Balkansky

Vice president of product marketing, Virtualization and Cloud Platform at VMware product marketing, Virtualization and Cloud Platform at VMware says vSphere wins because of the company's big head start, large installed base and track record of innovation. View debate

David Greschler
David Greschler

Director of virtualization strategy, Server and Tools Business at Microsoft virtualization strategy, Server and Tools Business at Microsoft says Microsoft wins because virtualized environments will ultimately span data center and cloud platforms and the company's management framework, identity service and development environment can best span this heterogeneous environment. View debate

Bogomil Balkansky

A big head start matters

IT is being served by a combination of vendors, some of whom are working to provide a clear path forward, and others that are struggling to hold on to the past. VMware vSphere represents the architecture, expertise and ecosystem driving a new approach for IT, enabled by virtualization and broadly recognized as cloud computing.

Since pioneering x86 virtualization more than a decade ago, VMware has established a steady track record of industry firsts, continually advancing the transformative capabilities of virtualization through our flagship platform, VMware vSphere: first live migration, first integrated network distributed switch, first VM fault tolerance capabilities – the list goes on.

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Over the years, this innovation has increased the role virtualization plays in delivering profound value for enterprises. VSphere capabilities have expanded to optimize not only servers, but storage and network, improving quality of service, increasing IT agility and recasting the economic model of computing.

But the transformation in the market is not just about product capabilities. In fact, the value of virtualization cannot be measured through any single, silver bullet feature. Rather, the central role virtualization now plays has elevated this debate well beyond the level of feature functionality. Customers are looking for a complete, proven platform that can meet the stringent needs of today while providing an evolutionary path to the future. There is only one solution that meets these criteria: vSphere.

VSphere is inarguably the most proven solution in the market. More than 190,000 customers trust VMware virtualization. A global ecosystem of service providers (currently more than 1,700) are building their public cloud services on vSphere. In the past two years alone, VMware has tripled the number of customers from the small and midsize business segment – a market that the competition is counting on, but is losing.

We also provide the most combined server, storage, networking, applications and operating systems support with more than 1,300 technology partners. Our innovation is matched by our commitment to quality – with our data center customers reporting 98% product satisfaction, and nine out of 10 deploying most or all new servers as VMware virtual machines by default.

This support has been echoed across the industry. The Wall Street Journal presented VMware vSphere the 2009 Technology Innovation Award among all software products. Even conference attendees at Microsoft's own TechEd 2010 voted VMware vSphere as the Best of TechEd "Attendees' Pick."

But the best platform also needs to be cost-effective, and customers know that upfront license costs do not tell the whole story. A more holistic view of total cost, or "cost-per-application," includes virtualization and management software, operating system, hardware, electricity and data center space costs across all virtualized applications.

VMware delivers up to 30% lower cost-per-application than so-called "free" products. VMware vSphere editions for SMBs start as low as $83 per processor, giving organizations of all sizes access to the same proven technology used by the world's largest enterprises. VMware also enables lower ongoing administrative costs by automating manually intensive tasks. Customers report an average 30% reduction in time spent on routine administration and a 25% or more reduction in overall operational costs.

While we're proud of the long, consistent track record of results, the future of vSphere is even more exciting. VSphere enables enterprise customers to utilize existing assets and take an evolutionary path to cloud computing and future end-user computing models by playing a pivotal role as the platform for private cloud computing within the data center as well as for public cloud offerings at global service providers.

VSphere also serves as the foundation for a new end-user computing architecture enabling customers to modernize decades-old desktop computing models to better meet the needs of IT and the changing state of user computing. And, as new application development increasingly takes advantage of cloud computing models, vSphere is once again the center of our customers' strategy.

This vision for the future is unique from alternative approaches that lack VMware's commitment to openness, application mobility and service provider choice.

VSphere is the industry's most proven, complete, cost-effective virtualization platform. This is true not only because it continues to set the bar as the most advanced solution technologically, but because it has been chosen by enterprises, service providers and a broad ecosystem of partners as the foundation upon which the next generation of IT will be built.

VMware, the global leader in cloud infrastructure, delivers customer-proven virtualization solutions that significantly reduce IT complexity, energizing business, while saving energy -- financial human and the Earth's. 

Balkansky is vice president of product marketing, for VMware's Virtualization and Cloud Platforms.

David Greschler

The destination has changed

If you think VMware is the winner of this conversation, I'd ask you to think again. IT leaders care about deploying a platform that is reliable, stable, cost-effective and easily adapts to changing business needs. A few years ago virtualization was seen as the final destination. Now it is clear this technology is a stepping stone to the more agile, responsive world of cloud computing.

The core benefits of virtualization – the ability to consolidate servers, quickly provision new applications, automatically backup system – pales in comparison to the speed and cost savings possible with cloud computing.

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Am I suggesting that you abandon virtualization and move to the cloud? No, make the transition on your terms. There are situations where you'll want to keep applications within your data center. However, I’m suggesting when you evaluate a virtualization platform, one of the most important characteristics you need to consider is how easy it will be to integrate the platform with the cloud.

Is there a common management framework so you can manage your on-premises and cloud applications? Is there a single identity service that spans both? Does your existing development environment and applications run in both locations?
VMware today offers a virtualization platform that only works within virtualized data centers. Microsoft has built a public cloud platform, Windows Azure, that runs on multiple data centers across the world. We have a worldwide network of service provider partners who can help you move to a cloud model. As a result, we uniquely offer common application development, management and identity across the virtualized data center, a private cloud environment and the public cloud.
For example, Lionbridge built a private cloud lab using Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V, System Center and our self-service portal toolkit to enable 4,200 employees and independent workers worldwide to collaborate. The private cloud, which on average runs 400 virtual machines and at peak times up to 700 VMs, lets the company centralize IT management, simplify user processes, improve customer service and improve resource tracking. Lionbridge has one model for applications, identity and management.

Today Microsoft and its partners offer all the capabilities you need to deploy key virtualization scenarios, such as business continuity, desktop virtualization (VDI), server consolidation and private cloud. For example, Continental Airlines expects to save $1.5 million annually using our infrastructure and platform technologies for server consolidation and VDI. As of a year ago, it consolidated more than 125 servers and now runs more than 320 virtual machines.

And Continental isn't flying alone. Microsoft Hyper-V and System Center have everything a customer needs for enterprise-wide data center deployments. This year Fortune 500 companies CH2M Hill and Union Pacific swapped VMware for Microsoft. They aren't the first to switch, and they're joined by many more organizations that have opted to use Hyper-V alongside VMware. That's easy because Microsoft System Center allows you to manage multiple hypervisor environments and the applications running within the virtual machines.

There was a perception among early adopters of server virtualization that Microsoft didn't have a rich feature set. That's not the case. More than a year ago we further simplified and expanded clustering nodes, and added live migration for zero-downtime migrations of virtual machines between Hyper-V servers.

Hyper-V also provides high availability with transparent and automatic failover of virtual machines. With service pack 1 of Windows Server 2008 R2, we're adding Dynamic Memory and a new high-fidelity remote desktop protocol.

Lastly, you should read Enterprise Strategy Group's lab results that show Hyper-V performance versus physical devices, with 95% to 99% of the performance of physical disks, and 89% to 98% of performance of the tested workloads compared to what can be achieved on physical machines.

At Microsoft we believe virtualization is so critical we've made it part of our server OS, our management tools and our cloud strategy. As a result, VMware is missing critical features: the ability to manage both physical and virtual machines; the ability to get information about the application running within the virtual machine located on-premises or cloud; the ability to manage virtual machines from Microsoft, VMware and soon Citrix.

That's probably the most glaring difference between the two companies: VMware is a virtualization company, and Microsoft is a platform company.

As a platform company, one of our goals is for you to easily and cost-effectively evolve to new computing models as innovation moves the industry forward. By putting virtualization into our platform we have made it easier for you to adopt cloud computing without major disruption or change in infrastructure.

For example, we built Windows Azure so you can take existing or new applications -- be it .Net, Java, Ruby, PHP -- and port most of them to a large-scale cloud platform. We've also made it clear you'll be able to move virtualized workloads to Windows Azure.

That means Microsoft will let you run all your applications – new, ported and virtualized – across traditional datacenters, private and public clouds. This capability is part of our strategy that's focused on delivering one application model, one identity model, and one management model across all computing environments.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

Greschler is director of virtualization strategy, Server and Tools Business

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